How to Better Serve Your Customers in a Dynamic Home Improvement Landscape

The home improvement industry is no stranger to change, and today it’s quickly evolving parallel to emerging social, technological and economic trends. These fast changes mean that more than ever, brands must carefully consider what’s happening now, next steps and the evolution of consumers’ motivations and marketplace expectations. 

Here are highlights from our recent Building the Future study.

The role of social factors in home improvement

Traditional life stage trajectories are changing. Today, businesses must think about consumers according to their life stage, rather than age. Life paths are increasingly becoming more flexible, especially when it comes to millennials. For example, millennials’ delayed movement to family formation is increasing the average age of first-time parents. And while nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population is more than 65 years old, age isn’t their only defining quality.

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New Administration Causes Shift in Home Improvement Industry Outlook

Many factors can affect the home improvement category including overall consumer sentiment, labor supply, the economy and the political climate.

What effect will the administration elected into office in November 2016 have on the home improvement industry? Here are seven current and potential results: 

  1. Increased infrastructure spending will be distributed fairly evenly across the U.S. Tax cuts for higher tax brackets could boost the Northeast and West.
  2. International trade will be affected by potentially higher tariffs on imports from the renegotiations of existing trade deals.
  3. Employment, real incomes and household net worth are projected to rise. As a result, consumer spending will steadily increase.
  4. After the election, domestic small business sentiment rose considerably.
  5. A slice of the current housing market is at the intersection of labor supply and politics. Housing demand is outpacing supply, and the U.S. is in the middle of a labor shortage. So, new immigration policies could potentially decrease supply further.
  6. Starting in January 2018, the statutory corporate income tax rate will be reduced from 35 to 25 percent.
  7. The combination of rising prices and wages, the fiscal stimulus and strengthening loan demand will result in higher interest rates.


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Contractor Study Sheds Light on Purchase Behaviors of Remodelers and Specialists

HIRI surveyed more than 1,600 remodelers and specialists to track product category activities and purchase behaviors.

Here are six highlights from the study:

  1. Remodelers and specialists purchase a lot of their materials from warehouse home centers like Lowe’s and Home Depot. That being said, generalists reported using specialty suppliers 9 percent more than in 2015.
  2. Specialists increased home center usage by 11 percent compared to this time last year, and both groups are increasingly buying less from lumber building material dealers.
  3. When presented with a name brand tool or material, home improvement remodelers and specialty contractors choose it over the store brand two-thirds of the time. While it varies across categories, this highlights pros’ preference for quality and service, not just low prices. “Holistically, quality has increased in importance as price pressure has been relieved and brand is often a surrogate for quality,” said Grant Farnsworth, partner and director of business development at The Farnsworth Group. “Price is still important, but 10 or 15 years ago, it was the only factor. As that price pressure declines, quality and service become more important.”
  4. Around two-thirds of those surveyed said that their sales volume increased over the past two years.
  5. Most pros are incorporating universal design and aging-in-place practices into their trade. Only 9 percent of general remodelers said this is not a priority for them.
  6. Nearly three-quarters of respondents use a substantial amount of environmentally friendly products. “Part of this is by default, as more and more companies are making products that are environmentally friendly,” Farnsworth said. “It’s also been some time since we’ve started talking about green, so contractors’ comfort level is increasing, especially as they realize that being environmentally friendly equals a nice return on investment for the homeowner.”

Research for this biennial study comes from HIRI in conjunction with The Farnsworth Group. To access primary research on contractor purchase behaviors, join HIRI.

12 Things to Know About Home Improvement Right Now

Want to stay ahead of the curve in the home improvement industry? Sometimes, spending a few days with like-minded industry pros and peers is the best way to succeed.

Industry leaders from across the country gathered at the HIRI 2017 Insights Conference in Chicago. The event, hosted annually by the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), featured speakers from Harvard University, HomeAdvisor, J.D. Power and Associates, Kantar Retail, Nielsen and more.

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The Role of Social Media in Home Improvement: How to Reach Consumers

Social media is the preeminent means of communication in today’s society. That’s why it’s crucial to understand how it is used in the home improvement industry.

In this recent study, 75 percent of respondents, all over the age of 25, said they use social media every day. More than 60 percent said they use general social sites like YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest for their home improvement needs. Users are primarily looking for price comparisons, photos and instructions, how-to videos and project ideas. But home-specific social media platforms have a major gap to fill: only 32 percent reported using platforms like HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List.

Home-specific platforms have an opportunity to address the awareness problem and bridge the gap, especially during homeowners’ crucial planning stage.

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Homeowner Project Planning Lags Again, but Change Could Be Around the Corner

After a second quarter drop in homeowner project planning, the third quarter of 2017 followed suit. Though normally a strong project planning season, this quarter is the lowest of the year to date. The lag is partly due to odd weather patterns, such as unusually significant rainfall, that have impacted homeowner projects. Exterior painting and exterior door and roof projects also experienced a major drop. Meanwhile, lawn, garden and landscape projects remained the top projects across the nation.

These findings are based on interviews with about 3,000 homeowners. Of those, 68 percent plan to undertake one or more home improvement projects within the next three months, down 5.6 percent from this time last year.

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Recent Homebuyers Fuel Renovation Boom

The Home Improvement Research Institute commissioned a study featuring insights from recent homebuyers on what home improvement projects they undertake and why. Of the more than 800 homebuyers interviewed, around 75 percent plan to make renovations to their home. Additionally, 56 percent plan to make improvements in the next six months.

For brands, this means an opportunity to offer guidance and navigate recent homebuyers, and especially first-time buyers, toward certain products. 

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