Hammering it Home: COVID-19 Fails to Derail Renovation Plans


Seventy-three percent of homeowners are planning to renovate this year, according to a May 2020 LightStream home improvement pulse survey conducted by Wakefield Research. This is down slightly from 77% when the survey was initially fielded in January 2020. In fact, those individuals are moving forward or expanding projects (57%) at more than twice the rate of those who are cutting back or cancelling (23%).

The average amount homeowners intend to spend ($11,851) has actually increased slightly compared to results from January ($11,473). And while fewer millennials are planning to renovate now (83%) compared to January (92%), they are pursuing more expensive projects; they now expect to spend $16,088 on these endeavors, whereas those surveyed in January planned to budget $13,838 this year.

“As a result of COVID-19 shutdowns that closed offices, businesses, schools and more, self-isolation has forced Americans to take a much closer look at their homes,” says Todd Nelson, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at LightStream. “Many have clearly decided that renovation remains the right move. And they’re acting on it. In fact, as of the end of May, LightStream home improvement loan application volume is up by over 15% compared to January through May in 2019.”

Outside & Inside

The pandemic seems to have inspired a strong appreciation for being outdoors. Nearly half of those planning home improvement projects (49%) now plan to tackle outside renovations. The May survey also revealed that parents, compared to non-parents, are significantly more likely to plan upgrades to their outdoor spaces (54% vs. 46%) and take on pool projects (26% vs. 10%).

Home repairs (35%), bathrooms (33%) and kitchens (32%) follow behind outdoor upgrades as popular renovations for those planning home improvement projects.

Seeking Time Apart

All this time at home has also created a need for privacy. More than a third of those surveyed (36%) feel like they do not have personal space in their house. Parents (57%) are more than twice as likely as non-parents (25%) to feel this way.

Opening Their Virtual Doors

Whether connecting with loved ones, attending a virtual class or meeting with co-workers, video calls have become a part of daily life for many since the pandemic hit. Among those who have made video calls from home, 64% have been embarrassed by parts of their living space. Parents (80%) feel this more than non-parents (55%). Across generations, millennials are the most embarrassed (75%), compared to their older counterparts (66% of Generation X and 55% of boomers).

Whatever their reason for tackling home improvements, consumers remain divided on how to pay for them. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those renovating this year will use savings, while nearly one-third (31%) will tap credit cards.

Those who planned renovations in 2020 and are cutting back or cancelling projects are doing so because they are either re-prioritizing discretionary spending (46%); choosing to build up savings and/or assets (29%); or have experienced loss of income by a family member or as an individual (28%).

“Consumers who are feeling less economic security are wisely holding back spending on discretionary purchases,” continued Nelson. “Those planning big-ticket purchases must set a budget for their project so that they don’t overspend or deplete emergency savings and other important financial assets. And if they are going to borrow to finance their project, they need to look for lower interest rates options, like installment loans, rather than credit cards with higher interest rates.”

Visit the LightStream blog for more information on the May 2020 LightStream home improvement pulse survey.

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