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Mild winter gives spring home remodeling a head start

NAHB says remodelers may struggle to meet rising demand

House under construction

Remodeling is on the rise early this season due to an unusually mild winter, but now experts worry if companies can keep up with the rising demand.

The National Association of Home Builders released its Remodeling Market Index, which increased to 58 in the first quarter of 2017. This is an increase of five points from 2016 and the highest reading since 2015.

An RMI above 50 indicates that more remodelers report market activity is higher compared to the prior quarter than report it is lower. The overall RMI averages ratings of current remodeling activity with indicators of future remodeling activity.

“A milder than usual winter has led to increased remodeling activity and a positive outlook for spring,” NAHB Remodelers Chairman Dan Bawden said. “Remodelers are seeing stronger market conditions with customers more willing to spend money on both small and large projects.”

All three of the index’s components increased in the fourth quarter including major additions and alterations which increased four points, demand for smaller remodeling projects which increased seven points and the home maintenance and repair component which rose six points.

The index which measures future market indicators also increased to 58 in the first quarter, meeting the highest point of 2016. Calls for bids increased 10 points to 59 while amount of work committed increased eight points to 58. The backlog of remodeling jobs increased seven points to 62 and appointments for proposals held steady at 54.

In fact, many homeowners, especially Millennials, began taking out home equity lines of credit as home prices increase and using them for remodeling purposes.

In fact, a report last year from the California Credit Union League showed that while many homeowners in California could not afford to buy a home, and mortgage originations dropped, many of them took out HELOCs to make improvements on their current home.

And this is only the begging of the remodeling trend. As refinances continue to drop with rising interest rates, HELOCs are rising to take their place.

The problem, however, is the manpower that will be needed to meet the rising demand.

“At 58, the Remodeling Market Index is seeing broad-based improvement with all major components well over 50,” NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz said. “However, remodelers will face challenges meeting the demand as the labor shortage continues and costs for materials, such as lumber, are rising.”

In San Francisco, for example, builders are already fighting over the city’s limited supply of construction workers, even causing home prices to surge as the cost of labor increases.

But perhaps projects such as these factory-made homes could free up more laborers for more home construction or remodels.

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