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Home-improvement market holds great promise for the educated pro

After years of declining revenue, the revitalized home-improvement industry is repositioning itself to address emerging growth markets and rebuild its workforce to better serve the evolving needs—and wants—of its customer base.

According to the recently published Emerging Trends in the Remodeling Market from Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, the home-improvement industry has fared much better than the construction industry in the wake of the recession. While some of the stability can be explained by the required routine maintenance and repair necessary to maintain a property’s value over time, it also reflects the decision by many homeowners to forego trading up and, instead, make improvements to their existing home.

“We fully expect 2015 to be a record year in terms of the amount of money-spending we’ll see in home improvement,” says Kermit Baker, program director for Remodeling Futures program, Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. “In addition to maintenance projects, homeowners are taking on certain discretionary projects. However, unlike during the boom between 2004 and 2007 where you’d see dramatic remodels, projects today run more along the lines of mid-level remodels … replacing counters or cabinets instead of gutting the whole kitchen. Homeowners are thinking more toward what will meet their lifestyle needs rather than what will generate the most resale value.”

NEW LIFESTYLE NEEDS, NEW OPPORTUNITIES

Baker sees a number of major opportunities for home-improvement professionals over the next three to five years. “More and more, aging boomers are looking to stay put. But for many, that requires making modifications to make their home safer as they age,” says Baker. Among the most common modification needs is the creation of a master bedroom on the first floor with a full bath. In addition, relocating laundry facilities to the first floor, widening hallways, and adding ramps to entrances are popular remodels. (For more on aging-in-place remodels visit AgeInPlace.com)

On the other end of the age spectrum, many young homeowners are focusing on sustainability. “What started with energy efficiency and retrofits has now evolved into healthy-home modifications,” says Baker. From the addition of solar panels and water-conservation systems to using recycled materials and choosing products for their potential health impact, homeowners are no longer concerned with aesthetics alone.

A HEALTHY HOME IS A HAPPY HOME (OR RENTAL)

According to Baker, people are very concerned about how different products impact the health of their family. “From carpets and air systems to water filters and the paint on the walls, people are paying more attention than ever.”

And, the push for healthy homes isn’t limited to houses.

“A high number of millennials are gravitating to rentals,” he says. “For property owners, there’s a big opportunity to differentiate your property by making it a healthier option.

I see a tremendous opportunity in this area. The paint contractor who is conversant on healthy-home issues and can provide solid product advice is going to have a distinct advantage over others competing for the same jobs.”

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PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

According the Home Improvement Research Institute, U.S. homeowner plans for projects around the home in the second quarter of 2015 versus the same period of last year changed this way:

Trends