COVID-19 Summary: Final Insights From the Tracker

The Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) and The Farnsworth Group partnered up for the past three months to conduct essential research regarding project requests and closures, homeowner DIY purchases, contractor business, and materials supply trends in the wake of COVID-19. 

As this is an unprecedented time, we have been working diligently to provide this essential home improvement research to better understand COVID influence on home improvement and equip our members with the knowledge they need to forecast and prepare for future business.

DIY Tracker 

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DIY projects have been a major market-driver during this time. Since mid-March, homeowners have been at home more often and have had more free time. This is impacting their home DIY project decisions, whether that’s initiating a new project or completion of an ongoing project. 

A few trends have cropped up over the past three months, with data showing that over 60% of DIYers are focusing more on their homes than other expenditures pre-COVID-19. These DIY trends appear to be driven by younger generations (millennials and Gen-X) and across the majority of the U.S. (with the Midwest being the exception). Older generation homeowners, however, are spending less. 

Free Time

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A major factor in DIY trends is homeowners’ free time. Because they are at home more often and many are shifting their employment to work-from-home protocols, this leaves more time for their home projects. 

Further, because homeowners are home more often, the need to improve their homes is front and center. This is leading to a steady increase in DIYers either continuing projects or initiating new projects. 

Finances

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Homeowners now have more disposable income as they have not been traveling, retail shopping or absorbing entertainment expenses (such as eating out at restaurants or going to the movies). Many homeowners have started new projects over the past three months because they have freed up equity.

For homeowners who already had projects started, COVID-19 has generally not stopped them from working towards project completion. For those who did cancel project plans, their main concern was financials, followed closely by inability to get the materials they needed. 

Purchasing Trends

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While homeowners are beginning to purchase in-store as restrictions are lifted, online purchasing continues to remain robust due to homeowners’ concerns over health and safety. Furthermore, their decision to embark on DIY projects and forgo hiring a contractor is also partly anchored in health and safety concerns, as many homeowners expressed fear over contractors and other industry individuals entering their homes. 

Types of Projects

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The types of DIY projects homeowners are embarking on are generally evenly distributed with the exception of small-item refurbishment, painting and staining. Most of the work is being done on the home directly, such as room painting, electrical, plumbing and HVAC. 

Complex jobs, like the ones that would normally have gone to contractors, are being completed by homeowners out of health and safety concerns regarding contractors entering their home. 

Pro Tracker

The degree of concern industry professionals have experienced since COVID-19 began is beginning to lessen.

Delays and cancellations still exist, as do employer and contractor concerns about the health and safety of their workers. However, project quality and sizes are rebounding with over 50% of professionals saying their recent project sizes are the same or larger than pre-COVID-19. 

Contractors and other industry professionals expressed shopping online mostly out of necessity because their local retailers are out of stock. Because of this, suppliers and manufacturers must be cognizant of contractors’ needs, which have changed over the last three months. 

Overall, the availability of materials is the driving issue going forward. 

Impact of COVID on Workflow 

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Most industry professionals expressed mild to moderate impact on their workflow as a result of COVID, with the majority (over 80%) of work having been delayed or stopped entirely. The primary reason for this delay and stoppage was on the homeowners’ end being concerns over health and safety, and finances. Most industry professionals expressed this work to be ceased anywhere from one to three months, with a smaller majority who expressed concerns of over three months stoppage. 

As a result of business trends, roughly half of industry companies have experienced layoffs, the reason for which was overwhelmingly COVID-related. 

Contractor Concerns

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Most industry professionals’ concerns are bifurcated between health & safety and financial lines. They are significantly concerned about the health and safety of their employees, followed closely by current and future financial concerns. 

Industry professionals anticipate less revenue in the coming months. Of those companies, the majority expressed that they cannot operate with this lowered revenue for more than six months. This impact is a direct result of COVID. 

Closure rates are significantly lower due to COVID, particularly the health and safety concerns of homeowners. However, recently there has been a slight rebound in online purchasing, suggesting that homeowners have intentions of having the work completed, but perhaps as DIY projects. In the future, these intentions may result in better business rates. 

Purchasing Trends 

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Similar to DIY homeowners, residential contractors are still shopping in-store occasionally; however, supply has been a slight challenge and online purchasing has increased. The primary reason for this increase is health and safety concerns, with the secondary reason being local supply levels. This move to online purchases is occurring even more so in larger firms.

Project Requests

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While residential project requests have been lower than usual, the quality of these requests remains robust, suggesting homeowners’ intentions to have work completed on their homes is still there. This balance has resulted in slightly better closure rates. This quality of project requests is also directly correlated to the increased time homeowners spend at home now. 

Ready to Become a Member?

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. 

Contact us today with any questions on becoming a member. We also offer a useful monthly newsletter with all the latest information. 

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