American homeowners have spent over half-trillion dollars in home improvements in the past few years. However, they believe inflation and a possible recession will impact how much they spend on future projects.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Housing Survey, American homeowners completed approximately 135 million home improvements between 2019 and 2021. They spent an estimated $624 Billion. This is an increase in home improvements of around $100 billion over the 2017-2019 span survey period.
This two-year period started before we knew that the COVID-19 pandemic was imminent. It included lockdowns, ambitious DIY projects at home and eventually a housing market in which even disrepair homes were being sold for a good price. These factors can have an impact on how people spend their money to improve their homes. It’s clear that each one did.
Holden Lewis, NerdWallet mortgage and home expert, says that the pandemic caused a lot home improvements. Homeowners were forced to turn their living spaces into offices or classrooms by the shutdowns. Many people who lived in cramped apartments and small houses sought larger digs in the suburbs. These developments led to renovations to make homes more livable and to sell them. ”
This third biennial NerdWallet Home Improvement Report analyzes the most recent American Housing Survey data for 2019 to 2021. We compare this with results from an online NerdWallet survey by The Harris Poll that was conducted from Sept. 27 through 29, 2022 and asked 1,404 homeowners about home improvement projects.
This is the report for this year:
Spending on home improvements grew dramatically in the 2019-2021 timeframe. According to American Housing Survey data, spending rose 20% to $624 million.
Nearly 53 million DIY projects were completed by homeowners. In the two-year survey period, DIY projects made up 39% of all projects and 20%.
The percentage of homeowners who are able to afford improvements has declined. According to the NerdWallet survey, 42 percent of homeowners who have taken on home improvements projects in the past two years said they were able pay most of them easily without having to tap into savings or go into debt. This is a decrease from the 52% who answered the same question in 2020.
Many planned improvements don’t target potential home buyers. Only 20% of homeowners who plan to make home improvements over the next two-years say they are doing it to increase their home’s appeal to potential buyers. According to the survey, comfort is the number one reason homeowners give for making their home more appealing (54%) and satisfaction (52%).
Future projects could hinge on the economy. Homeowners expect to spend $7,746, on an average, on home improvements over the next two-years. However, inflation (44%) and whether we are in a recession (27%), are just some of the factors that will influence their decisions.
The state and future of home improvements
During the two-year period of the 2021 American Housing Survey, $624 billion was spent by homeowners on home repairs and improvements. This is a double-digit increase from $300 billion in a decade.
Given current inflation, you might think that this is a result of higher costs. But, this is not the case. The number of projects rose from a mere 94 million in 2013 to 134.8 millions in 2021, a 44% increase.
The total number of projects increased 17% from the 2019 census survey to 2021 survey. Spending also increased 20%.
During the 2021 survey period, projects cost an average of $4,838, or $4,838, per project. Kitchen renovations were the most costly at $33,190 on average. Security system installations were the least expensive at $754.
During the pandemic, people had their homes shuttered and there was an explosion of home improvements. This action was slowed after the pandemic and when people returned to work.
We asked homeowners about their home improvements over the past two year. 26% of them said that they did so because they were less likely to be away from home as a result of pandemic-related social distance measures. Only 17% of homeowners said this year that they had taken on home improvements projects in the past two years due to increased homelessness and pandemic-related concerns.
Handy homeowner tip: Home improvements that are undertaken when you spend more time at your home don’t always have the same results as those you do on a weekend. While a bathroom remodel can take place in a week or three, it is still a worthwhile project. However, finding the time and resources to repair and maintain your bathroom can be difficult. You should make sure that you have time and money for the more mundane tasks. Although you might not be proud to see your gutters clean, it is a small project that will save you money over the life of your home.
DIY vs. pro
According to our survey, 25% of homeowners said they have taken on DIY projects in the last two years due to their love for this type of work. However, that was not the only reason homeowners took on DIY projects over the past two years. 15% of homeowners said they could not afford to hire a professional and 9% said they did so because they couldn’t find a contractor.
The Census Survey shows a slight rise in DIY projects in recent years, possibly due to the 2020 pandemic shut downs.
The most recent census survey period (2019-2021) showed that 39% of home improvements were DIY projects, which is 39% more than the 37% recorded in the two-year prior. These projects were 20% of total home improvement spending during the past two years. A DIY project cost $2,500 on average, while $6,350 for a professional job would have cost $6,350.
Lewis offers a handy tip for homeowners: “Doing your home improvement work yourself can save you money, but be careful.” It might seem cheaper and more fun to use a sledgehammer on a wall yourself, but discovering that it was actually a load-bearing wall can make you feel like the comedian on a home renovation episode. ”
According to the NerdWallet survey, less than half (42%) of homeowners who have taken on home improvements projects in the past two years claim they were able pay the majority of them easily without having to tap into savings or go into debt. This is a decrease of 52% who answered the same question in 2020.
These projects can be expensive. 20% of homeowners who took them on over the past 2 years had to cut back on discretionary spending and sell items. 14% had emergency savings to meet their needs, while 12% had loans or credit card debt to cover the bulk of the work. 8% borrowed against their equity to finance the rest.
Cash is the best option for home improvement projects. According to the 2021 American Housing Survey, 78% of the projects were paid for primarily with cash during the survey period. However, few homeowners have the financial resources to finance their projects.
Handy tip for homeowners: Carefully weigh your options when it comes to home improvement funding. While cash is not a form of interest, it can mean reducing your savings. Credit cards, personal loans, and home equity financing options are all subject to interest, fees, and have variable payoff terms. You should have enough money to fund your project. If that is not possible, consider all the benefits and costs before deciding on a funding option.
According to NerdWallet, 95 percent of homeowners plan on undertaking home improvements within the next two-years. Many homeowners are thinking of small projects, 42% plan to paint a room, and 25% will update their light fixtures. However, 51 percent say they are looking at renovating or adding rooms. Nearly 25% (22%) plan to renovate the kitchen. The same percentage (22%) are planning on renovating or adding a bath.
Only 1 in 5 (20%) people who are considering home improvements in the next 2 years tell us why. 54% of those surveyed say they want to make their home more comfortable, 52% say they want to feel happier with their home, 33% say that their house needs to be updated to be functional or safe.
40% of homeowners look online for inspiration when planning their home improvements.
Economic considerations and costs
According to NerdWallet, homeowners expect to spend $7,746 over the next two-years on home repairs and improvements. Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents anticipate spending $10,000 or more. This is an increase from the $6,251 average expected spend in 2020.
They are aware of the economic state and the potential obstacles that may arise. These factors could affect their ability to pay for the projects or even get them completed. 44% of homeowners were asked about the factors that will influence their decision on when and if they do projects over the next two years. 38% mentioned inflation, 30% said the ability to find a contractor, 30% the housing market, and 27% indicated whether we are in recession.
Many people (39%) are planning to invest in projects over the next two-years. About one-third of them (34%) intend to use a credit or debit card.
Millennial homeowners aged 26-41 are more likely to plan to use a credit-card than any other generation. This is compared to 32% of Generation Z (18-25), 32% for Generation X (42-57), and 28% for baby boomers (58-76).
Lewis says that many homeowners will end up staying in their homes for longer than they originally planned. This is because they don’t want to be stuck with a high-interest mortgage on their new home. Instead, homeowners will stay put and improve their homes. They’ll do their best to find the most affordable way to pay when they do. ”
The Harris Poll conducted this survey online in the U.S. for NerdWallet between Sept. 27-29 2022 among 2,047 U.S. adults 18 years and older, which included 1,404 homeowners. A Bayesian credible interval is used to measure the sampling precision of Harris online surveys. The sample data for this study is within +/-2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence limit. Alikay Wood, [email protected] can provide more information about the survey methodology including subgroup sample sizes and weighting variables.
Every two years, the American Housing Survey is published. Interviews were conducted between May 3, 2021 and September 30, 2021. Homeowners were asked about their home improvements in the last two years.
The AHS requires homeowners to report what they spend on various projects. The survey doesn’t break down projects by size, scope, materials, or finish.
This report only applies to owner-occupied homes.
The AHS measures project expenses. The AHS measures project expenditures.