The Home Improvement Research Institute is bullish on 2019, according to its latest findings released last week, and supported by other industry professionals and watchers. According to HIRI’s quarterly Project Sentiment Tracking Survey of 3,000 homeowners, this is what’s ahead for the rest of the year.
1. “About 75% of homeowners are planning one or more projects in the next three months. This is the highest project planning incidence since tracking began in 2012,” the group reports.
“This is in line with what we’re seeing in the Asheville, NC area,” observes John Judd Jr., owner of custom home builder and remodeling contractor Judd Builders. “We are at a point where we have to turn down projects because we have so much work scheduled through 2019.”
HIRI founding member Lowe’s sees this in its stores, as well, according to executive vice president of merchandising, Bill Boltz. “While fewer people are buying new homes this year, we have seen this offset by strong home economic price growth – and that means homeowners are spending more to improve, refresh and repair their current homes.”
2. “Top motivators for projects include repair, replacement and routine maintenance,” HIRI’s survey says.
“Given that the average home in the U.S. is about 40 years old, we see a great deal of support for ongoing repair and maintenance work,” Boltz notes, “especially when coupled with consumers feeling their homes are appreciating.”
On the replacement side, projects are often spurred by work being completed nearby, as well as design sites and shows, Judd shares. “When you see before and after photos of projects, it really gets you thinking about what you can do to update your own space. When you see it in person at a friend’s or neighbor’s house, you see that it can actually be done and it’s worth the time and money.”
“Most of the renovations we see involve replacing fixtures and finishes,” says Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO of Sweeten, a free service for renovating homeowners to connect with vetted general contractors. “That includes everything from swapping out counters and cabinets to completely gutting an entire home, especially if you’ve just bought a fixer-upper in a complete state of disrepair.”
According to Sweeten’s 2019 seven-city survey of homeowners who either recently renovated, were mid-renovation or planning to start a project soon, “needing to replace fixtures and finishes was the number two reason for renovating, and a house being in disrepair was number three. Their top replacement motivation was wanting an updated look,” Brownhill reports.
3. “The average homeowner plans to complete 4.3 projects in the next three months,” HIRI’s survey predicts.
Raf Howery, founder and CEO of home remodeling research platform Kukun, tracks home improvement projects through permits pulled with local building departments. His data show 1.73 projects already permitted per unique address. The remaining projects HIRI is predicting may not require permits, like the fixture and finish updates Brownhill sees among Sweeten’s survey participants and clients, or they’re still on the wish, rather than the immediate to do, list.
4. “Top projects include kitchen, windows, driveway, paint exterior and roof,” HIRI reports.
This largely correlates with the more than 951,600 permits Howery pulled for 552,800-plus unique addresses in Kukun’s system. The only difference in his data set was bathroom projects showing up in the top four projects.
“In the warmer months, more exterior-based projects are planned, with lawn and garden remaining the top project customers take on, followed by deck/patio/porch projects and interior and exterior painting,” Lowe’s executive Boltz shares.
Projects are often fluid, notes Judd: “We complete a lot of whole house remodels that started with just a kitchen remodel. We get started in the kitchen and then the homeowner realizes they want to tackle more and we end up working on bathrooms, flooring, basements, outdoor entertainment areas, windows and exterior updates including roof replacements.” And that’s how 1.73 permitted projects can easily become more than 4.3.
5. “The U.S. Northeast region had the nation’s highest percentage of project planners in Q2 2019,” HIRI’s study showed.
“That’s not surprising,” says Brownhill. “We’ve seen the residential remodeling market grow to record levels over the years. Metro New York City alone is at $12 billion in renovation spending a year, and the houses are often older than the people who buy them, so there’s work to be done.”
Among already-permitted projects, rather than just those in the dream stage, “Our data appears to contradict this,” Howery reports. “Most of the heavy zip codes (permit-wise) are in the southern states.” Florida accounts for three of the top five permit markets, with Texas filling the remaining two spots.