Is it time to unearth those long-lost plans for a gourmet kitchen remodel? More and more Americans are starting to think so, according to a recent report on remodeling trends.
After enduring gut-wrenching home price drops over the past few years, property values are beginning to inch up again, giving homeowners a confidence boost when it comes to the thought of pouring more money into their abodes.
According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, business is picking up after being in the doldrums for years, with members feeling more positive about the business climate and projecting steady growth through the end of the year.
"We had a strong spring and then it slowed down a bit, but we're back to phones ringing and signing contracts," says Kevin Anundson, president of Elk Grove, Wisconsin-based Owner Assisted Remodeling, and national secretary for NARI.
[Read: Home Prices Rise 2.2 Percent in May.]
Anundson credits some of the boost in business to easing gas prices, which have padded consumers' pockets a bit more, but also the fact that homeowners are tired of kicking the can down the road when it comes to giving their homes a facelift.
Now, the combination of low financing costs, improving home sales and stronger price gains are encouraging homeowners to revive their "honey-do" lists and barring some huge financial disaster, experts expect double-digit growth in homeowner spending on remodeling by the first quarter of 2013.
"Remodeling is something people still want to do, and we think there's a lot of pent-up demand there," says Sal Alfano, editorial director at REMODELING magazine. "They have postponed some of the work but they haven't gotten jaded."
But the industry itself faces some different realities in the wake of the housing bust. This time around, Americans are being a bit more budget conscious, opting for smaller-scale projects and making compromises on super high-end finishes.
Homeowners are also doing a lot more repairs rather than renovations, according to Alfano. While bathroom, kitchen, and other lifestyle upgrades haven't disappeared by any means, contractors are reporting more roofing and siding jobs as well as replacing essential systems such as central heat and air conditioning.
The focus on less-glamorous renovations is partly due to the tighter budgets consumers are faced with these days. An average roof job usually costs under $20,000. A typical kitchen renovation on the other hand can be upwards of $75,000.
"People are making tougher decisions," Alfano says. "Back in 2005, people were waiting in line for contractors and they wanted the best of everything. Now they have much tighter budgets and they have to choose between fancy tile and cool cabinets."
But despite budget constraints and having to postpone some pricier reno projects, homeowners will always remodel.
"They can't help themselves," Alfano jokes. "There's a lot of uncertainty about a lot of things now but I know there's pent up demand and before nobody wanted to pull the trigger. That's slowly changing now."
Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter.