•More confidence. When economic confidence hit a low in 2009, 67 percent of homeowners planning a remodel said they were curtailing their plans. This year only 42 percent said the economy was holding them back. The rest said the economy was not having an impact.
•Spending more. The scope and planned spending of home improvement projects are also on the rise. In 2010, the homeowners said they planned to remodel or add on 2.6 rooms, and spend an average of $80,000. Now they plan to makeover or add 3.6 rooms, and spend an estimated $114,000.
•More hired help. The number of homeowners planning to hire a general contractor for their project was also up from 64 percent in 2010, to 73 percent. The trend, said Fritschen, is “another sign the recession is losing steam.”
•Higher end first. Those at the higher end of the market are leading the charge. More affluent homeowners are “the first ones pulling the trigger,” he said. They are releasing a pent-up demand for remodeling projects they've put on hold. “The actions of the more affluent are a bellwether for middle and lower income homeowners. They will follow as confidence improves, over the next six to 12 months, and do more of the work themselves.
•The wealth effect. After bottoming out, the value of existing and new homes is coming back, in some areas rapidly, said Fritschen. That uptick in home equity translates into more optimism about remodeling. The average reported home equity was $130,000 – the highest since 2009, said Fritschen. Among those surveyed, the average home value was $306,000.
•Kitchens and baths. These rooms tie for the most popular remodeling projects: 57 percent of homeowners said at least one of these rooms was part of their remodeling plan.
•Fixing the distressed. Although Fritschen believes most remodelers today are fixing up homes for their personal enjoyment, now is a great time to fix up a distressed property. The market is coming back, interest rates are low, workers are making great deals, and materials are readily available for a good price. Those are exactly the kinds of facts I want to hear.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.