Harvard: Remodeling at bottom, recovery begins in 2010

October 15, 2009 -- CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - The declines in owner spending on home improvements will moderate through the end of 2009 and first half of 2010 according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), released today by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The indicator suggests the remodeling industry is turning a corner. Annual spending levels should start to rise in the beginning of next year causing year over year declines to shrink to 8.9 percent by the second quarter of 2010.

“Remodeling spending by homeowners shows early signs of stabilization,” says Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “While the housing recovery has been erratic, a strengthening economy could produce spending increases on home improvement projects by the second quarter of next year.”

Some positive signs for the industry are emerging. “Favorable financing costs - for those households with access to credit - and a pickup in homes sales are producing more opportunities for home improvement projects,” says Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies. Several factors, however, still impede remodeling growth. “A generally weak housing market with unstable prices, near record levels of foreclosures, and other distressed sales are discouraging households from undertaking nonessential remodeling projects.”

The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) is designed to estimate national homeowner spending on improvements for the current quarter and subsequent three quarters. The indicator, measured as an annual rate-of-change of its components, provides a short-term outlook of homeowner remodeling activity and is intended to help identify future turning points in the business cycle of the home improvement industry. The development of the LIRA is detailed in “Developing a Leading Indicator for the Remodeling Industry” (JCHS Research Note N07-1). In July 2008, the LIRA was re-benchmarked due to changes in the underlying reference series. These changes are explained in “Addendum to Research Note N07-1: Re-Benchmarking the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity” (JCHS Research Note N08-1). The LIRA is released by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University in the third week after each quarter’s closing. The next LIRA release date is January 21, 2010.

The Remodeling Futures Program, initiated by the Joint Center for Housing Studies in 1995, is a comprehensive study of the factors influencing the growth and changing characteristics of housing renovation and repair activity in the United States. The Program seeks to produce a better understanding of the home improvement industry and its relationship to the broader residential construction industry.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies is Harvard University’s center for information and research on housing in the United States. Established in 1959, it is a collaborative unit affiliated with the Graduate School of Design and the Harvard Kennedy School. The Joint Center analyzes the dynamic relationships between housing markets and economic, demographic, and social trends, providing leaders in government, business, and the non-profit sector with the knowledge needed to develop effective policies and strategies. Get more information.

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