JCHS report says DIY uptick to slow

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JCHS report says DIY uptick to slow

By Andy Carlo - 10/14/2020

Regardless of a huge uptick in DIY activity during the pandemic, the Remodeling Futures program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) of Harvard University is forecasting a decline. 

In a new report from the JCHS, Remodeling Futures Director Kermit Baker and Research Assistant Sophia Weeden have published a new study that suggests DIY activity during the pandemic is at odds with a long-term trend of declining DIY activity.

Citing analysis of the JCHS’s American Housing Survey, less than one in five dollars spent annually on home improvement projects was for a DIY project. This does not include routine maintenance and repair.

Throughout the pandemic, those with extra time on their hands - particularly with imposed government regulations and closed offices resulting in a big uptick in working from home -  have undertaken DIY projects. The surge in DIY activity has resulted in big home improvement and hardware sales along with supply shortages, including lumber.

But the JCHS says the activity is like to fade and return to normal levels.

“Given that people have been spending more time in their homes in recent months and expanding their at-home activities for things such as work, schooling, exercise, and outdoor entertainment, many homeowners who have not been adversely affected financially by the recession have been active in upgrading their homes to accommodate their evolving needs,” the JCHS report reads. “This level of project activity contrasts with the typical pattern of discretionary home improvement spending, which tends to decline during economic downturns and accelerate during upturns.”

Citing a series of consumer surveys by the Farnsworth Group and the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), about 60% of homeowners reported that they had started DIY home maintenance, replacement, repair or remodeling projects during the early stages of the pandemic. The number grew to 80% in early June with 84% of survey respondents saying that they had more spare time and 81% saying they were home more often.

Doing a project themselves to save money was the answer given by 34% as to why they undertook the projects with 21% saying they didn’t want contractors in their home. 

But the JCHS suggests that an aging population, solid incomes that can afford professional contractors for projects, more complicated materials and projects, and a general decline in interest for completing DIY projects and manual labor are likely to lead to a decline in DIY spending.

The full DIY report from the JCHS is available here.

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