Building-Remodeling Changes: Santa Claus or Grinch?

Building-remodeling changes began like Grinch in 2008

“How the Grinch Stole . . . Everything!

History Before 2008:

Building-remodeling professionals were busy, with seasonal ups and downs. Homeowners called design and construction professionals to renovate their home, or build a new home. They had high expectations and positive anticipation about finding someone to help them.They felt it was like  waiting for Santa Claus.


The Grinch (aka the economy) stole everything. Anticipation was replaced by anxiety and fear. Americans were just trying to keep their homes, trying to prevent the Grinch from stealing the roof over their heads. People lost jobs as companies downsized or closed their doors. Building and remodeling stopped. People who were thinking about trading up decided to hunker down and stay put. Recovery from such a devastating blow takes a long time.

2008 to 2012 Building-Remodeling Changes:

Many homeowners in the sluggish economy are willing to do part (or all) of their own labor, which can save a considerable amount of money. Years ago, an interior design instructor said:

“There are only two ways to pay for something. You can take it out of your purse, or you can take it out of your hide.”

Homeowners want and need to save money on their remodeling or repair projects, because the economy has reduced their home value,, and home equity loans are difficult (at best) to obtain. Products are expensive, and contractors’ overhead is high, which adds to the dilemma. Following is the 2009-10 average remodeling investments for “standard” projects without any structural changes or modifications to exterior walls (i.e., new windows and doors), as reported in the Cost vs. Value Report:

  • Bathroom remodeling: $17,257
  • Kitchen remodeling: $21,867

Economic Reality In 2010:

I had to be honest, telling prospective clients that their remodeling goals were not achievable for the $10,000 budget they wanted to maintain. Their master bathroom project involved moving walls and plumbing to make the area larger so they could have a two-person shower and a whirlpool tub. During the initial meeting, we talked about their wish list, their budget, their D-I-Y skills, and alternative ideas:

  • Forget the major changes
    • Leave walls and major plumbing fixtures where they are
    • Eliminate the new whirlpool tub
    • Carefully select products  — do a spreadsheet for all products being considered
  • Limit the size and scope of the project, and add $5,000-$8,000 to the budget
  • Eliminate lower-priority items
    • How often, realistically, will the whirlpool tub be used?
    • How often, realistically, will the homeowners shower together?
  • Freshen up the bathroom now, and delay the project until the economy improves
    • A new color and a few new accessories can achieve wonderful results
    • Purchase new plumbing and light fixtures for the existing bathroom that can be used in the remodeled bathroom

It’s experiences like this that made me feel more like the Grinch than Santa Claus. The homeowners’ anticipation of achieving a wonderful new master bathroom for $10,000 was quickly deflated by the reality check.

2013 – 2017 Building-Remodeling Changes

The economy has been improving slowly, steadily through 2015, People who rode through the recession have seen the equity in their home grow and exceed what it was before the recession. Old companies are hiring again, and new companies are being created every year. Consequently, people are feeling more positive about remodeling their home, or building a new home. The construction industry was white-hot in 2016, to the point where homeowners couldn’t find a contractor, and contractors had a hard time finding qualified employees or subcontractors.

The Future? Who knows?

Before the building-remodeling  and economic crash of 2008, money gushed like a broken water main. People spent money they didn’t have to buy or build homes that they really couldn’t afford, betting that their job and income were stable. I’m not a doom-sayer, but we have to take responsibility for protecting ourselves financially, emotionally, and physically. Keeping up with trends isn’t that important, really. What’s really important, I learned through my own experience, almost losing my home because we had one of the shaky-foundation loans, is to be grateful for what we have and move ahead with a balance of caution and faith.

“See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

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