Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, “home,” for many, has doubled as an office, school, movie theater, gym and more. The bottom line? Homeowners are spending more time at home, undoubtedly changing how remodeling projects are prioritized.
To capture how homeowners are prioritizing their project wish lists, the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) and the Caney Group conducted 20 interviews with homeowners across the United States. From the qualitative study, we’ve identified five important consumer trends that emerged during the pandemic
Here’s our take on the trends that are likely here to stay as well as those almost sure to disappear as the world gets a better handle on the coronavirus.
1. Enhanced Outdoor Living
Outdoor living space provides an opportunity to get outside, entertain and relax safely during the pandemic. Especially as the cancellation of camps, sports and other activities has children locked down at home, backyards have become an area of refuge. As a result, fire pits, patio pavers, furniture and barbecue upgrades have become a favorite addition of the last year. What’s more, they’re expected to continue in popularity as another pandemic spring and summer season comes around.
Additionally, must-do jobs such as deck repair and exterior painting are being prioritized as both DIY and contracted work. As is a theme of pandemic projects, homeowners have more spare time to research, shop for and complete projects without contractors. Study participants also suggested outdoor projects have a lower risk of failure, since they don’t often require specialty trades.
2. Upgraded Home Offices
While remote learning is seen as widely temporary, many study participants who work at home expect to continue doing so beyond the pandemic at some level. Many imagine working from home at least several days a week post-pandemic and are seeking permanent workspace solutions. Participants agree that having a door is essential to the home office, which presents a challenge in open-layout homes. Where available, basement conversions are a popular solution. Repurposing a guest room is another common tactic for homeowners seeking private space.
3. More ‘Refresh’ Projects
Small DIY projects have trumped extensive remodeling projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. Interior upgrades that can be completed by the homeowner, such as retiling a backsplash, painting cabinets or changing light fixtures, have been prioritized. Many new homeowners report feeling like it is a good time to learn new skills related to upkeep, maintenance and refreshes. These projects are typically cosmetic upgrades that don’t require a plumber or electrician, as homeowners are concerned with the safety of bringing outsiders into the home.
4. New Leisure Spaces
While many projects were always on the list and pushed forward by the pandemic, others are uniquely motivated by current circumstances. Home gyms and home theaters have increased in popularity, perhaps funded in part by repurposed vacation budgets as well as canceled monthly gym memberships. Whether DIYing a garage floor finish or fixing up the basement, homeowners are finding ways to transform their perhaps previously unused space to fulfill leisure needs they may have depended on commercial businesses to handle pre-pandemic. Many of these projects are DIY since, as mentioned earlier, homeowners fear having outside people in the home. Of course, there are some exceptions: With outdoor access to the basement, one study participant described his investment in a $22,000 home theater by a professional company.
While these purchases are experiencing a boom right now, they are expected to subside post-pandemic.
5. Increased Exterior Projects
Exterior upgrades are considered among the safest when it comes to hiring contractors. Accordingly, painting, roofing, gutter replacement and other outdoor projects saw the greatest increase from homeowners. Again, as travel, vacations and other plans were limited, many of these projects may have been pulled forward on the priority list.
Many expect the pandemic to subside in the third or fourth quarter of 2021 as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widely available. Study participants already anticipate they’ll have less time and money for projects as normal life resumes, and that DIY projects will likely decline as vacations, entertainment and kids’ activities restart. However, post-pandemic, homeowners are expecting to tackle bigger contractor-led projects such as complete kitchen and bath remodels, additions and other specialized trade work for the home interior.
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