Home & Leisure

Sluggish housing market could add up to less remodeling business in 2020

Jim Buchta, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Home and Consumer News

A contractor not returning your calls? Consider calling next year.

Remodelers are having one of their busiest summers ever, but that's likely to change.

The annual gain in home-improvement spending is expected to fall by as much as half in many major real estate markets by the end of this year, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

That's good news for homeowners with big projects on their lists, but it's putting remodelers, handymen and their subcontractors on edge.

"If you've been in business more than two years you're always worried about what next year will be like," said John Sylvestre of Sylvestre Remodeling and Design in Richfield, Minn. "I'm a little more nervous about what's going to happen next year."

The biggest worry is slowing home sales, a leading indicator for home-improvement expenditures. Here's why: Homeowners are much more willing to defer big projects than those making a move.


Sylvestre and other contractors say that when people remodel their current homes, they tend to tackle smaller projects and spend less than move-up buyers like Ray and Donna Bronson, who bought a house in Edina, Minn., last fall. The floor plan had a main-level master bedroom and bathroom that fit their needs perfectly, but they knew when they bought the house that they'd have to update the 15-year-old kitchen.

What started out as a fairly defined project turned into a nearly whole-house remodel.

Because the house has an open floor plan, they quickly realized they couldn't update the kitchen without giving the rest of the main level rooms a matching face-lift.

"The house has an overabundance of brown wood," Ray Bronson said. "All of that got stripped out."


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