House Beautiful (USA)


Renovating right now is an exciting—and sometimes risky—game of chance.



At this point, having patience throughout the renovation process is simply table stakes. Constructi­on projects of all shapes and sizes are taking longer these days—15 to 30 percent longer than in 2016, says Arizona contractor Brad Leavitt, president and founder of A Finer Touch Constructi­on in Scottsdale. And while the bogged-down supply chain gets plenty of the blame, there are delays at every step. Take permits: Leavitt has found that what was once an eight-week process can now take 16 (or even 30) weeks as local municipali­ties struggle to keep up with a surge in demand. All the while, the project just sits, a frustratin­g scenario for the design team and the homeowner. Other delays—like a project that’s at a standstill until that back-ordered tile arrives—are even harder to predict, but just as common.


Prices for single-family renovation­s are up 26.1 percent on average, according to the National Associatio­n of Home Builders. The increased costs of labor and raw materials, coupled with a shortage of housing stock and overall demand, are driving numbers higher. But there’s some good news too: While interest rates are starting to creep back up, they’re still historical­ly low—and a smart renovation can add enough value to your home to justify the expense. “What we’re seeing in the mortgage industry is that a lot of people are saying, ‘I’ve got all this equity in my home, and my house value is the highest it’s ever been—maybe I can tap into that to do the things I’ve been dying to do,’ ” says Jess Kennedy, cofounder and COO of direct-to-consumer mortgage lender Beeline. “Coupling [low interest rates] with high home values, it feels like cheap money.”


Designers, architects, and builders across the country say their phones have been ringing off the hook. With their services in such high demand, many are booking projects with start dates months in advance. And once you’ve secured your team and a start date, their tradespeop­le will be asking them to wait too. “One of the issues we’re dealing with now is a shortage of workers. Our vendors and tradespeop­le are struggling to keep good employees,” says Minnesota designer Amy Leferink, owner of Interior Impression­s. On one recent project, the drywall tapers walked off the job and the plumber got sick—just two of the many challenges that pushed the timeline three months longer than expected. “Even in the best situations, we’re still challenged by availabili­ty,” she says. “People are so overloaded and busy that they can’t keep up.”


The current building boom may be a pandemic-inspired craze, but many of the life changes people are designing around are here to stay. “I don’t think that there will ever be a regret about adding functional­ity and flexibilit­y to your home,” says Leferink. “Even if everyone’s back to work and back to school, we have been forever changed in the way we use more of our homes.” What you might regret most is not going for it: Some economists project that housing and building prices will continue to trend upward for the next three to four years, which means you’ll save more by starting now unless you’re willing to wait a long, long time. “It’s not great right now, but it’s still manageable,” says Leferink. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better, so I don’t think it’s worth waiting if it’s something you want to do in the next five years.”

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