The perfect storm of home renovations is upon us.
So many people are spending so much time at home these days that a dwelling’s imperfections become that much more apparent.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and a home sales boom in which buyers are willing to invest in long-term changes once they get the keys, Santa Fe remodeling companies are booked solid with orders.
“It’s in hyperdrive right now,” said Steve Pompei, owner of Pompei’s Home Remodeling in Santa Fe. “I am stacking jobs into next summer. My lead time is usually two to three months.”
Remodeling in Santa Fe boomed during the last recession a dozen years ago, an outgrowth of what then was a home-sales bust. Many of those builders-turned-remodelers remain in the game and say they find themselves with plenty of work in the COVID age.
“The only thing that has happened in COVID is the phone is ringing more,” said Douglas Maahs, owner of DMC, a Santa Fe-based remodeler. “More people are looking for remodel than before. People have been at home and decide, ‘We are stuck here, let’s do something.’ ”
Santa Fe resident Miles D. Conway left on a three-day trip with his son, Tilman, to look at colleges, and when they came home, his wife, Mikahla Beutler, had that grin.
“ ‘Look, no carpeting. We are remodeling the upstairs,’ ” Conway recounted, noting he was unaware that the pending remodel would start during his short absence. “It went from just putting in flooring and turned into a full upstairs remodel.”
Boni Armijo, owner of Building Adventures Unlimited in Santa Fe, had a steady diet of remodels and additions from homebuyers from Dallas, Houston and Manhattan, N.Y., until the pandemic started.
“What has changed is the clientele we are getting,” Armijo said. “Now we are getting a lot from Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco and L.A. People on the West Coast are buying second homes. People don’t have an abundant choice in Santa Fe. They buy something they are not happy with. We create a space to accommodate their needs.”
Home offices are big in the stay-at-home era. Pompei said home offices usually entail electric upgrades not only to accommodate data equipment but also because homes built before 2009 likely don’t meet electric codes.
Home additions have become common for Armijo in the past five years and especially now as people want home offices and exercise rooms.
“Most houses don’t have enough room for offices and exercise rooms,” Armijo said. “Generally, that’s when you end up doing additions.”
Remodeling, the experts say, largely focuses on kitchens and bathrooms, which have seen a huge evolution in the past decade or two.
“How can we open their space so the kitchen becomes more incorporated in the living area?” Maahs said. “How do we combine Santa Fe style with a more cleaner, contemporary style?”
But remodels are not cheap. Pompei said some people think a few thousand dollars will cut it. Usually, the price tag is much higher. He doesn’t touch jobs under $25,000.
Pompei said that during the pandemic, getting permits is “almost impossible,” leading to some people doing remodels “under the radar.”
Before the pandemic, people spent much of their free time at concerts, theaters, sporting events, dining. Home might’ve been where the heart is, but it wasn’t a 24/7 experience.
That’s no longer the case.
“Now there’s no place for people to go,” Maahs said. “Their attention will turn to their immediate environment. Remodel. Why not?”