Chicago Homeowners Are Finally Ready to Renovate

Contractors all over the city are busy with remodeling projects that were delayed for years during the economic downturn.

Photo: Ed Wagner/Chicago Tribune

In Ukrainian Village, a couple who tabled a basement upgrade four years ago had it done this year, along with some necessary repairs to the 1880s structure. Their bill: $250,000. In Lake View, somebody got a new $300,000 kitchen, with stone finishes imported from France and lots of hand-carving in the finishes. And a woman on the Northwest Side who in 2009 told her remodeling contractor that she couldn’t swing the cost of re-doing her two bathrooms called him recently to greenlight the delayed project.

“They tell me they can’t stand it anymore,” says Don Van Cura, Sr., whose Old Irving Park-based construction and remodeling firm bears his name. Van Cura is also on the board of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, headquartered in Des Plaines.

Last week, the association released its quarterly business pulse survey of members for the quarter ended September 30, reporting that members overwhelmingly say their customers get work done these days because they’ve postponed it in the past. The reports for the prior three quarters said the same thing; in each of the four surveys, 81 percent or more of respondents said a key driver in new business is previously postponed work.

And it’s not just window-shopping or daydreaming about a new kitchen. Remodelers said that both the conversion of bids to jobs and the average size of the sold job increased in the third quarter. (A change in the way the index is reported makes comparing these attributes to earlier quarters difficult.)

While the impatience thing has been steady for a while, improving home values showed higher and higher as a driver for getting remodeling done: In the January survey from fourth quarter 2012, 51 percent of the respondents said better home values were spurring people to remodel, and that figure rose throughout the spring and summer to 72 percent in the latest survey.

(The quarterly survey typically has around 300 respondents.)

For homeowners who’ve stayed put in their houses throughout the downturn years and since then, the revelation about impatience isn’t a massive surprise. Plummeting home values, jitters about employment security, and a general sense that nothing about the economy really improves have stalled countless projects. Let me tell you about the tile in my bathroom that chips away a little more each month.

But according to the remodelers’ survey, our impatience is thin. In an NARI press release announcing the survey results, the head of the association’s strategic planning and research committee, Pennsylvania remodeler Tom O’Grady, said that “the general sense is that consumers are tired of waiting and feel more secure about spending money, which is also reflected in the higher values in jobs sold.”

It’s easy to see why people are impatient to remodel. Many people still can’t afford to sell and trade up because their home’s value is stuck at about where it was in early 2003, according to the Case-Shiller Index, even with the recent increases (in Chicago in September, according to CoreLogic, sale prices on non-distressed homes were up 9.96 percent from a year before).

It may be a little easier to make peace with your home’s value being a throwback if your kitchen isn’t.

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5 months ago
Posted by Dennis Rodkin

Here's a new independent study that backs up the remodelers' own study:
http://www.metrostudyreport.com/national-housing-market/metrostudy-residential-remodeling-index-projecting-2013-activity-best-in-six-years?utm_source=+November+2013+Newsletter++%231&utm_campaign=NOV.+newsletter+%231&utm_medium=email

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