Momentum builds for ‘Do It For Me’

Consumers are opening their homes and their wallets to pro remodelers.
DIFM contractor, customer
DIFM means Do It For Me, as homeowners look to hire pros to make repairs in 2022.

The pros are busy. Very busy. Weekend work is common now. There’s a backlog of home fix-up jobs. And that says a lot about 2022.

‘If the onset of the pandemic is credited with heightening the do-it-yourself, or DIY, movement, consumers’ growing adjustment to our new normal and a strong housing market indicate that 2022 will be the year of “Do It For Me,” or DIFM movement,” said Vinny O’Sullivan, senior general manager of U.S. stores and The Home Depot for PPG’s architectural coatings business in the U.S. and Canada.

O’Sullivan has held his position since August 2019, almost three years. Before stepping into the current role, he managed PPG’s architectural coatings business in the U.K. and Ireland. In total, he has spent more than 20 years of his career in the paint and coatings industry.

“When it comes to home improvement, consumers are opening their homes – and their wallets – to pros,” he said, “with nearly 50% of homeowners indicating it is a good time to start a home improvement project, according to the Home Improvement Research Institute.”

As a result of the current housing market, he said, homes have never been more valuable, homeowners’ balance sheets have never been healthier, and there are deep backlogs for the services pros offer.

Additionally, O’Sullivan said, “per the Cleveland Research Company, around-the-home purchases are seen as the number one priority for incremental spending by U.S. home and property owners who view home improvement as a smart investment given the rise of property values over the last two years.”

And many customers are saying “homes are too expensive, so I have to buy what I can afford,” he said, which leads to more remodeling.

DIFM two painters
More remodeling, more pros at work.

From this we can anticipate a higher demand in pro painters, remodelers and other skilled tradesmen, he added, “to assist with DIFM projects this year.”

Research company for hardware and building supply The Farnsworth Group’s president Grant Farnsworth said, “Two years ago pro work stopped for COVID safety concerns. Now it’s coming back. DIY has morphed into DIFM.”

Farnsworth said the feeling from homeowners today goes something like this: “I’ve got more equity – I’ll hire a pro. That’s the sentiment.” He provided some graphs from his company to demonstrate this trend. See below.

DIFM – now and future

As people are hiring more pros for home improvement, there are certainly specific areas in higher demand.

O’Sullivan said that, “according to research conducted by HIRI, homeowners typically take on more than one home project a year. In fact, in 2021, the average number of home improvement projects planned per household was three. Interior painting projects, kitchen remodels, gardening and landscaping, and bathroom remodels are among the most common home projects.”

It seems people have more money to fix up their homes, and that might be a big factor driving this trend.

The Farnsworth Group provides a chart on those planning to hire pros. Click image to enlarge.

As house prices have risen consistently over the last few years, he said, “making purchasing a new home too expensive for many, most homeowners have turned their attention to improving their current homes, and as such, home improvement spending continues to be healthy.”

The DIFM trend could be an after-effect of coming out of the pandemic.

The pandemic has presented numerous challenges to homeowners and the home improvement industry by causing temporary delays to some projects and cancelling others altogether.

In the long run, however, the pandemic may have turned homeowners’ focus more inward toward their own residences, he said, driving them to nest and to make their houses more comfortable and safer.

Projects that had been off radar prior to the pandemic have been brought to the forefront for many.

Additionally, said O’Sullivan, “the paint industry, like many others, has reached a pivotal moment amidst the COVID pandemic where customers are becoming increasingly comfortable with – and are beginning to expect – sophisticated digital tools, including easy-to-navigate e-commerce experiences and seamless pick-up and delivery options.”

Is this trend likely to continue throughout this year and into next year?

The Farnsworth Group also charts if there are challenges to hiring a pro.

The senior general manager indicated that there are two main reasons why PPG sees this trend extending beyond 2022.

“First, we expect home improvement industry supply constraints will begin to improve, which will make it easier for pros to access the materials needed. The housing market is expected to remain strong with prices climbing, which will fuel the demand for home improvement projects for many who cannot afford to purchase a new home.”

Second, he said, “the pandemic caused a reverse urbanization across the country, as countless millennials and younger generations entered the hot home buying market earlier than expected. Making up nearly one-third of home purchases, millennials are cashing out of renting in hopes of securing more legroom by buying.”

That’s good news for pros and the DIFM trend, as across the generations, millennials are the most active in taking on home improvement and maintenance projects and hiring them out, he said.

“This generation is poised to take on many projects, resulting in greater overall home improvement spending. The generation also happens to account for a large balance of high-cost projects, which drives up their average per-project expenditures,” said O’Sullivan.

There are some tips he passed along to hardware store owners gearing up to supply pros during this increase in home improvement jobs.

“As DIFM opportunity grows,” said O’Sullivan, “pros will turn to retailers they trust for products and services. Our dealer-partners are known for their paint expertise and quality service, which makes them a great fit, and they can lean on PPG as their trusted partner.”