Quality of Life Drives Home Improvements

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Cash for Caulkers, the federal program that gives homeowners tax rebates for energy-saving home improvements, may have just been a clunker, according to a survey conducted ServiceMagic.com, an online markertplace that puts homeowners in touch with contractors.

Only 19% of homeowners surveyed in the website’s 2010 Home Remodeling and Repair Index said they were motivated to tackle home improvements for the tax credits. Meanwhile, 77% admitted they made the improvements to increase their quality of living.   

ServiceMagic compiled data from 1.6 million online requests from May to July of this year. The website surveyed more than 1,200 homeowners and 500 service professionals in July to learn how and why people were spending on home repairs.

Kitchen requests rose for the second quarter in a row, up 93% nationally. Window replacements were up 81% this year compared to the second quarter of 2009 and, for the first time ever, the site saw a marked 21% increase in requests for sunrooms.

More interesting was that homeowners increasingly requested (and paid for) convenience services.  

“We've seen big increases in requests for handyman, lawn and garden care and cleaning services,” ServiceMagic CEO Craig Smith said. “Part of increasing the quality of living at home is being equated to spending less time on maintenance.”

Citing less time to do the work themselves, 84% of homeowners reported hiring a lawn and garden service and 66% gave the same reason for hiring a handyman service.

While homeowners will pay for convenience, they’re still less inclined to go green. Less than 10% of homeowners requested green or energy-efficient alternatives for their home improvement projects. For homeowners who did not consider green alternatives, 50% were not aware of the green options, while 27% disliked the choices and 16% claimed the cost outweighed the benefits.

Homeowners who did go green focused largely on window upgrades, motivated to save money through increased energy efficiency. Most homeowners didn’t request energy-efficient window systems because green products were too expensive, the tax credit didn’t justify the expense or they were simply not aware of the tax credit at all.

“While we show a fairly decent level of awareness for green and energy-efficient alternatives, it isn’t translating to action beyond window projects,” Smith said.

Even though they have no plans to sell, 17% of homeowners want to increase their home's value. What types of renovations should they be doing? Check out this MainStreet article on risky home improvements to find out.

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