Number 1 Reason to Remodel: Simple Desire for New Amenities

According to remodelers who answered special questions on NAHB’s Remodeling Market Index (RMI) survey for the 1st quarter of 2014, a simple “desire for better/newer amenities” ranked as the number one reason customers choose to remodel their homes. On a scale of 1 to 5 (where 1 indicates never or almost never, and 5 is very often), the average remodeler’s response was 4.3.

“Desire for better/newer amenities” edged out the second place “need to repair/replace old components” by one tenth of a point. These traditional market drivers were the only reasons to remodel with an average rating above 4.0. Another fairly traditional reason, “desire/need for more space” came in third at 3.7.

Reasons to remodel that are of special interest to particular stakeholders—like aging in place and energy efficiency—were further down the list, with average responses near the 3.0 center of the scale. Relatively low average ratings for increasing the home’s investment value or preparing it for a sale continue to support the idea that owners are more likely to remodel for themselves than for future owners. Getting a property ready for a distressed sale scored a particularly low 1.3 (very near the minimum possible 1.0).Remodeling Reasons 2013At the margin, of course, less common reasons to remodel can still fuel an increase in activity if they are on the rise. However, this is only the second time we’ve asked the “reasons to remodel” question on the RMI survey (the first being in the first quarter of 2012), and most of the answers on average changed very little in the intervening two years. Indeed, the average rating for 9 of the 12 categories changed by one tenth of a point or less.

One exception was an increase from 2.8 to 3.0 in the “desire to be able to age in place,” something many observers were probably expecting given the aging population. “Desire/need for more space” also increased two tenths of a point. “Desire for better/newer amenities” posted the largest gain, going from 4.0 to 4.3. A rise in remodeling projects motivated by desire for more space or better amenities is consistent with the general housing market recovery that many experts expect to continue.

This is the second item we’ve posted in May in recognition of National Home Remodeling Month. The first was on the most common types of remodeling projects.

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18 replies

  1. Reblogged this on STRIEGEL TEAM and commented:
    Some interesting information here!

  2. This is incredibly useful information. As on home improvement contractor I can say with confidence that these answers line up with my customers’ reasons.

    The only exception are the two least popular reasons. I work with realtors a lot so my 1-5 answer to those questions would likely be in the mid-low 2’s.

    But anyway, of all the homeowners who remodel, a great majority of them are NOT selling their home, so that affects the survey, right?
    It would be nice to see a statistic that shows something like “of all homeowners who paid for a home improvement in the last year, __% were preparing to sell their home”. That would add even more perspective to an already incredibly informative article.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll make sure the survey team sees it.

      • Thank you Mr. Dietz. A few remodelers and I are discussing this on Google Plus right now and 1) the consensus is that their activity is pretty consistent with the survey results, but 2) some of us are confused by the bottom two reasons on the graph.

        One remodeling contractor in particular, Don Sheppard, who has been in the business much longer than myself, made a good point. He said: “I also see the bottom two as being strange results. If those were to include REO/short sale/distressed repairs enough to pass Section 1 structural pest inspections than I’d have certainly expected a little higher numbers.”

        Personally, I got my start and still get a lot of business from working with realtors to prepare homes for the market – usually non-distressed homes. Then again, my specific experience can’t be extrapolated. That is to say that not every home improvement contractor has a realtor (though every realtor has a go-to contractor I’m sure).

        Admittedly I don’t know TOO much about the RMI survey process, I just know I really pay attention to it. But maybe someone can answer two questions I have about the survey:

        A) does it include a nationwide sample or are the participants all from the same region?
        B) Were they given the opportunity to look at their books and give really accurate answers, or was it sort of a “gut feeling” type of survey?

        I’m assuming the answers are A) nationwide and B) the former, not the latter. That assumption being based on the economic prowess of the NAHB.

        • The RMI is a national sample of NAHB remodeler members, stratified by the four principal Census regions and updated once a year to keep it as consistent as possible over time. The survey is conducted electronically by email. Remodelers are not given specific instructions to consult their books, but always have the options to do so if they choose before submitting the electonic questionnaire. We’ve asked the reasons to remodel questions twice now, and the responses to the bottom two reasons have been virtually identical both times.

      • Sounds like a very thorough survey, Mr. Emrath. I always look forward to reading about its results.

    • You may want to look at Figure 1 in our Dec 2008 Special Study “Spending Patterns of Home Buyers” ( which shows that the vast majority of single-family homes are occupied by people who have not moved in recently. So although recent home buyers on average spend more to remodel than non-moving owners–and home sales can therefore drive a change in aggregate remodeling at the margin–most remodeling is not associated with a move. That article dealt specifically with remodeling and other spending after a home is bought. Ansering questions to NAHB’s 1st quarter 2011 RMI survey, remodelers on average said that, for every $9
      of business they get from owners fixing up their homes soon after a purchase, they get $4 in business from owners getting homes ready for a sale.


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