With Markets Down, Homeowners Turn To Phased Remodeling

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DES PLAINES, Ill.— Residential remodels are no longer those once-in-a-lifetime projects that keep homeowners dreaming years on end before they ever pick up a hammer. Instead, many homeowners opt to do a series of remodels as their schedules, budgets and lifestyles evolve over time, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).

In fact, according to a recent Consumer Reports poll on home remodeling, 36% of homeowners who plan to remodel plan to do so in phases.

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Serial remodels, or phased remodeling projects, can go over several months and even years. For example, homeowners might opt to start slow with a remodel to a powder room or closet and then tackle a larger project, such as the kitchen, master bath or home addition.

“Most people don’t think of their house as 10 projects they want to do and prioritize them,” says Matt Lederer, president of Mahogany Builders in Chicago. “It’s not a one-time shot: People choose projects they can afford and will influence resale.”

These phased remodeling projects are part of a larger trend in American consciousness, which Trendwatching calls “Foreverism.” It speaks to people’s desire to continue conversations, relationships and projects over time. Technology is driving people’s ability to find, follow, interact and collaborate forever with anyone and anything, and home improvement is just one of the areas benefiting from the trend.

“In a lot of these situations, homeowners buy an existing home with the idea of changing things after they move in,” Lederer says “They are not flush with cash, or they just don’t have it in them to do a series of projects, so they break them up.”

Phasing a remodeling project has a number of benefits, Lederer says. For homeowners who can’t fund the entire project upfront, breaking elements of a major home remodel into stages can help extend costs over time and buy homeowners more time to save or find funding. Embarking on a series of smaller projects also keeps homeowners less stressed.

“Everyone has what I call a ‘construction tolerance,’” Lederer says. “Some people get excited about the remodel but a few weeks into it they get tired of people showing up at their house at 7 a.m.”

Lederer recently completed a phased remodel for Jane Tiffen, a Chicago-based condominium owner. In the first phase, which began in 2007, Lederer gutted and remodeled the home’s guest bathroom. He then came back to complete a master suite remodel this spring.

“We had moved into this apartment and knew we wanted to change things,” Tiffen explains. “The bathrooms had the standard run-of-the-mill stuff you find in new apartment buildings, and we wanted to upgrade it. We phased the projects because we wanted to think about how we were going to do it and live in the place for a while.”


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