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VOL. 111 | NO. 38 | Tuesday, February 25, 1997

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lj 10/5 cates Out with the old, in with the new Remodeling business booms as consumers get what they want without the hassle of moving Feb. 25, 1997 -- Tired of those cracked Formica countertops, that tiny breakfast nook and those harvest gold appliances that were the ìmust havesî of the 70s? Feel like youíre living on the set of The Brady Bunch, but youíre not yet ready to take the plunge and buy a new home? Remodeling ó whether it is a room addition, appliance upgrade or living space reconfiguration ó may be just the ticket to improving the quality of your life and increasing your homeís value. Residential remodeling is a large part of the overall residential construction market and is a segment expected to continue to grow. According to the Remodelors Council of the National Association of Home Builders, Americans spent more than $118 billion in 1996 on residential improvements and repairs, a 5 percent increase over 1995ís remodeling total of $112 billion. ìThe last six years have been phenomenal,î said Fay Cook, owner of American Home Improvement, a Memphis full-service remodeling and construction firm. In Memphis, remodeling activity was strong in the early 90s, dipped slightly in 1994 and 1995, and surged again in 1996. In 1996, 547 permits with a total value of $4.8 million for alterations to single-family residences were issued, according to Shelby County code enforcement records. In 1995, 420 permits were issued with a total value of $3.7 million. In 1992, 608 single-family residential alterations were issued for a total of $2.9 million. In 1992, the average cost of a remodeling project was $4,735. In 1996, the average cost was $8,709. NAHBís projections for 1997 predict that renovation activity is expected to reach the $125 billion mark, and by the year 2005 remodeling expenditures are expected to mushroom to $180 billion. According to local contractors, kitchens and bathrooms are the most popular targets for renovation. Many homeowners also are adding what is called a gathering room or keeping room off the kitchen. ìKitchen enlargements are popular, because that seems to be where people congregate,î said Jim Raynor, president of Raynor Building Services. ìA lot of what people are wanting these days has to do with home entertainment, as well as how different aspects of their lives change. An additional bathroom, for example, can mean a lot to a growing family.î Kitchen and bathroom renovations also can add the most value to a home. According to Remodeling magazineís 1996 annual Cost vs. Value Report, a minor kitchen renovation costs an average of $8,507 and returns an average of 94 percent of its value if the house is sold a year later. A major kitchen remodel, priced at $21,262, recoups 90 percent of its value after one year. A bathroom renovation costs an average of $8,365 and recoups 81 percent of its value after one year. A full bathroom addition costs an average of $11,645 and returns 91 percent of its price tag. The majority of homes undergoing both interior and exterior facelifts are those built in the 60s and 70s, which were generally well-constructed, contractors said. ìThese homes still have the real hardwood floors and the real wood panel doors,î Cook said. ìThese are products that are not being put in the average home today.î For these homes, remodeling efforts are aimed primarily at increasing space, upgrading appliances and updating the homeís overall style. ìThe average age of a kitchen we do is probably about 20 to 30 years old,î said Karen Kassen, a certified kitchen designer for Kitchens Unlimited in Memphis. ìIf you have a home that was built during this time and you want to update it to todayís standards, it can be hard to find appliances that will fit in the same spaces.î Kassen said popular requests include stainless steel appliances, cabinets with an ìoldî look, wine coolers, ice machines, indoor grills, special wok burners, pizza ovens, deep fryers and built-in refrigerators. ìBecause of the keeping room/kitchen concept, more people want their kitchen cabinets to look like furniture,î Kassen said. ìAnd many of the appliances look like what you would find in a restaurant. ìEven when the homeowners donít cook, they still want people to think they have a gourmet kitchen.î As far as options, almost anything goes, as long as it meets local code enforcement requirements and neighborhood covenants, said Raynor, who said his most unusual project was the renovation of an attic into a boyís bedroom and bath, complete with built-in snake cages for a menagerie of anacondas. For most remodelers, quality is the key, Cook said. ìThey are not going with your builder grade products. When they update, they want to upgrade,î she said. ìPeople are looking for products that they donít have to replace in the next five to seven years.î Cook, who said the majority of her remodeling projects are sunrooms, kitchens and bathrooms renovations or additions, said frequent upgrade requests include plantation shutters, Corian countertops and ceramic tile flooring. ìThe house could burn down, but that tileís still going to be there,î she said. ìTheyíre looking for lasting products, and if an addition looks like an addition, youíve made a mistake.î So when is it more advantageous to remodel than to move? ìIf they are in a good, stable neighborhood that is not in decline, and if they can reconstruct some of the square footage in their home that theyíre not using to the living space that they need, or if they can add an addition or update that will increase their homeís value, they can come out so much better doing that than they do moving,î Cook said. ìA lot of people feel like if they put $20,000 into their home, they can feel like they have a new house and still have that $600 house note rather than a $1,200 one,î Raynor said. ìAnd they also can avoid going through the hassles of closing and moving to a new location.î However, homeowners should keep in mind that there are some neighborhoods in which adding to a home would be overbuilding, Cook said. ìOverbuilding is not a very smart thing to do,î she said. ìIf that is going to be the case, the best thing they can do is bite the bullet, sell their home and move up.î To finance a renovation, studies show that one in five people take out a home equity loan. As a rule, most lenders will lend 80 percent of the equity in a home, although some lenders now go as high as 95 percent. The Federal Housing Authority also has a home improvement loan plan through its Title I program, which provides for loans of up to $40,000 with no equity. For homeowners considering remodeling, contractors said thoroughly planning the project and carefully selecting a builder are the most important things to remember. ìEverybody has to have a budget,î Kassen said. ìItís good to do your research and find out what things cost before you go into it. Today, itís very easy to spend $40,000 on a kitchen. People who have been in their homes for 20 or 30 years and out of touch with what things cost can go into sticker shock.î ìAlthough there are many good contractors out there, itís also a sad fact that there are some who are thinking only of the almighty dollar,î Cook said. Cook said two of the best sources for finding a reliable contractor are local code enforcement departments and home builders associations. By LAURIE JOHNSON The Daily News
RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 51 333 19,446
MORTGAGES 68 383 22,433
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 86 2,922
BUILDING PERMITS 138 688 40,004
BANKRUPTCIES 34 238 12,486
BUSINESS LICENSES 35 108 6,374
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 21 123 7,395
MARRIAGE LICENSES 20 92 4,453