Survey: Younger homeowners more willing to take on DIY projects

The majority of homeowners believe there are ample resources available to help them complete home improvement projects on their own, according to a recent survey released by the financial site NerdWallet. Younger homeowners were the most willing to take on this kind of work.

The survey, conducted by Harris Poll, questioned 2,001 people including 1,353 homeowners. NerdWallet also analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau's latest American Housing Survey while looking at issues such as how soon homeowners needed to complete a repair or renovation, where they were getting funding for this type of work, and how willing they were to complete "do it yourself" projects.

NerdWallet found that American homeowners completed approximately 113 million home improvement projects between 2015 and 2017, spending nearly $450 billion on this work. The site said there has been a strong demand for home renovations among first-time buyers, who often need to buy a residence in need of some work in order to keep the purchase within their budget, and current homeowners, who may opt to upgrade their home instead of trying to buy a new one.

Early problems

Younger homeowners were more likely than older ones to encounter a problem soon after purchasing the home. Sixty percent of those ages 22 to 37 said their home had a problem within a year of purchase, compared to 47 percent of those ages 38 and 53, 29 percent of those ages 54 to 72, and 26 percent of those ages 73 and older.

Overall, 44 percent said they had to address an unexpected repair within the first year of ownership. Twelve percent said this issue occurred within a month of buying the home.

Sixty percent of respondents said they would work to seek to address a problem with the home right away. Five percent said they would wait until it started to cause damage to the home.

An earlier report by NerdWallet found that nearly half of American homeowners said an unexpected repair caused them anxiety. However, 31 percent of respondents in the recent survey said they did not have money set aside for repairs or renovations.

NerdWallet noted how the survey demonstrated the importance of not spending so much money on a home that you don't have enough left for unexpected repairs. The report also said it is important to build up a reserve account dedicated to home improvements.

DIY

A majority of respondents showed some inclination toward DIY projects, with 78 percent saying they would be willing to complete small jobs on their own instead of hiring a professional. Seventy-three percent said they thought there were enough resources available to help them complete a repair or renovation at their home.

NerdWallet's analysis of census data found that DIY work accounted for 38 percent of home improvement projects, but only 18 percent of spending on this type of work. Homeowners were most likely to take on landscaping projects (59 percent) or bedroom additions or renovations (56 percent), and least likely to try to replace a roof (16 percent).

The analysis also determined that homeowners were most likely to save money if they renovated a kitchen on their own, with a median savings of $22,000. This was followed by adding or renovating a rec room or bedroom, with median savings of $21,500 and $20,000, respectively.

Younger homeowners were more likely to try to complete home renovations on their own. Respondents under the age of 35 completed more than half of these jobs without the help of a professional.

However, a significant number of homeowners also admitted to encountering a problem with a DIY project. Forty-three percent said they had messed up at least one renovation they tried to complete on their own, and 35 percent said they had been misled by a home improvement TV show and started a project that ended badly.

Forty percent of respondents said they would be willing to try more complex work on their own, such as fixing a plumbing or electrical system. While 80 percent said they thought home improvement professionals charged too much, 68 percent said it was worth it to hire a professional instead of trying a job on their own.

Funding

Fifty-two percent of homeowners said they were able to pay for the repairs or renovations they made over the previous two years without dipping into their savings account, going into debt, or otherwise making sacrifices. Twenty percent said they had to make sacrifices, 13 percent said they had to take on debt, and 12 percent said they had to use money from their savings.

NerdWallet's analysis of census data found that more than three-quarters of home improvement projects completed between 2015 and 2017—77 percent—were financed with money available in the homeowners' savings account. However, these projects also had the lowest median cost at $1,000.

Projects funded through homeowners insurance settlements were the most expensive, with a median cost of $6,500. They were also less common, accounting for 4 percent of home improvements.

Fifty-six percent of homeowners said they would borrow money to complete repairs or improvements that would increase the value of their home. Forty-eight percent said they would take out a home equity line of credit, 46 percent preferred a home equity loan, 37 percent said they would refinance their home, and 33 percent said they would borrow from a retirement account.

At the same time, NerdWallet cautioned that homeowners may be overly optimistic about what they think will boost a home's value. With many projects, the increase in value is less than the amount spent on the work. However, 72 percent of respondents said they think spending money to improve a home will always increase its value.

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