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Using Our Common Sense
By Tracy Dickinson
home :: home & garden :: featured remodels

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In the November issue of Remodeling magazine, an article on cost versus value of remodeling projects stated, “Whether homeowners are actually experiencing home value depreciation or are only fearful of it, there is little doubt that credit has tightened, with a corresponding constricting effect on the remodeling market.” This may be true as a nationwide statistic, but the market in Des Moines tells a different story. It’s more a common sense approach here.

“Things have slowed down a little bit the past couple of months,” observes Les Beer of TBB Design. “But overall, the remodeling side has actually picked up.”

Rebel Snodgrass, owner of Rebel’s Custom Design in Indianola, says, “Granted, we’ve started advertising for the first time over the past year, but our business is up 600 percent. I
don’t see a slowdown in remodeling projects in central Iowa anytime soon.”

Most local remodeling firms agree that, when the housing market slows, many homeowners start reevaluating their current homes. “Some people who might have moved start reconsidering,” explains Marilyn Struecker of Construction Professionals.

“Most of our customers choose to remodel because they love their home and their neighborhood, but there are features about the house that don’t suit their lives. In a slower housing market, they’re even more motivated to stay and make their current home work.”

The most popular projects for local companies remain kitchen and bath remodels, partially because these are the two areas of the home that show their age most readily. Struecker says, “Upgrading kitchens and master baths is very common when a homeowner wants to remain in a neighborhood they love. Often the kitchen is dated or the master bath is too small, so those are the areas they’ll address.”

“A lot of homeowners want a bathroom that’s really a separate living space,” acknowledges Snodgrass. “So they’re not just replacing fixtures; they’re making it more of a retreat with granite or marble fixtures or even heated floors.

Although Remodeling reports that the tightened credit market has negatively affected the remodeling market, area remodeling experts claim that the average remodeling budget hasn’t seen a significant decline. Because of the types of projects homeowners are investing in, budgets remain at the middle to high range. Most remodelers surveyed said their typical project runs in the $40,000 – $80,000 range, and for many kitchen remodel/additions the budget can exceed $100,000.

“Homeowners who decide to stay and remodel generally want quality products that might not have been in the home before,” notes Struecker. “They take the resale value into consideration, along with whether they’re pricing their home beyond the market for its location, but that’s not a primary concern.”

Snodgrass heartily agrees. “The majority of remodeling customers want quality work and quality products,” he stresses. “They’re redesigning their home because they plan to stay there for awhile, and they don’t want the stock products that came with the house.”

Beer says, “We get a lot of lower-level finishes, too. Homeowners realize that the best, most cost-effective way to expand their living space is to use all of what they already have. And even older homes can usually be at least partially finished on the lower level.”

The rest of the country might be seeing some major changes in the home construction and remodeling industries, but here in central Iowa, things are remaining steady. Customers who have chosen to sell are seeing consistently good returns on the dollars they’ve spent to improve their homes (see sidebar), and
homeowners who have chosen to stay in their current residences are willing to invest in the homes they have.

When Charles Dickens wrote, “I don’t profess to be profound; but I do lay claim to common sense,” he could have been describing the average Iowan. And in this economy, that’s a good claim to make.

Cost vs. Return
Which projects see the best return on
investment when selling a home in Iowa?*

Siding Replacement (fiber/cement)            86.7%
Siding Replacement (vinyl)                        80.4%
Window Replacement (vinyl)                        79.2%
Window Replacement (wood)            76.5%          
Major Kitchen Remodel                        70.7%
Bathroom Remodel                                    70.7%
Bathroom Addition                                    66.1%
Deck Addition                                                63.2%
Roofing Replacement                                    63.0%
Garage Addition                                    62.8%
Master Suite Addition                                    61.1%

*Information courtesy of Remodeling magazine, November 2008.

Most Popular Projects in Central Iowa

For Homeowners Choosing to Stay Rather Than Sell:
Kitchen Remodel
Master Bathroom Remodel
Bathroom Addition
Kitchen Bumpout/Addition
Lower-Level Finish:
            Family Room
            Recreation Area
            Theater Room

For Homeowners Preparing to Sell:
Siding Replacement
Roofing Replacement
Window Replacement
Flooring Replacement
Kitchen Cabinet Replacement
Deck Replacement/Addition



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