Residential repair and remodeling spending will increase 6.7 percent between now and the third quarter of this year, according to BRG, a consulting firm that focuses on the kitchen-and-bath market. This uptick represents substantial growth considering BRG also reports that repair/remodeling expenditures in 2009 dropped about 8 percent.

You already may have seen these numbers, which we ran in the March 18 edition of our Bath & Kitchen Pro e-News. If you’re not a subscriber, click here to sign up for the free e-newsletter.

As many of you are aware, the remodeling market mostly has been a replacement and repair business for the past year or so. Your customers have been buying only what they need and delaying larger projects.

With the remodeling market gaining strength again, now would be the time for you to figure out how to take advantage of it. We see these three areas of opportunity:

  • Aging boomers. Every seven seconds, 10,000 baby boomers turn 60 years old. And, every seven seconds, 10,000 boomers turn 50. Both these fun facts come from a universal design workshop that I attended at this year’s Builders’ Show.

    Combine those numbers with sluggish home sales and dropping real estate prices over the last couple years, and you’ll see more customers remodeling houses where they plan to age gracefully. Contractors, such as this month’s cover subject Jeff Kuhn of S&K Pump & Plumbing, are removing bathtubs to install shower systems, which are easier for aging homeowners to access. He’s also doing a brisk business installing grab bars in shower areas and comfort-height toilets.

  • Multigenerational households. Aging boomers increasingly are being joined in their house by their children, or sometimes even by their own parents. A study released in mid-March by the Pew Research Center shows the number of people in multigenerational households grew by 2.6 million between 2007 and 2008.

    Much of this growth is tied to the poor economy where people cannot afford to live on their own. The study points out, however, that this trend has been taking place since 1980.

    The so-called “boomerang kids” come home to live with Mom and Dad so they can save up enough money to get their own place. In other cases, older adults are moving in because they can’t live on their own and a nursing home isn’t an option.

    Immigration has amplified the trend, according to the study. Hispanic and Asian families, for example, traditionally have more than one generation living under the same roof.

  • House staging. Another opportunity comes from customers who are trying to sell their homes in a tough real estate market. Unlike in the past, these homeowners aren’t remodeling their bathrooms and kitchens to increase the selling price of their house.

    The goal now is to make their property stand out from all the other houses for sale. The budgets for these jobs tend to be modest, yet freshening up a bathroom or kitchen still can help differentiate a home in the eyes of a prospective buyer.

    Stabilizing home prices, which now actually are showing a 2.6 percent increase from last year, should help boost remodeling expenditures this year, according to BRG. While aging-in-place boomers and boomerang kids won’t help new home sales, they do offer you opportunities to expand and update bathrooms and kitchens.


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