The state of home improvement
While water conservation is a priority in the western part of the country, energy efficiency is on the minds of all Americans. In fact, a survey by home repair and energy solutions provider HomeServe USA notes that 40% of homeowner respondents expect their energy costs to rise in the next year and 71% intend to take proactive steps to make their homes more energy-efficient in the next 12 months.
“American homeowners are becoming increasingly conscientious about energy usage as they recognize the benefit to their wallets,” says Tom Rusin, CEO of HomeServe USA. “We expect to see an increase in demand for easy and inexpensive solutions to help homeowners assess their usage, adjust their equipment and save on energy costs.”
In the HomeServe Biannual State of the Home Survey, the most common improvements homeowners plan to take are regularly changing filters in the central HVAC unit (47%), adjusting the thermostat a few degrees warmer in the summer or cooler in the winter (42%) and replacing CFL light bulbs with LED light bulbs (35%). Additional upgrades include smart thermostats (9%), installing solar panels (5%) and getting a professional energy audit (4%).
The American Institute of Architects’ Home Designs Trend Survey for the fourth quarter of 2014 also shows continued interest in energy-efficient remodeling projects. “Sustainability objectives — such as energy efficiency, water conservation, healthy home concerns — are seen in consumer product choices in kitchens and baths,” says Kermit Baker, AIA’s chief economist. “Likewise, accessibility considerations are often reflected in the planning for these areas of the home.”
The AIA survey notes that popular bathroom products underscore the growing trend toward energy efficiency, water conservation and healthy home considerations. Energy-efficient LED lighting topped the list of products increasing in popularity. High-efficiency and dual-flush toilets also are trending up. And sensor faucets seem to be increasing their popularity as a residential bathroom product.
Residential architects are reporting that kitchen designs are intended to promote accessibility and adaptability, the report notes. “With households changing homes less frequently in recent years, homeowners may see themselves staying in their current home longer, and therefore are more concerned that their home will meet their evolving need,” Baker says.
Two of the strongest kitchen trends are energy efficiency and healthy home design, the AIA report says. LED lighting seems to be the top energy-efficient improvement for kitchens. Water quality issues are addressed with the increase of drinking water filtration products. Sensor faucets in the kitchen also are increasing in popularity for residential kitchens.
While homeowners indicate renewed interest in remodeling their homes, they’re not quite sure how to finance those projects. A quarter of HomeServe USA survey respondents have no money set aside to cover an emergency home repair.
“Many homeowners make the mistake of not factoring the cost of home repairs and maintenance into their budgets,” Rusin explains. “If they don’t take steps to proactively protect themselves, unexpected repairs can wind up putting a major strain on homeowners’ finances.”
Lack of emergency funds is a concern as over the past 12 months nearly half (48%) of American homeowners reported a home emergency. The most common was a faulty heating or air-conditioning system — with 20% needing to repair or replace one of these systems — followed by plumbing issues including blocked or overflowing toilets or sinks (13% and 10%, respectively).
Other household emergencies reported by HomeServe survey respondents include leaking water pipe (9%); a faulty electrical circuit, switch or outlet (9%); and issues with a water heater that required a repair or a replacement (8%). And water heater replacement can now be a much costlier endeavor after the U.S. Department of Energy’s mandate to increase water heater efficiencies took effect in April.
Of those homeowners who do have money set aside, 52% have $1,000 or less available, the HomeServe report says. These findings underscore the need for service, repair and remodeling contractors to offer easy financing solutions to their customers. Whether it’s the acceptance of credit cards, an in-house credit program or a third-party financing plan, contractors who offer some kind of emergency home repair financing are more likely to get and keep that customer.
If homeowners are in a bind and use your services, even though they believe you are taking advantage of them, they won’t be repeat customers. And repeat customers is what it’s all about, right?