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June 19, 2013

Remodeling business returns as home values rebound

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

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Remodeling business returns as home values rebound

Last year showed promising signs for home remodelers across the country.

Remodelers saw demand increase in almost every service category, according to a National Association of the Remodeling Industry survey.

More consumers last year paid for household improvements ranging from bathrooms — a 5 percent increase in demand from 2011 — to outdoor living — a 65 percent growth — the survey said.

Remodelers predict that growth to continue in 2013.

In the same survey conducted at the end of last year, 93 percent of NARI members said they expected business to be as good or better this year.

Jef Forward, of Forward Designers and Builders in Ann Arbor and the vice president of NARI’S southeast Michigan chapter, said metro Detroit is mimicking the national trend.

“Everybody is busier across the board,” Forward said of remodelers. “Everybody’s phone has been ringing.”

He said the increased demand has created backlogs for remodelers that has allowed them to pick and choose projects — a change from three or four years ago.

“It’s getting to be like pre-recession,” he said.

Before the recession, he explained, homeowners were paying for large-scale projects that would last for the next 20 years. When the recession hit, Forward said, consumers opted for smaller-scale projects.

“We were mostly upgrading fixtures and doing finishes, but not really doing too much,” he said.

Now, he’s finding himself completely redesigning and expanding master suites and master bathrooms.

“By far, the biggest trend that I’m seeing is a complete customization of homes toward the client’s needs,” Forward said. “I don’t see a trend project type, but within each project, it’s really to satisfy the particular consumer.”

He points to the annual spring NARI home tours — an event where home remodelers showcase their recent work — as evidence of the resurging interest in major home upgrades.

He said during this year’s tour, 613 people walked through houses his company had recently worked on, compared to the last four years, when he averaged 150 to 200 people.

“And we weren’t the highest one, either,” he said. Some remodelers in southeast Michigan almost had 700 viewers, he said.

Remodelers within a niche market are also seeing increases.

Barb Baker, principal partner of Elder Living Construction, which designs household features suitable for senior citizens but stylish enough for everyone else in the home, said business has increased threefold since last spring.

“Part of that is that we are new, and we are more well-known,” she said of her Farmington Hills-based business, which is in its third year. “But there was some pent-up demand for sure.”

She said there is more multi-generational living, with elderly parents living with their children and young graduates moving back home.

Forward said people are deciding to stay in their homes due to the depletion of the available housing stock and the increase in home values.

Mat Vivona, from Father & Son Construction in Troy, said last year they saw a 10 percent increase in business compared to 2011. Much like Forward, his company has seen a jump in requests for large projects, like kitchen renovations, while three of four years ago, they were completing small projects.

Vivona attributed the increase to the fact that people are seeing their home values rise and now are willing to invest in them.

“Home values are rebounding,” he said. “So, people are in love with their homes again.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.