Americans are breaking
new ground with the amounts of money they're spending
on remodeling and home improvements, but the projects
they choose fit a familiar pattern.
Total home improvement
product sales rose to a new record of $291 billion in
2005, a 7.5 percent increase over previous years, reports
the Home Improvement Research Institute, or HIRI, based
in Tampa, Fla. Thanks to hurricane rebuilding efforts
throughout the South, combined with new housing starts
and existing home sales numbers, home improvement product
sales are expected to increase yet another 4.6 percent,
to reach $305 billion, by the end of 2006.
"Ultimately, we've had growth in
spending that exceeded the 2-percent population growth,
so it clearly means folks now are spending more per
household than they did in the past," says Fred
Miller, managing director of HIRI. He says that recent
statistics indicate the Census Bureau's figures for
building materials, supply dealers and home centers
shot up more than 20 percent in February 2006 compared
to February 2005.
"We haven't seen a down year
in the home improvement industry in a long time. I'd
be surprised if the scope of Hurricane Katrina was enough
to boost the whole country that much," he says.
But while the dollars exchanged increased,
little else in the home improvement market changed.
In 1999, the American Express Retail Index indicated
that 41 percent of American households would invest
in interior decorating, 32 percent planned a renovation
or remodel, 23 percent ordered landscaping, and 22 percent
tackled exterior decorating. If they could remodel any
room, 42 percent of households would start over in their
kitchens, 25 percent would pick the bathroom, and 15
percent would redo their master bedrooms.
Fast-forward to 2003, and a survey by
the International Communications Research on behalf
of Champion Mortgage revealed that landscaping, a kitchen
renovation and room addition topped homeowners' wish
lists. Both sexes agreed on those top three, but after
that most men preferred to build a deck or patio, while
women voted to redo a bathroom.
"Today the most significant thing
is that we don't really have anything revolutionary
happening," says Vince Butler, chairman of the
Remodelers Council at the National Association of Home
Builders and owner of Butler Brothers Corp., in Clifton,
Indeed, experts, such as Holly Slaughter,
brand manager for RealEstate.com based in Charlotte,
N.C., still list the kitchen as the No. 1 priority,
followed by the bathroom and then the master bedroom.
"We are seeing a continuation of
some popular trends -- these aren't fads that come and
go. Only the scope of most projects is creeping up because
of the type of products available," Butler says.
For instance, merely replacing a front
door requires weighing decorative glass options, fiberglass
choices and "what used to be a few hundred dollars
is now a few thousand dollars," he says. "It's
more of a rarity today to have a project that is strictly
focused. If a customer buys a door, he inevitably includes
the foyer and the powder room while he's at it."
Posted: April 12, 2006