Cameron Sperance – Boston.com correspondent
April 2, 2021, 10:00 a.m.
The U.S. economy contracted 3.5 percent last year, but home improvement spending rose 3 percent nationwide to nearly $ 420 billion, according to a report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Several rounds of federal economic relief during the pandemic kept workers on payroll, which contributed to higher-than-expected incomes. Lockdowns also meant people were spending less and having more money on things like home improvement.
That makes 2020 the 10th straight year that home remodeling spending has increased, but the process has shifted a bit due to precautionary measures.
“From 2010 to 2019, homeowners relied largely on professional contractors, and remodeling activities were heavily focused on coastal metros,” said Kermit Baker, director of the center’s remodeling program, in a statement. “But in 2020, amid concerns about having contractors at home, [do-it-yourself] Projects have gained new popularity. “
60 percent of those surveyed said they had started at least one DIY project in the first few weeks of the pandemic. By May the number had risen to 80 percent. Contractors’ work finally recovered to levels above 2019 last year.
Home improvement projects, both home improvement and contract projects, were generally based on the buying and design trends seen during the pandemic. Home offices, improved air systems, and kitchen remodeling were among the top 20 home improvement projects of the past year, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost 2021 report.
Interior painting was the most popular home improvement project. The bathroom remodel took second place but is well on its way to becoming the most popular project in this year’s ranking.
“It’s a good mid-range project,” said Mischa Fisher, HomeAdvisor’s chief economist. “It can have a dramatic impact on how luxurious your home feels, but it’s not as expensive as a kitchen.”
Some pandemic-inspired home improvement activities also bring high ROI.
If your sourdough starter craze resulted in a kitchen renovation, don’t dismiss last year’s average price of $ 35,317 on the True Cost report. Even a minor kitchen renovation produces a 74 percent return on investment for New England, according to last year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value report. The need for outdoor space may have meant nearly $ 8,000 in average cost to build a deck or porch over the past year, but these typically produce a return of more than 72 percent.
It can be worth being back outside.
Cameron Sperance can be contacted at [email protected]. Subscribe to Globe’s free real estate newsletter – our weekly buy, sell, and design overview – at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @globehomes.