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What and Why We Remodeled During Covid (Part 1 of a 3-Part Series)

What and Why We Remodeled During Covid
Sarah Mattie
Sarah MattieUpdated June 17, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone with a screen was inundated with pictures and videos of others sharing their new hobbies. We saw influencers baking bread, learning to knit, and doing home renovations, among other things.Now, people have perfected their bread recipes, made their scarves, and are living in their newly redone spaces.Unlike the other projects, though, home remodeling can be very pricey, dangerous to complete on one's own, and nearly impossible to stop when frustrated. But, it can also be incredibly satisfying to make a space your own.We surveyed 600 people who remodeled their homes from March 2020 to January 2022. We asked how much they spent, the challenges they encountered, their level of satisfaction with the completed project, and more. We analyzed the data on a national level, and also took a closer look at the 10 most populous states to gain additional insights. This is Part 1 of a three-part series about remodeling in the time of Covid. Here, we focus on:
  • Popular remodel types
  • Common reasons for remodeling
  • Overall satisfaction with the job. 
Part 2 covers costs and regrets, and Part 3 discusses different styles and inspiration. Note: Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Which Rooms Were the Most Popular to Remodel?

The most popular home improvement projects were: 
  • Bathroom: 56% of respondents
  • Kitchen: 54% of respondents
  • Backyard: 34% of respondents
  • Whole Home: 29% of respondents
  • Basement: 28% of respondents
  • Garage: 23% of respondents
  • Other: 11% of respondents
Many people worked on multiple rooms, even if they didn't work on their whole homes. The most common combination was kitchen and bathroom, with 71% of people remodeling their kitchens also doing so to their bathrooms. Additionally, those who did both were most likely to go at least $50k over budget.

Why Did We Choose to Remodel During Covid?

People remodeled during Covid for various reasons, including need, want, and having the time to do so. And nearly three-fourths of all respondents (74%) said they were planning to remodel their home even before the pandemic began. According to our survey, the reasons people remodeled were because they:
  • Needed to repair or replace old or damaged fixtures: 41%
  • Did not like the way it looked: 25%
  • Needed to accommodate more people at home due to Covid: 15%
  • Planned to sell their home and wanted to increase its value: 14%
  • Other: 5%
At the local level, Ohioans and Illinoisans were most likely to remodel if they didn't like how a space looked, which differs from the norm (needed to repair old or damaged fixtures). This finding is all the more surprising, given the fact that Ohio and Illinois homes tend to be some of the oldest in the country. Perhaps these Midwestern homeowners had already replaced or repaired old fixtures, and were ready for an aesthetic upgrade. 26% of New Yorkers remodeled to accommodate more people living/working in the house due to Covid. The most common addition was a home office (83%), followed by classrooms and meditation rooms (tied at 50%). 

How Did Covid Affect the Housing Market?

16% of our respondents sold a house during the pandemic, and 90% of them said the remodel helped them get a better price on their homes. So, if you’ve been thinking about taking out a personal loan to remodel, there’s a good chance you could make your money back, and then some.There could be another contributing factor to increased home prices: Migration out of major cities.The housing market essentially shut down in March 2020 and rebounded that summer. Though the lockdowns ended, people realized they wouldn't be returning to the office anytime soon, if at all. As a result, people working in major cities who couldn't afford to purchase a home there began to move away from metro areas. With commutes gone, proximity to the office no longer mattered. Because of this, home values rose, and the rent index fell. So, it wasn't just the remodeling that increased home values — it was the increased demand on homes.Conversely, people who couldn't move away from cities and couldn't afford to stay there often moved in with family and friends. This likely affected the need to remodel homes as well.

What Changes Were Made to Accommodate More Time at Home?

15% of people remodeled their homes to accommodate those who were now working, living, or learning at home full time. The most common Covid-specific home remodels were adding a:
  • Home office: 74%
  • Classroom: 52%
  • Gym: 48%
  • Art room: 36%
  • Meditation room: 32%
  • Bar: 12%
(Percentages add up to more than 100 because people could select more than one response.)It’s no surprise that so many people added home offices to their digs: At the end of 2020, 58.6% of workers in the U.S. were remote and by 2025, the number of Americans working remotely is expected to be double what it was pre-pandemic. Another point of interest is the high percentage of people who added classrooms to their homes. By fall 2021, 11% of American households were homeschooling their children (i.e., not sending their kids to in-person or virtual classes via a public or private school). That’s double the percentage of American homes that were homeschooling their kids the year prior. Finally, we aren't inferring anything about those who added bars to their homes. However, it's worth noting that according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, "Emerging but limited evidence suggests that alcohol consumption has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic." 

Most Common Remodel Issues

Few home projects are without issues; only 16% of our respondents said they had no problems. The rest of the respondents said their biggest challenges were:
  • Cost more than expected: 52%
  • Discovered unexpected problems that had to be fixed: 42%
  • Took too long: 34%
  • Supply chain issues: 30%
  • Couldn't find people to do the job: 18%
  • Injuries: 5%
More than one in ten respondents (12%) went $50K or more over budget, and nearly half of those respondents (49%) paid for their home remodel with a credit card. Adding insult to injury, credit cards tend to have high interest rates — certainly higher than most personal loans.So, if you’re thinking about remodeling, make sure you’re prepared to potentially go over budget and consider applying for a personal loan for a home renovation to save on interest. The issues around supply chain, cost, and time taken are likely connected. Because so many people undertook pandemic home improvement, the demand for lumber, windows, doors, appliances, and furniture financing all rose.As Forbes reported in February 2021, "If everybody wants something at the same time there's just not going to be enough supply of it.”77% of remodelers reported a lumber shortage, and the deficit resulted in prices skyrocketing. In May 2020, lumber was $333 per thousand board feet; one year later, it was $1,686 for the same amount.Additionally, as has been in the news over the past year, there were supply chain issues, caused both by pressure on transportation channels and on staffing.  In short, higher demand meant lower supply. Lower supply meant higher cost. Fewer transport providers moving materials meant the supplies weren't getting to where they needed to be as quickly as usual. Thus, it took longer to get things done, even if the materials were available.

Home Is Where the Happy Is

If you watch home renovations shows, you live for the big reveal. The look of elation on homeowners’ faces when they see their new space is enough to encourage some to take on remodels of their own! But how did it turn out for people who remodeled during Covid?We asked people to rate their happiness after the remodel on a scale of one (not happy at all) to five (the happiest I can be). Over 90% of respondents gave their happiness with the remodel the two highest scores (4 or 5). Only 1% of respondents rated their level of happiness as the lowest it could be.The responses broke down as follows:
  • 5 (The happiest I can be! It turned out WAY better than expected!): 36%
  • 4 (Pleased. I’m glad I did it and the space has been vastly improved.): 55%
  • 3 (Neutral. It’s fine): 6%
  • 2 (Disappointed. The renovation wasn’t as big an improvement as I had hoped.): 2%
  • 1 (Not happy at all. I HATE how the remodel turned out): 1%
People who rated their level of happiness as a 1 or 2 were most likely to have remodeled their kitchens; those who gave their level of happiness the highest ratings were most likely to have remodeled their bathrooms.In addition to asking about how happy they are with the remodel, we asked people how happy they are being at home more often in general. Only 6% said they hated it! On the local level, 95% of Floridians were happy with their remodels, and none said they were unhappy. When it came to feelings around spending more time at home, New Yorkers love being at home, with zero people saying they hated it.

Home Remodel Trends and Beyond

That's a wrap on Part 1 of our three-part series on Covid home renovations.If you're already well on the way to beginning your project, before you dive in, be sure to thoroughly compare personal loans to fund your home remodeling. Otherwise, check out Part 2: How Much Does Remodeling Really Cost? and Part 3: Covid Remodel Style and Inspiration.

About the Author

Sarah Mattie

Sarah Mattie

Sarah Mattie is a researcher and writer with an education background. She's passionate about teaching others about financial issues and has written extensively for a variety of degree sites and financial institutions. Her writing covers credit cards, lending products, and paying for college, among other economic topics.
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