HIRI 2018 Insights Conference Image

If you’re interested in staying ahead of home improvement industry trends, one of the best ways is spending a couple of days learning and sharing with like-minded industry professionals.

This year, industry leaders from across the country gathered at the 2018 Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) Insights Conference in Oak Brook, Illinois. The event featured speakers from Nielsen, Harvard University, the National Association of Realtors, the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI) and more.

“The best part about the HIRI Insights Conference is the networking. Where else can you find this many people who are genuinely interested in industry research?” said Brenda Bryan, executive director of RICKI. “This conference is a phenomenal place to not only establish community with people who have been in the industry for a while, but also for getting to know all the new players and their research.”

Here are 9 home improvement industry insights from speakers at this year’s conference.

  1. Innovative technology can encourage brand loyalty. Young consumers — especially millennials — are more likely to be interested in technology than brand names. “Shift your advertising to a more inclusive message that highlights the tech that sets you apart while leveraging brand recognition as the foundation,” said Sidney Pell, consumer and products insights manager at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

  2. With home wellness on the rise, the lighting industry is leading the way. Light has a major impact on our health and well-being. Fortunately, LED lighting technologies are contributing to healthier and smarter homes across the country. “Circadian rhythm lighting is a hot topic. Along with LEDs, it’s changing the landscape of the smart home and lighting in general,” said Jie Zhao, Ph.D., senior vice president of research and development at Delos.

  3. Over-inspiration is a key factor in home improvement regret. More than a third of homeowners who completed a home improvement project in the past year regret not spending more on the project. “Regretters are more likely to have used a wide range of inspirational sources, especially television, magazines and social media,” said Brenda Bryan, who led The Regret Factor study with Leslie Gillock, vice president, director of insights at Wray Ward.

  4. Younger and older audiences are not engaging with content in the same way. While all generations own digital devices, older generations are more likely to own and use televisions and DVR players than their younger counterparts, who are more likely to have internet-connected devices and subscription video on demand services. In 2017, digital ad spend eclipsed the amount spent on television in many industries for the first time in history, but according to Peter Katsingris, senior vice president of insights at Nielsen, “In 2017, 83 percent of household industry ad spend was on television and magazines combined, with only 11 percent on digital.”

  5. The rental housing market is on the rise. A wave of growth since 2004 has increased the number and share of rental households in the U.S., especially higher-end rentals in urban areas. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, single-family homes now account for 39 percent of the nation’s 47 million rental units and 40 percent of recent additions to the rental stock rent for $1,500 or more per month. “The homebuilders we work with are trying to anticipate how disruption might happen in homebuilding,” said Jonathan Spader, Ph.D., senior research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. “That’s why HIRI is so important — companies can really learn how to position themselves in the market.”

  6. Remodeling activity isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The steady increase in remodeling activity will continue through 2021. With home prices on the rise and the new-home market slowing down, people are staying in their houses longer and remodeling them instead. “Equity wealth is at an all-time high, so it’s easier to take out a home improvement loan,” said Mark Boud, senior vice president and chief economist at Hanley Wood/Metrostudy. “And with the existing house stock averaging about 38 years old, much of the inventory is in need of updating.”

  7. DIYers are more likely to be millennials. Millennials — who account for about a quarter of the population — are buying and remodeling existing homes at an increasingly high rate. Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population made home improvements in the last year, and of that 23 percent, only 7 percent opted to work with a professional. “DIYers spend more than 60 hours per week on TV and digital devices, including computers and smartphones, which can greatly impact their behavior,” Katsingris said. “The technology and the choices it provides make DIY a realistic option for people, but luckily, we know where to find them.”

  8. Fifty percent of housing starts are in the South. While some of this activity can be attributed to the need to rebuild in states recovering from hurricanes, such as Texas or Florida, or other natural disasters, such as wildfires in California, it’s also important to take into account distribution of wealth, availability of skilled labor and general supply and demand.

  9. The median home price is creeping up. Across the country, low housing inventories are driving up the cost of homes and rising mortgage rates will continue to reduce affordability. Consider an increase in material and product costs and a significant lack of qualified and skilled labor, and the idea of buying and remodeling older homes seems like a much more feasible option for millennial potential homeowners.

Did you attend the HIRI Insights Conference this year? If so, what did you take away from the event? What would you have liked to learn more about? We want to hear from you. Share feedback.