remodelingToo scared to spend amid so much economic uncertainty, homeowners are just saying no -- to remodeling. According to, the number of homeowners who say that the economy has them shying away from renovations jumped from 69% in the spring to 80% now.

Financial analysis company Sageworks has found remodeling contractors reporting their business is down 3.81% over the last 12 months, a greater pace of decrease than was seen in 2009, when we were in the throes of the recession, says spokeswoman Melinda Crump.

"The fall 2011 U.S. Remodeling Sentiment Report shows that after a year of stabilization in 2010, the unrelenting bad news about the economy this summer is driving many homeowners to reconsider and either delay or scale back their remodeling plans," said Dan Fritschen, founder of, in a prepared statement.

The strong pullback was unexpected, Fritschen told DailyFinance. "A year ago, I wouldn't have thought that this is where we would be today. I was surprised by the strong reaction."

Cynthia Ponce of Ponce Construction has seen firsthand homeowners cringing at the thought of ponying up cash right now. "We're a pool and landscape contractor in Southern California, and have been in business for over 24 years," she says. "Lately, we've been given the excuse of 'Your pricing is great, and your work is awesome, but we just want to wait a few months and see what the economy is going to do. We will give you a call, or you give us a call in about three or four months.' "

"There are quite a few people who still have money, but they're scared to spend it right now and just want to wait and see what happens," says Ponce.

But the continued high unemployment and stock market woes fuel fear.

Another clue as to how leery folks are -- those who are going ahead plan to go cheap. Nearly 80% of those who will remodel say they plan to use "economy" materials, compared to 68% who said that at the beginning of this year. And with DIY a perennial money-saving technique, 62% said they planned to do some of the work themselves.

John Boyd of Ridgefield, Conn., had planned to remodel his kitchen and master bath, and then move, but decided not to
because of the recession. "I've done some repainting and other improvements that I can handle without a lot of money," says Boyd. "It's a nice house and a lovely area, but we'd like to shorten the commute to New York. We still want to move but who knows when the house will sell, so we might rent the house."

Robert Donaldson, on the other hand, couldn't wait for the economy to improve because his renovations were more urgent. "As our family grew, our house had to be renovated. I would estimate that the renovations for the rooms was around $7,000; my wife and I saved up money to afford the renovations," says Donaldson, of Lakewood, Ohio.

"We felt comfortable with the amount we spent on the renovations for a couple of reasons. First, we know that the money spent on renovating the house would improve the performance, aesthetics and resale value of the house. Secondly, we knew that this would be our only window of opportunity to undertake these renovations until our kids were grown and off to college. There are no regrets whatsoever in undertaking and spending money on the renovations to our home. Having finished and comfortable living spaces for our children to enjoy outweighs any regrets." says Donaldson.

There is an upside for renovating now, says's Fritschen: "Materials are less expensive, some 20% to 30% less, without sacrificing quality."

Just because the wider economy is uncertain doesn't mean waiting is necessarily your best move, he suggests. "Look at your situation. If you're confident about your income stream and you want to make changes that will improve your home, its value and your lifestyle, then remodeling is a good investment, especially compared to what you can get in a savings account right now."

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If I can give you an honest opinion, I suggest you to buy a home that needs the least renovation unless your friends or relatives are contractors and you know you will be in good hands. Home remodeling is not as fun as what TV shows portray. Why? Because it's really really hard to find reliable contractors.

Finding reliable contractors is a job itself. It's very stressful. You are introduced to this "wild wild west" of construction business (the scene in LA is notoriously corrupt) that I will never want you to be trapped in it. There's a lot of impostors. You have to be careful. Even if you have big budget for reno, that doesn't mean money can buy you quality work. You still have to do your homework to find the right people for the job. Just read through reviews of contractors and remodeling companies online, you can see homeowners' sheer frustration.

First, we tried to get different quotes. Some quotes can be 2 to 3 times more than their competitors. It's insane, quite discouraging, and almost insulting. Did they not expect clients to have the brain cell to ask for quotes from different vendors? Some of them are very rude and tricky on the phone. It's really not like talking to customer service of retail stores where the staffers normally try to be as polite as possible and that's part of their training. Talking to tricky contractors becomes so predictable. They just want to see how dumb and vulnerable you are, so they can take you to the cleaner.

Many contractors insisted they can't give me a ballpark or "starting at" price just by looking at the measurement, material you choose, pictures, floor plan, and what the existing material are right now (Does it need demolition or not, how labor intensive it is to demo?) and they must come to my home for an estimate. I made a mistake at the early stage to let them come to my place to give me an estimate. Now I look back, it's quite dangerous to let strangers come to your home. What was I thinking? Thankfully, it's a gated community and my husband is always present during their visits.

In the end, those contractors who can't even give you a starting at price always end up to be very tricky and their quotes are usually higher. They come to your home to see how desperate you want it to be done, then they give you the price. The contractors who I hired could actually gave me a rough estimate based on all the info I provided and they asked for, then they came over to do their measurement and final walk through to make the price more precise, the final number is always very close to the rough estimate.

Always check their license number! Legit contractors are more than happy to let you verify their license number to distinguish themselves apart from losers who are not licensed.

My husband and I could have gotten a divorce duo to the stress of renovation. I am thinking this is such an important story to tell, therefore, many homeowners out there can avoid my mistakes and won't suffer as much as I did.

October 26 2011 at 2:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Now Home Depot and Lowe's will probably have to close and fire all of their employees because the Marxists posing as Socialist, liberal, progressive democrats, lead by their Messiah, have made people too scared to even do simple home improvements.

Fear, pride and ego are the only character attributes that cause failure. Oddly the left as a group has them is spades. Jimmy Carter and his henchmen have been reincarnated to punish us again - after being banned from public authority of any kind at the federal level for 35 years after what they did the last time.

Never forget what the Left has done to you again and ever time they take control of the purse strings and economy of this once great nation,

September 15 2011 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thanks to the highly educated Ivy League, Professorial Types, in Government, the American People do not have jobs and the money necessary to feed, cloth and educate their children and to care for themselves, so how can they be expected to have the money for home improvments? Heard that our government is spending Millions to feed people in other countries yet American Citizens are scraping along!

September 15 2011 at 8:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would like to know where to get the 20-30% discounted materials from. I do not see any reduction in prices in my area, if anything we get notices of increases due to fuel costs and insurances. The bottom line is contractors are doing the same work for less. Want a job?

September 15 2011 at 7:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply