When asked how business is during the current economic slowdown, local remodeler Lewis Abdo doesn't hesitate.
“We're swamped,” said the owner of Abdo Home Remodelers in Maumee. “We get a lot of referrals, and business is quite good.”
That sentiment is being echoed by remodelers throughout the Toledo area, as the slowing economy and lower borrowing rates have many homeowners fixing up their homes rather than shopping for new ones.
Projects often include adding bedrooms, finishing the basement, or updating the kitchen.
With fewer large-scale building projects, such as the new Toledo Jeep Assembly factory that is now completed, remodelers are able to find needed workers, who until recently chose large industrial or commercial projects where the pay was better, industry insiders said.
“There are a lot more people available to us now,” said Jim Mossing, of SMB Construction, whose Toledo firm employs 70.
Such worker availability is occurring just as the remodeling industry locally is picking up work after a winter in which consumers were skittish about spending on home projects, said Bob Bollin, president of Toledo Automatic Door, which installs replacement windows and doors.
“I think the remodeling business will stay steady and get even busier in the next 18 months,” said Mr. Bollin, president of the Toledo Home Remodelers Association, Inc.
That optimism is shared by contractors throughout the country, said Lisa Gunggoll, a spokesman for the 5,800-member National Association of the Remodeling Industry in Des Plaines, Ill.
“The market, which we define as the expenditures on improvements and repairs, was $180 billion last year, and we're predicting a 4 percent growth this year,” she said.
Bonnie Wolke, president of Wesson Builders in Toledo, said she has received calls from people requesting prices on major room additions, had them say they'd rather spend such money on moving, and two to three months later receive another call saying the homeowner decided to remodel.
The $50,000-to-$60,000 cost of major projects makes people shop around, including for loan rates, she said.
“We're doing a lot of finishing basements this year,” she said. “People are looking to see how they can use the existing space they have in a better fashion. “
On a two-story addition the company is building, the owner wanted a three-car garage and a dormer bedroom above it, but decided to scale the $100,000 project down to $65,000, without the garage, because of the economy, Mrs. Wolke said.
But not all homeowners are that cautious, said Tom Elchert, of Elchert/Creutz & Sons in Toledo.
“We keep hearing there's going to be an economic slowdown, but it doesn't seem to happen, at least not with us,” he said.
A recent $36,000 project done by his company involved tearing out a wall to expand a kitchen into a dining room and make the space into more of a great room. A current project, costing $175,000, involves building a 35-by-35-foot addition to a Sylvania home that includes a master suite with whirlpool tub and vaulted ceilings with skylights, as well as finishing the basement and installing a media room and exercise room there.
“We've not had anyone that we've been dealing with back out of a project,” Mr. Elchert said.
Mr. Abdo, of Abdo Home Remodelers, said he has been surprised by the boldness of some people making renovations decision.
“Some of the young people, they're fearless,” he said. “They'll finance 125 percent of the appraisal of their home. They're not worried about tomorrow.”