Fixing Up the Old Homestead Is Big Business

EACH year Americans spend nearly as much money on remodeling their homes as they spend on purchasing new ones. The remodeling/renovation industry, according to Kenneth Klein, chairman of the Remodelers Council of the National Association of Home Builders, reached a record-breaking $101.3 billion in 1988, a 7.7 percent increase over the year before.

It is expected to reach $105 billion in 1989.

As new houses have become more exorbitant in price, thousands of homeowners have opted to stay put and give present homes a better ``family fit.'' They are pushing out walls, adding second bathrooms, making kitchens more efficient, and capturing extra space by finishing off basements and attics and enclosing porches. Before they invest too heavily in renovation, they question themselves as to how long they expect to remain in the house, what improvements would most enhance its value, and whether their family is growing or will soon to be contracting. Their answers help them chart their remodeling course.

The booming remodeling/renovation industry, according to Mr. Klein, a remodeler in Tulsa, Okla., has expanded 105 percent over the past five years, but is expected to level off over the next three years.

It is now and will continue to be, he says, a crucial facet of the United States economy.

The Remodelers Council economic survey for the fourth quarter of 1988 showed that the median cost for kitchen remodeling was $15,000, $6,700 for bathroom remodeling, and $30,000 for room additions.

According to Kitchen & Bath Business magazine, some $14.9 billion was spent last year on kitchen remodeling/replacement jobs and $8.3 billion on bathrooms.

A DESIRE to replace outdated fixtures has been cited as the No. 1 reason for bathroom remodeling, says Francis Jones, executive director of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. ``But consumers today are doing more than just replacing. They are enlarging and redesigning bathrooms into luxurious `pamper' spaces that also house fitness and entertainment equipment, sofas and chaises.''

Americans homeowners have spent an average of $6,600 over the past five years on home remodeling, renovation, and repairs, a Better Homes and Gardens Consumer Panel survey revealed recently. Many homeowners, the survey pointed out, remodeled not only to enhance their surroundings but to protect their financial investment in home.

Seventy-five percent of all remodeling/repair jobs are done by professional remodelers, Klein says, and 25 percent is done by do-it-yourselfers.

The NAHB Remodelers Council last fall launched, together with the Home Builders Institute, a Certified Graduate Remodelers program that will set the standard by which all remodelers may be judged.

The program is designed to improve the business performance of remodelers, give practical instruction in all aspects of remodeling, and increase professional credibility.

So far 60 Certified Graduate Remodelers have met the requirements - ``the first wave of a multitude,'' says Klein, ``who will thus differentiate themselves from less experienced and less reliable contractors.''

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