• A third of Americans currently flirt with home improvement – 22% have recently completed a remodeling project while 10% plan to engage in one
  • 52% of the Americans who completed home improvement projects in the past year did the work themselves, with Gen Xers the most likely to try DIY
  • Millennials and baby boomers are the most active generations in home improvement
  • The average cost of a home improvement project in the US stands at $22K
  • Residents of New Jersey, California and Massachusetts splurge the most on home improvement projects

Our homes have had many roles to fill lately – from classrooms and gyms to multi-generational living spaces and offices – and the home improvement industry has gotten a big push out of it. Homeowner improvement and repair activity increased by 16% year-over-year, from $350 billion during the second quarter of 2021 to $406 billion in the second quarter of 2022, and with a forecasted $450 billion by the first quarter of 2023, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Even as we emerge from the pandemic, the working-from-home and hybrid work trends are here to stay, which will further support home remodeling.

We wanted to zoom in on the latest trends in home improvement and conducted a survey among people browsing our sister websites PropertyShark and RentCafe. We analyzed approx. 3,300 responses to see what the most popular home improvement projects are these days, how much they cost and who’s more inclined to engage in remodeling, among other things.

According to our survey, almost a quarter of the American respondents declared they have recently completed a home improvement project, with more than half relying solely on their DIY skills in order to enjoy more beautiful and comfortable living spaces.

Home improvement market sees strong activity, led by millennials and baby boomers

Nearly a third of Americans manifested a recent interest in home improvement: 22% of the respondents said they completed a home improvement project during the past 12 months, and an additional 10% said they were planning to do remodeling work in the near future.

Millennials and baby boomers are the most active on the home improvement front. About 23% of each generation said they did home improvement work on their homes recently, followed by Gen Xers.

Millennials’ appetite for home remodeling reflects the interest that this generation is paying to improving their living situation. But while riding the home buying wave, millennials are being pushed towards fixer uppers by the tight housing market – less expensive upfront, but requiring more work afterwards. Almost 50% of millennials said that they prefer full-house remodels as opposed to partial or individual room renovations.

Baby boomers, on the other hand, although they’re busying themselves with home improvement as much as the millennials, are more likely to work on individual rooms – 41% of them reported they take home remodeling one step (or, in this instance) one room at a time. Baby boomers, who by now are mostly empty nesters and even downsizing to smaller homes, are able to afford themselves a more focused approach to home improvement.

Propelled by spiraling cost increases, DIY trend fires up

Americans interested in home improvement are currently navigating significantly higher costs compared to pre-pandemic or last year’s levels. Building material costs soared by over 22% year-over year, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Similarly, the cost of labor in the construction industry is on an upward trend, while the availability of workers is getting problematic – 650K workers are needed to fill the labor shortage in the construction sector in 2022 alone.

The significant cost increases for both construction materials and labor had a big role in the spiraling interest in do-it-yourself projects. Moreover, the DIY sector also has a strong ally in the countless designers, decorators and home bloggers that share their wisdom online. Blame it on Pinterest, Apartment Therapy or the great many home organization shows out there, but there’s now a DIY fan in nearly every household – renter or homeowner. Our survey respondents indicated a strong preference for DIY with 52% of people saying they had completed their most recent home improvement project on their own. 22% did some of the work, and only 27% used contractors for the entire project.

The great many tips, tutorials and educational resources available online have indeed made it easier for people to engage in DIY projects, and it’s often more lucrative to do (some of) the renovation work yourself, as long as the sensitive jobs are left for the professionals. “For projects that require electrical and plumbing work I would consider getting a contractor for safety,” said Leesa Buonagurio, an interior décor blogger. “Most other home projects such as kitchen cupboards, backsplashes in bathroom/kitchens, painting, landscaping, flooring, etc., are DIY friendly. Don't be too nervous to try something new and learn from your mistakes. I've found DIY projects to be fun and very rewarding,” she added.

The handiest of all generations are Gen Xers: almost 70% of them declared they completed their home makeovers on their own, without help from contractors. Gen Xers’ focus on home improvement primarily stems from the complex needs generated by this stage of their lives – including adjusting living spaces to accommodate boomerang children or caring for elderly parents. Their interest in DIY is not that surprising considering that they’re the latchkey generation who – willingly or not – had to develop skills to manage on their own and have been do-it-yourselfers since childhood.

Most Americans tackle smaller home remodeling projects under $15K

Cost and time restraints are determining Americans to work on smaller, less expensive home improvement projects – about 58% of the respondents spent under $15K for their home improvement project, and only 9% of them spent over $75K. Those who are planning to remodel their homes in the near future are even more conservative in terms of spending – 62% of them are budgeting $15K or less for the entire project. The average home improvement project in the US hovers around $22K.

Outdoor spaces join kitchens as the most expensive home improvement projects

Kitchen upgrades, followed by bathroom remodeling and the revamping of outdoor spaces, are the most popular home remodeling projects among Americans. All these spaces have a big impact on how comfortably we live at home, especially since we had to rearrange spaces to fit offices, playgrounds, entertainment areas and gyms into our homes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as we’ve come to value outdoor space even more than before, people are now willing to pay a pretty penny on revamping their outdoor spaces as well, in addition to interiors. Outdoor spaces are now the second-most expensive home improvement project, and the budget for this type of work tops $13K, on average, with high-end outdoor living becoming a priority for many people. More than a classic lawn and a small deck, many yard spaces now include outdoor kitchens, spaces for dining al fresco, and perfectly landscaped areas with comfortable furniture for lounging around.

12% of Americans remodeled their home to obtain more storage space

Most people who engaged in home remodeling projects kept the functionality of the old space. About 12% of those who changed the use of the area they remodeled did it to carve out more storage space in their homes. And for good reason, as it is an essential feature of every home, one that greatly improves the quality of life and ensures a neat and tidy interior.

Creating a home office is another popular reason to start a home improvement project – about 9% of the Americans doing home improvement work needed to add such a space to their home, proving once again that long-term working-from-home or hybrid policies are becoming increasingly common across the US. Hobby rooms were favored by 8% of the people remodeling their homes, followed by study rooms and home gyms.

Self storage, used by more than a third of Americans that are remodeling

Home remodeling can be messy, and it can take time. So it’s no surprise that 38% of those who worked on a home improvement project during the past year said they have used self storage to protect their belongings and optimize a project’s timeline.

The average duration of a home remodeling project can be anywhere from 4 to 10 months, and self storage can make it easy to deal with the temporary disruption of your living situation. It’s a very flexible and generally affordable service, with the average price of a 10’x10’ storage unit being $128 per month, according to Yardi Matrix. However, street rates can vary significantly depending on location – a 10’x10’ storage unit in San Francisco, for example, which is one of the most expensive markets in the country, rents for around $210 per month, while the same size of storage unit in Houston is significantly cheaper, at $86 per month.

The Home Depot and Lowe’s are America’s favorite home improvement stores

About 47% of the Americans doing home remodeling list The Home Depot as their favorite home improvement store, followed by Lowe’s, which is preferred by 32% of the respondents.

The appetite for home improvement over the past couple of years translated into significant sales increases for the country’s major home improvement chain stores. The Home Depot reported almost $36 billion in sales for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2021, representing an almost 11% increase year-over-year, while Lowe’s reported total sales of over $21 billion for the same period, which translates to a 5% year-over-year increase.

New Jersey, California and Massachusetts residents spend the most on their home improvement projects

The average budget for home improvement varies from state to state, with New Jersey, California and Massachusetts the states where residents are willing to pay the most to remodel their interiors.

The average price for a home improvement project in New Jersey stands at almost $38K, and bathroom and living room remodels are at the top of the preferences. California and Massachusetts residents seem to have a penchant for luxurious washrooms, as they’re mostly interested in bathroom remodels, with average budgets of around $34K and $32K, respectively.

Americans have always had a passion for home improvement. Recent pandemic-induced lifestyle changes as well as the high appreciation in home values and growth of home buyer demand have driven home remodeling activities to new peaks. Whether this level of activity can be sustained further, or whether we’ll soon be experiencing a slowdown of the home improvement market, is something that yet remains to be seen.

What the experts say

Bryan Sebring, CGR, President & Founder at Sebring Design Build

How do you see consumer sentiment evolving in terms of home improvement?

We have had an amazing two years and at times it was hard to keep up with the work. Since March, we have noticed a major shift in the consumer being willing to pay the inflated prices that come with home improvement.

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People are still wanting to remodel their house, but when they find out what the project may cost, they are very surprised and are choosing to wait. Typically, people fund projects with equity in their house or stock market gains. With interest rates doubling in the past year and the correction in the stock market, people are not in a good position to do these projects. Until the inflation rate goes down and the Fed U-turns in interest rate hikes, I see a slowdown continuing in the home improvement market.

Do you think that the pandemic changed Americans’ priorities in terms of home improvement?

Yes. I do think that most people are worried another pandemic, and a “stay at home” order could happen again. And many are working from home, so they are wanting a space that they feel comfortable in. Interior remodeling has been very popular.

What are the newest home improvement trends in America?

Still the classic kitchen and bathroom remodels. But office and family rooms have increased as well. Mixing materials, textures and colors is now mainstream. No one wants what their neighbor has anymore, so every project is custom and unique.

Abbe H. Will, Senior Research Associate, Associate Project Director, Remodeling Futures, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

Do you think that the pandemic changed Americans’ priorities in terms of home improvement?

Certainly early in the course of the pandemic smaller-scale do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement activities surged as owners hunkered down at home and caught up with their honey-do lists or dreamed up new ways to accommodate the rapid changes to their lifestyle in terms of working, schooling, exercising, and entertaining from home. But as homeowners increasingly return to their pre-pandemic ways, the DIY surge is also returning to more normal levels.

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We expect more lasting changes in homeowner remodeling behaviors and priorities brought about by the pandemic to include increased emphasis on healthy housing—such as indoor air filtration and ventilation—outdoor living to maximize every space around the home for relaxation and rejuvenation, improvements to accommodate working from home some or most days per week, and even remodeling for multigenerational living whether for older parents or adult children.

With the various pandemic-induced shifts in Americans’ housing and lifestyle decisions and their subsequent impact on home remodeling priorities, the overall home improvement and repair market is expected to remain strong moving forward.

Jennifer Stoner, President and Principal Designer at Jennifer Stoner Interiors, Inc. and National Kitchen & Bath Association member

How do you see consumer sentiment evolving in terms of home improvement?

With the experience of the pandemic, we’ve seen a growing interest in home renovations with our clientele. After spending more time at home, people started to notice things that they would like to change. And now that working from home has become the norm for a large percentage of our population, that demand has continued to grow. Homeowners want better home office spaces for their work lives and better entertaining spaces, both indoors and outdoors, for their personal lives.

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Do you think that the pandemic changed Americans’ priorities in terms of home improvement?

We’ve definitely seen a shift toward more home office spaces, which is the most understandable. But we’ve also seen a growth in kitchen renovations with homeowners eating more meals at home. Outdoor living has also seen a big surge. We’ve worked on some great pool and outdoor kitchen projects over the past couple of years. With travel more restricted, the “staycation” experience needed an upgrade!

What are the newest home improvement trends in America?

I think that homeowners are embracing the at-home “experience” more, and manufacturers are now offering such a wide range of products—from appliances to plumbing—that provide such uniquely tailored experiences. Part of a designer’s job is to truly understand our clients’ lifestyles and personalities so that we can curate the perfect combination of products for each space. We’ve also seen a rise in the demand for the latest smart home technology during our renovations. We’ve been privy to the wonders of home technology for years, but it has taken homeowners a little longer to catch up and truly embrace the myriad of tech offerings. Now, we don’t do any projects without bringing in our tech integrators as part of the team.

Methodology

This analysis was done by StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.

The survey was conducted on two online real estate platforms, rentcafe.com and propertyshark.com, for a period of one month. The sampling was designed as a non-probability sample, and the platform’s active users voluntarily engaged in taking the survey. The respondents to our survey are a self-selecting group and so will not constitute a perfectly representative sample in terms of age, gender or location.

About 3,350 valid questionnaire results were interpreted for this study.

Fair Use and Distribution:

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content, but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.

Author

Maria Gatea is a creative writer for StorageCafe and RentCafe with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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