Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Covering the pandemic’s impact on home improvement

March 31, 2021

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New home sales climbed to the highest level in a decade, the Associated Press reported. (“House lights turned on” via Pexels, CC BY 2.0)

Depending on who you ask, the amount of free time that the pandemic has brought people can be seen as either a blessing or curse. Nonetheless, as most retirees will attest, newfound free time allows for ample opportunity to start or complete various projects around the house that have been put on the back burner. This has led to a significant uptick in the home improvement industry. 

With more time at home, flaws around their houses become more apparent to consumers. That increased time that people could devote to improving their home has led to an increase in do it yourself, or DIY, projects. Home improvement companies, like Home Depot, benefitted from the uptick as they received a bump in sales during 2020.  

If you are a homeowner, you more than likely started on a home improvement project during the pandemic. People spent more money to outfit their home in a way that fits the way they live now, making space so they could do the things at home that they were not able to go into the world to do. This has included turning garage space into home offices and gyms, as well as making temporary classrooms for their children.

One thing business reporters should keep an eye on going forward is what share of the home improvement market are DIY projects. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that spending on DIY projects had been on the decline for quite some time. The center provided multiple reasons for why this was the case, like growing income leading to a willingness to hire private contractors, and an homeowner population that is older and less likely to take on home improvement projects on their own. DIY projects are also favored now  to mitigate the health risks of bringing a contractor into their homes. So what does consumer’s newfound willingness to undertake projects on their own mean for the future of the private contractor business going forward?

In conclusion, there are multiple angles that business journalists can examine when reporting on how the home improvement industry has been impacted by the pandemic:

  • Consumer: What home improvement projects do consumers need done in their house? The size/complexity of the project can determine if homeowners can do it themselves or if they will need the expertise of private contractors.
  • Private Contractors: How have private contractors had their business impacted during this time? Do they see this as a temporary or permanent impact? What are they doing to mitigate any losses or prepare for the future?
  • Home improvement stores: What trends are these stores seeing with consumers purchases and how do they compare with past trends?

Another tip for business journalists is to look at building permits that have been applied for and approved in their community. For most work that is done on a house, a building permit is needed to ensure that everything meets regulations. By comparing permit numbers over the years, journalists can see just how much the pandemic has affected home improvement in their communities. 

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