Kitchen and bathroom remodeling takes off in 2013

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | November 14, 2013

The 2013 Houzz and Home Survey on renovation reports that of the over 100,000 people questioned, an astounding 28 percent are planning a bathroom remodel or addition in the next two years. A further 23 percent are planning a kitchen renovation or addition. The numbers are impressive, but they leave a big question in their wake: why has this remodeling trend taken hold?

It depends who you ask.

The Evidence:

People aren't just saying they're planning to remodel their kitchen or bath - they're calling contractors and having the work done. Lee Mash, a vice-president and co-owner of Everhart Construction in Houston, TX, estimates that in 2013 the company will surpass last year's volume by about 21 percent. Mash attributes a large part of the upswing to the number of kitchens and bathrooms the company is remodeling. He expects to renovate between 150 to 200 bathrooms before year's end; and while some are only receiving minor updates, about 70 percent are undergoing a total makeover.

Further proof comes from Phoenix, AZ, one of the areas hit hardest during the recent housing downturn. Janet Cook, who along with her husband owns Cook Remodeling & Custom Construction, estimates their company's revenue will increase by about 30 percent this year. She, too, attributes the number of kitchens and bathrooms they're remodeling to their success.

The Reasoning:

Cost and ROI - When home prices go up, the return on investment (ROI) for home improvements often rises accordingly. Remodeling Magazine does an annual survey of estimated ROI for many of the most common remodeling projects done on homes.

This year's estimate indicates that the cost for an average mid-range major kitchen remodel in many regions has decreased almost $3,000 on average since the 2011-2012 survey, which could certainly convince more homeowners to take the remodeling plunge. However, the survey also shows that ROI does not appear to have increased enough to make homeowners start flocking to remodeling contractors.

Lack of homes - Mash feels that in Houston, while the ROI might be a consideration, a lack of homes on the market is the primary contributing factor in the remodeling upswing.

He says that the existing housing inventory in the area disappeared quickly when the economy began to improve and homebuilders haven't been able to keep up with demand. As a result, homeowners who would have moved up to a larger house are staying put. When they can't buy a new home with the upgrades they desire, renovating their existing house becomes an attractive option.

Market jitters - While Cook agrees that the lack of homes plays a role in the upswing, she feels that many families might still be nervous about buying a new home. Even though the housing industry is starting to rebound in her area and values are rising again, quite a few homeowners want to stay right where they are until they're sure the market has stabilized. While they're watching their market, they still want upgrades in their current home.

Big sellers - Doug Arbogast, a realtor with John L. Scott Realty Company in Tacoma, WA, says the reason for the kitchen and bath remodeling upswing is very simple: those are the two hot button rooms in any home, regardless of whether you're selling it or searching for a new one.

Arbogast says most of the counties around Tacoma and Seattle have become sellers' markets, but even so, if an owner wants to move a house quickly and get top dollar, they should update the kitchen and master bath with the latest features. In his experience, when showing a house to prospective buyers, at least one member of the family almost always heads straight for those areas.

From all indications, 2013 appears to be the year for kitchen and bathroom remodeling -- or at least the time to start planning your project.

About the Author

Jeffrey Anderson has a Degree in English from V.M.I., and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. He worked in Residential and Commercial construction management for 25 years before retiring to write full time. He spends his time writing, remodeling his old farmhouse, and in animal rescue.