Remodeling through a pandemic HERO

Remodeling Through a Pandemic: COVID’s Effect on Home Improvement

Dur­ing the past 10 months of COVID19 lock­downs, home­own­ers have changed the way they think about their homes and have made many changes to improve them in ways that bet­ter serve their needs.

In a qual­i­ta­tive study con­duct­ed by The Caney Group in part­ner­ship with HIRI, we iden­ti­fied five major themes about home­own­er remod­el­ing atti­tudes, behav­iors, and future remod­el­ing plans.

#1 Pan­dem­ic lock­downs drove short-term fixes

Dur­ing the lock­downs, the home trans­formed from a mere liv­ing space to a mul­ti-func­tion­ing enter­prise of liv­ing, work, and school. Hous­es were not designed to do all these things, and being inside 247 revealed flaws and oppor­tu­ni­ties for improvement.

Remote learn­ing drove the need for tem­po­rary solu­tions, includ­ing desks, tech­nol­o­gy, etc. Learn­ing areas for younger chil­dren (who need super­vi­sion) are typ­i­cal­ly a din­ing area or fam­i­ly room.

High school and col­lege stu­dents used their bed­rooms, where a door pro­vides qui­et for online learn­ing. Most of the spend­ing for remote learn­ing required low-cost solu­tions like desks, light­ing, and par­ti­tions — the typ­i­cal project (exclud­ing tech­nol­o­gy) cost under $500.

Remote work­ers need a qui­et space, and an office is viewed as a per­ma­nent need as many expect to con­tin­ue remote work at some lev­el beyond the pan­dem­ic. Base­ments, guest rooms, and bonus rooms became instant offices, and home­own­ers were will­ing to spend a bit more to opti­mize their offices.

At a min­i­mum, a door to mit­i­gate noise became a pri­or­i­ty. Floor cov­er­ings, paint, and light­ing are among the items pur­chased at the cost of $1,000 — $2,000.

Re-pur­pos­ing stor­age spaces, includ­ing the garage or unfin­ished base­ment, pro­vides a good space for a home gym. With a renewed focus on health, fam­i­ly mem­bers can work out in the safe­ty of their homes.

Paint, floor mats, and basic elec­tri­cal were need­ed with spend­ing in the $300 to $800 range (plus equipment).

#2 Home short­com­ings advance project timelines

Tack­ling the project list” has become a great way to put extra time to a con­struc­tive pur­pose, and many future projects were advanced to the present dur­ing the pandemic.

Increased time inside the home makes flaws in their home more appar­ent. Most of these projects include aes­thet­ic upgrades that improve the look and func­tion of kitchen, bath­room, or liv­ing spaces:

  • Kitchen refresh (paint cab­i­nets, counter, floor­ing) $2,000
  • Kitchen refresh with appli­ances $6,000
  • Bath­room refresh (van­i­ty, sink, plumb­ing fix­tures, tile) $2,500
  • Vinyl plank floor­ing $2,000

These projects are all basic to mod­er­ate DIY skill lev­els and could be done with­out bring­ing con­trac­tors inside the house. Projects requir­ing spe­cial­ized trades like an elec­tri­cian or plumber inside the house were avoided.

The sum­mer months brought focus on the back yard with deck upgrades, fire pits, out­door fur­ni­ture, and patio pavers among the projects done.

These improve­ments pro­vid­ed space for social-dis­tanced vis­i­tors plus activ­i­ties for the kids stuck at home because sports, camp, and vaca­tions were can­celed. These indi­vid­ual out­door liv­ing projects cost $600 to $4,500.

#3 Pro con­trac­tors were hired almost exclu­sive­ly for exte­ri­or projects

In sev­er­al cas­es, home­own­ers hired pro­fes­sion­als to do projects on the home exte­ri­or. Keep­ing crews out­doors keeps the fam­i­ly safe. Main­te­nance projects like roof­ing, tuck point repairs, gut­ter replace­ment, and exte­ri­or paint­ing are among the projects tack­led using a con­trac­tor dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. The cost of these projects ranged from $2,000 — $15,000, depend­ing on the size of the job.

#4 Online sales got a boost, but we still need stores

Whether bought in-store or online, Inter­net use has surged dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. Home­own­ers seek­ing fin­ish items like plumb­ing, light­ing, and bath acces­sories indi­cat­ed they sought more vari­ety and the advan­tage of home deliv­ery afford­ed by online ordering.

Free deliv­ery and free returns (in some cas­es) tipped the risk-reward bal­ance in favor of online purchases.

Bulky or del­i­cate items like show­er doors, bath van­i­ties, and tile are among items ordered online but shipped to the store for either in-store or curb­side pick­up. A key ben­e­fit to store deliv­ery of bulky items is the abil­i­ty to inspect prod­ucts for dam­age before accep­tance and/​or easy returns.

Fueled by a nation­al appli­ance short­age, many appli­ances were pur­chased online. The ben­e­fits of know­ing in-stock avail­abil­i­ty and com­par­ing prices in the safe­ty of home out­weighed the risk of pur­chas­ing big-tick­et prod­ucts sight unseen. To alle­vi­ate uncer­tain­ty, some admit­ted to show­room­ing (view in-store, buy online) but lim­it­ed their shop­ping to a sin­gle retail location.

Items like paint, hard­ware, tile, and floor­ing remain pop­u­lar items to buy in the store. Paint is often pur­chased fresh­ly mixed for imme­di­ate use, and see­ing col­or cards meets a key pre-pur­chase need. Oth­er fin­ish items need to be seen and touched to assess the look and qual­i­ty of avail­able items.

#5 Post-pan­dem­ic piv­ot from DIY to Pro projects

Many expressed the hope that leisure activ­i­ties like din­ing out, vaca­tions, kid’s sport­ing events, etc. to resume as ear­ly as mid-sum­mer. Return­ing to work (and com­mut­ing) is also in the cards for some. When this hap­pens, home­own­ers iden­ti­fied three trends:

  • Spend­ing for DIY projects will decline as life returns to normal
  • Con­tract­ed inte­ri­or projects will accelerate
  • Over­all, home­own­ers expect to spend less as they resume vaca­tions and oth­er leisure activities

If you are not cur­rent­ly a HIRI mem­ber, there is no bet­ter time than now to join. HIRI is con­stant­ly track­ing and updat­ing research data in order to bring the best sources to our mem­bers. As a mem­ber of HIRI, this infor­ma­tion can help pro­vide insight for all aspects of busi­ness, from prod­uct teams and insight teams to man­age­ment and executives.

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