National News: Soft Remodeling Market Looks Good to Home Builders

Even with the remodeling industry in the midst of its most challenging cyclical downturn since the early 1980s, a substantial number of home builders are diversifying into the home improvement and maintenance market, making the competition for jobs even tougher, according to remodelers attending the Sept. 9-12 Remodeling Show in Baltimore.

Home owner improvements, the key segment of the remodeling sector, were falling at a 4% annual rate by the end of last year, and that decline is expected to accelerate to a 9% pace by the end of this year and 11% during the first quarter of 2009, according to Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Baker said that the industry is likely to register further declines in 2009, averaging in the mid to upper single digits for the year as a whole, “unless the economy takes a turn for the better very quickly,” which appeared anything but certain in the week following the show when the U.S. financial markets suffered the worst tribulations yet of the ongoing credit crunch.

But home builders have been drawn to remodeling because the business has been holding up fairly well compared to residential construction and sales, which have taken a beating in many parts of the country, particularly on the single-family side. Green remodeling and modifications to homes to enable residents to age in place are two niches where demand appears to have been holding up better than average in today’s soft marketplace.

Read more here…

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