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Remodeling activity up 40 percent as homeowners focus on improving the essentials

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According the latest BuildFax index results, remodeling activity was up 40 percent in October from the year before.

Why the uptick? As more homeowners decide to stay put rather than risk selling their home and taking a major loss, they are making alterations, improvements and fixes to improve livability for the interim.

That means less of the grandiose additions we commonly (and, perhaps, mistakenly) associate with remodeling, and more of the purposeful jobs, like replacing old flooring, upgrading the bathroom or re-roofing the house.

In a Wall Street Journal article last week, BuildFax’s Vice President for Research and Development said, “There are more people who are saying, ‘Yes, I am staying in this house,’ as opposed to, ‘I’m flipping this house.”

As the same survey points out, the scale of remodeling projects is down significantly from 2006. Residential remodeling permits averaged $12,623 five years ago, but have fallen to $10,968 in 2011 through the end of July.

The work is there, but remodelers shouldn’t anticipate six-figure expansions to fill up the pipeline.