Research: Exterior projects a steady performer

Prices and scope of projects increasing as remodelers find solid exterior business, survey says

June 08, 2011

Remodelers continue to find steady business from exterior remodeling projects as homeowners look to improve curb appeal and lower maintenance.

That’s according to the latest Professional Remodeler research, which also found that most remodelers are charging more for those projects than they were just a year ago.

“Clients have needed repairs for some time and have decided they are staying where they are so it’s time to invest,” said a Missouri design/build remodeler. “Basically, they are tired of their old drab home — especially when they see the change in other homes in the area.”



Project mix

About 90 percent of respondents said they had replaced siding or otherwise remodeled the home’s exterior over the past year, down slightly from last year, but still a significant portion. More than 20 percent reported that more than half of their projects involved exterior remodeling.

Most remodelers haven’t seen a significant change in how much exterior remodeling they are doing, with 53 percent saying that there’s been no change in their exterior remodeling business from a year ago. More than a third, though, did see their exterior remodeling business increase over the past year. Only 13 percent said their exterior remodeling business is down.

However, those projects are rarely just replacing siding and trim: 92 percent said that their typical exterior remodeling project is part of a larger project.

The most common pairing was replacement windows, with 71 percent of remodelers saying they install new windows along with new siding. More than half of remodelers said they installed new doors and 36 percent said they are usually replacing the roof along with the siding.

Nearly half of remodelers (48 percent) said their typical exterior project is actually part of a larger addition or whole house remodel.



Projects continue to grow

Sixty percent of remodelers said their average project has a higher price tag than it did a year ago. About a quarter reported no change, while 12 percent said their average price decreased.

That continues what was reported last year, when 47 percent of remodelers reported increasing prices. Previous Professional Remodeler research has shown that more than half of remodelers are reporting decreasing average project size, so clearly exterior projects are holding up better in the current market.

Remodelers in the Northeast were most likely to report larger projects, with 70 percent saying their average price was higher than a year ago, followed closely by the Midwest at 63 percent. Those in the West (53 percent) and South (47 percent) were less likely to have higher prices, continuing a trend we’ve seen in other surveys this year showing the remodeling recovery coming more quickly in the Northeast and Midwest. While less than 10 percent of remodelers in those two regions said their average price was decreasing, 20 percent of remodelers in both the South and West said their average exterior remodeling price was down.

Nationally, 59 percent of remodelers said their average job price was less than $15,000, compared with 67 percent who fell in that category last year. There was significant growth at the high end: 22 percent said their average exceeded $25,000, compared with only 10 percent last year.

Prices were highest in the Northeast, where 43 percent of remodeler  said their average job was more than $20,000. Jobs were smallest in the South and West, where about half of the remodelers in each region said their average job cost less than $10,000.



Product failure, maintenance drive change

The most common reason homeowners choose to replace their siding is because the existing product is failing or damaged in some way. Forty-seven percent of remodelers said that was a very important driver for projects and 69 percent said it was at least somewhat important.  

That was followed closely by a choice to reduce maintenance and the  desire to improve curb appeal. Improving energy efficiency was ranked slightly lower, although still at least somewhat important to most homeowners.

“Maintenance is the ‘trend.’ Clients are really disappointed in how poorly their five-year-old $350K+ homes are built,” said one full-service remodeler.

When homeowners do choose to replace their siding, fiber cement and vinyl are the top products chosen, by a large margin. Fiber cement was the most-installed product for 33 percent of remodelers and vinyl was the top product for 31 percent. Wood (12 percent) and stucco (11 percent) were the only other products that were most-installed for more than 10 percent of remodelers.

Many remodelers installed a wide variety of products over the past year: 62 percent of remodelers installed fiber cement and 60 percent used vinyl over the past year on at least some projects. Wood (55 percent) and stone (50 percent) were also popular, with stucco (36 percent), brick (35 percent), metal (27 percent) and EIFS (19 percent) following behind.

The most commonly replaced material was wood, according to 59 percent of remodelers. Vinyl (13 percent) was the only other product that more than 10 percent of remodelers cited as the top product they were replacing.

Whatever the product, homeowners are overwhelmingly relying on remodelers to guide them through choosing it. Fifty-nine percent of remodelers said the average client relies on them to make all material and brand recommendations. An additional 24 percent said the client has chosen the material and they help choose the brand, while 14 percent said the typical client comes to them with a specific material and brand in mind and they influence the decision. Only 3 percent said they have little or no influence on the typical product choice.

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