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On a chilly Saturday morning, Sally Godwin was moving out of her duplex, packing boxes to stay in a hotel for a couple of weeks. The walls were coming out of the 1970s home she owned, and the kitchen was getting a face-lift. After welcoming her first grandchild, she knew she needed a bigger place.
above Kerry Alexander of The Classic Chisel Cabinet Shop has remodeled this rural home from the ground up.
If she sold her home, however, the return would be measly; the market wasn’t good enough.
“I bought this condo in 1998 for $55,000,” Godwin says. “The highest it was appraised was $70,000. But there was a recent foreclosure in the neighborhood, which brought all the property values down, so if I sold it now, I’d only get about $55,000 for it.”
She decided to improve what she had, opting to remove walls and update the kitchen to make the home more spacious.
She’s not the only one. Homeowners are opting to renovate, rather than take a loss, and that means good business for local contractors.
Nationwide, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, the remodeling industry peaked at $146 billion in the second quarter of 2007, but was expected to dip to $104 billion in 2010. In 2009, homeowners spent $118.2 billion on home improvement projects.
The center’s State of the Nation’s Housing 2010 reported that more than $5 billion was distributed by the federal government to provide low-income owners with free weatherization of their homes, and the number of remodelers who reported they had worked on projects funded by the tax credits increased from 39% in 2009 to 53% in 2010.
Still, homeowners spent more than $100 billion on improvements and remodeling on top of that.
Brian Land of Land Enterprises Roofing stands on a Chickasha church’s roof.
Brian Land of Land Enterprises Roofing in Edmond saw the trend grow and became the first roofing company in Edmond to offer a maintenance program for residential home roofs.
“The main thing we help out with is stopping a leak before it happens,” he says.
Leaks, normally around the pipes that come out of a roof, can eat away at a home like a dripping termite. One leaky pipe boot flashing on the roof can equal $300 to $400 worth of damage.
“Most roofs are designed to last five to 15 years, but those pipes deteriorate first,” Land says. “The most common place to look is above kitchen sinks, in the bathrooms … if you see brown water stains, you have a leak.”
For those residents who plan to stay in their homes as opposed to selling every three to five years, Land says maintenance is a growing business. His company offers a maintenance service, which means a 12-point inspection of the existing roof twice a year. The roof and gutters are cleaned of debris and all the flashing is inspected. Skylights are cleaned, while caulking around chimneys and other structures are replaced.
Although roofing companies have offered similar services in other states, Oklahoma companies have been slow to follow.
“I get the response from everyone of ‘Why didn’t anyone think of this before?’ We’ve had great response from people, and we’ve only been offering it (for a limited time),” he says. “We obviously still replace a lot of roofs — it’s our bread and butter — but people who want to stay in their homes want to cut down the costs of getting a new roof.”
Kerry Alexander, owner of the Classic Chisel Cabinet Shop in Blanchard, says business hasn’t so much increased, but shifted.
“We’ve seen a major shift to remodeling instead of new construction,” he says. “We’re seeing a tenth of the new construction as before the recession. New houses were popping up all over the place, but now it’s just spotty.”
Most homeowners Alexander works with are redoing kitchens and bathrooms, choosing to freshen up the rooms that wear out the fastest.
“We always see a pattern of more renovations during a recession, because the market is so volatile. People are afraid to buy new homes, so they choose to fix up what they have,” he says.
Godwin agrees. “We just didn’t want to lose money,” she says, noting she is investing $10,000 into the renovation of her condo. “Until the economy bounces back, we are doing this as a stopgap measure. The things we’re doing — updating the floor plan and renovating — are moves that will get a return for us.”