Realtors report shows costs and benefits of home remodeling projects

EDMOND — Have you ever heard of refinancer’s remorse, or home remodeler’s remorse?

Me either.

Buyer’s remorse is real, and it’s surely hitting home buyers caught up in multiple-bidding situations who wound up paying more for a house than sellers even asked for.

Maybe not, but probably so, with buzz about housing bubbles starting to buzz again. A popped bubble in a local market, which is the only kind of housing market, does do damage to prevailing market prices, by definition.

We will see what damage out-of-state investors do here if they figure out they’ve overplayed this local market, and overpaid, and decide to cut their losses.

Refinancer’s remorse? My wife and I just did a cash-out refi, and I’ve had a twinge or two: Oh, Lord, What we done to our equity?!

Tapped it, that’s what, and for something that is a great antidote for refinancer’s remorse: to remodel this old house we’ve lived in for nearly 23 years, or at least make some upgrades and repairs.

Just in time came some remodeling ideas from a survey by the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Repainting the interior, adding a home office, installing hardwood flooring, and renovating closets all got a perfect “Joy Score” of 10, according to the study, the 2022 Remodeling Impact Report.

Cool. Closet fixes are on our list, and new light fixtures, a little landscape improvement, some long-deferred plumbing repairs, and a bathroom remodel so involved it will be more of a rescue.

Our inside paint is OK, and a spare bedroom has been my home office since 1999, and is fine as is.

Maybe we should pivot, and go for fresh paint and new flooring instead. We could use more joy in life. Who couldn’t?

No, getting our second bath back in service alone will have us jumping for joy. But that might inspire us to do more. We would not be alone. In the survey, 86% of respondents said remodeling one area of their home then inspired them to remodel other areas.

Rather, inspired most of them to hire a remodeler, at least for some of the work.

More than a third of home owners responding, 35%, hired a professional for their entire project, while 28% said they hired someone for the labor but bought the materials themselves, and 22% did the full project themselves, from start to finish.

We will get someone in for the plumbing work because it will probably require busting up the floor, and we are not plumbers or floor buster-uppers. Someone will be brought in to deal with the new lights because we also are not electricians.

Bad knees and feet — requiring surgery, postponed again and again because of our concerns over COVID — are keeping us from doing some things ourselves. I like working in the yard, but just can’t right now. I’m pretty sure I can do the closet redo.

Kitchen upgrades were also popular among respondents, receiving a Joy Score of 9.8. Nearly a third, 32%, said they would overhaul the kitchen to upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes or materials. The second top reason, 20%, was to add features and enjoyment.

The average kitchen remodel costs around $45,000, according to the remodeling association. The Realtors estimated that $30,000 of that could be recovered when the home is sold, a recovery rate of 67%.

The estimated cost recovery for refinishing hardwood floors was highest, at 147%. New wood flooring was at 118%. An insulation upgrade was at 100%, as were new roofing and a new garage door.

The reasons people remodel vary, of course, according to the survey.

For some people, it started when they were stuck at home so much in 2020 and early 2021 because of the coronavirus, although 83% said they’d have remodeled with or without the pandemic.

Homeowners spent some $420 billion on remodeling in 2020 alone, the study found.

More than a third of survey respondents, 35%, said “the single most important result from their remodel was better functionality and livability,” the study said, and 14% “reported beauty and aesthetics as a result of their remodel.”

So the desire for better function trumped the desire for better form.

“Our study revealed that homeowners tend to undertake a remodeling project for any number of reasons,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of Realtors. 

In some instances, she said in a report on the research, “Homeowners were content with sprucing up a room with a simple paint job, while in other cases, families decided to take on the task of renovating an entire attic or basement to add additional living space to their home.

“The pandemic has changed the way we use our homes, and many of those changes are here to stay. As a result, homeowners needed to reconfigure or remodel how they use their home and maximize space.”

Another big reason for remodeling is the hope for an increase in the home’s value held by those considering selling, Lautz said, which is a big reason why a lot of the things that need done to our house haven’t been.

We are not looking to sell, to the consternation of the investor types calling and texting every day, and even sending snail mail, trying to get us to.

Nope. This has been home for 20-plus years and will be, almost surely, until and unless we decide to move closer to the Grandest Grandchild in the Known Universe, and her mom and dad, down around Houston, but if so, not anytime real soon.

No, we’re fixing the place up mainly because it’s tired, and we’re tired of looking at it — and having to wait, or rush, with just one bathroom.

Senior business writer Richard Mize has covered housing, construction, commercial real estate, and related topics for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com since 1999. Contact him at rmize@oklahoman.com.

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