Strong Remodeling Spending to Slow Pace Heading into 2015

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University releases the latest data for their Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity.

July 25, 2014

Growth in home improvement activity is expected to peak during the second half of 2014 and then begin to ease heading into next year, according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) released today by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) of Harvard University.  Revised estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show the home improvement market grew 5.6% in 2013.* For 2014, the LIRA projects annual gains in home improvement spending of 9.9% with annual growth slowing to 7.0% in the first quarter of 2015.
 
“With the economy improving slower than expected and home sales struggling to keep up with last year’s pace, the recent strong gains in remodeling spending will likely moderate later this year,” says Chris Herbert, Research Director at the Joint Center.  “Although this presents a challenge for the remodeling industry, the LIRA continues to project significant growth going into 2015.” “Despite some headwinds, there continue to be promising signs for remodeling,” says Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center.  “Remodeling contractor sentiment remains positive and house prices continue to rise in most areas of the country.”
 
The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) is designed to estimate national homeowner spending on improvements for the current quarter and subsequent three quarters. The indicator, measured as an annual rate-of-change of its components, provides a short-term outlook of homeowner remodeling activity and is intended to help identify future turning points in the business cycle of the home improvement industry. The development of the LIRA is detailed in “Developing a Leading Indicator for the Remodeling Industry” (JCHS Research Note N07-1). In July 2008, the LIRA was re-benchmarked due to changes in the underlying reference series. These changes are explained in “Addendum to Research Note N07-1: Re-Benchmarking the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity” (JCHS Research Note N08-1). The LIRA is released by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University in the third week after each quarter’s closing. The next LIRA release date is October 16, 2014.
 
The Remodeling Futures Program, initiated by the Joint Center for Housing Studies in 1995, is a comprehensive study of the factors influencing the growth and changing characteristics of housing renovation and repair activity in the United States. The Program seeks to produce a better understanding of the home improvement industry and its relationship to the broader residential construction industry.
 
The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies advances understanding of housing issues and informs policy. Through its research, education, and public outreach programs, the center helps leaders in government, business, and the civic sectors make decisions that effectively address the needs of cities and communities. Through graduate and executive courses, as well as fellowships and internship opportunities, the Joint Center also trains and inspires the next generation of housing leaders. For more information, please visit www.jchs.harvard.edu.
 
Note on LIRA model:  An important change was made to the LIRA estimation model beginning with the first quarter 2014 release. With the upheaval in financial markets in recent years, the traditional relationship between interest rates and home improvement spending has significantly deteriorated. As a result, long-term interest rates have been removed from the LIRA estimation model.  For more information on the implications of this change, please read this JCHS blog post from April.

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