As the country approaches the six-month mark since stay-at-home orders were enacted, and coronavirus cases surge again, millions of Americans are struggling to stay in their homes through a punishing recession.
While many Americans are suffering through a historic economic crisis, those who have not taken a financial hit are focused on ways to make an extended period of isolation more comfortable. Facing additional months of distance learning and working from home, some are making extensive home improvements — permanent alterations that they would not have done absent a pandemic.
For homeowners who had already started a construction project, the pause at the start of the pandemic gave them the opportunity for a reset. Suddenly, ideas that made perfect sense in February no longer worked so well.
Designers, architects and general contractors have begun fielding calls from homeowners who are looking for ways to improve or expand areas in their home for work, school and exercise. In June 2020, professionals who list their services on the home renovation site Houzz3 reported a 58 percent increase in requests from homeowners from June 2019, with queries about home extensions and additions up 52 percent. Some homeowners are converting garages into work studios, or adding a shed in the yard for an office. Others are renovating the basement to turn it into a yoga studio or a classroom.
Outdoor space projects saw the biggest increase in demand, with searches for pool and spa professionals three times what they were a year ago. Not far behind, landscape contractors, deck and patio professionals all saw more than double the demand2. Requests for customizable backyard sheds ranging from simple storage spaces to elaborate tiny cabins are on the rise.
For families of school-age children, the pandemic has turned their homes into virtual classrooms. Now, with more remote learning on the horizon, many families are grappling with how to accommodate an entire year spent at home. Many families have set up home-schooling co-ops or pods with a small groups of children.
Pool demand is so strong that even Wall Street investors are taking note. Poolcorp, an international distributor of swimming pool supplies, parts and outdoor living products, hit an intraday all-time high last week and is up over 54% year to date. The stock is on pace for its best year since 20031.
Much like real estate agents, remodeling professionals are now adapting to a new world of social and professional distancing.
Kitchen and bath have always been popular remodeling choices, but even those saw a 40% jump in demand in June compared with a year ago1. More people are cooking and eating at home, and kitchens are now even more the center of family life.
Home extensions and additions jumped 52%, and security and privacy also saw much greater demand with interest in fence installation and repairs up 166%1.
Homeowners are likely getting extra incentive from the record high amount of home equity they now have. Home prices continue to gain, despite the economic downturn, as demand for housing soars.
Other homeowner incentives include adding value to the home, making it feel more “cozy”, and money that homeowners are saving from not eating out and not going on vacations is being invested into their homes.
Sheltering at home clearly influenced demand, as more than three-quarters of all U.S. homeowners said they had done some type of home improvement project during the pandemic, according to a recent survey by Porch.com4, a remodeling platform.
More than three-quarters also said they plan to take on a new project in the next 12 months. The top motivator was, “finally having the time,” according to the report, and next was adding value to the home.
While homeowners may continue to do more projects throughout the fall, some experts predict spending will fall. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing predicts annual declines in renovation and repair spending of 0.4% by the second quarter of 20215.
“The remodeling market was buoyed through the early months of the pandemic as owners spent a considerable amount of time at home and realized the need to update or reconfigure indoor and outdoor spaces for work, school, play, exercise, and more,” said Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies.
“However, sharp declines in home sales and project permitting activity this spring, as well as record unemployment, suggest many homeowners will likely scale back plans for major renovations this year and next.”