Neither snow nor rain nor cold temperatures prevented David Phillips, Larry Hayes or other remodeling pros at Levco Builders from tackling jobs this winter.
But it’s hard to cut trim using a power saw during a power outage. In March, an outage temporarily halted the crew’s work on an addition on Sullivan Street, several blocks from Broadway Avenue and Federal Way.
“Probably some contractors nicked the power line,” Hayes says.
The men shared a laugh.
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Breaks have been fewer and further between in recent years for remodeling contractors in the Treasure Valley. That reflects a nationwide trend: According to a study released this year by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, remodeling sales grew to $340 billion in the U.S. in 2015, topping the all-time record set in 2007.
Joe Levitch, owner of Levco Builders in Boise, says his three two-man remodeling crews have lined up work months in advance. He says that’s true for remodeling companies and subcontractors throughout the industry. Levco brought in more than $1.3 million in sales in 2016.
“I get the sense everybody is doing well,” he says.
Andy Peterson owns Level Construction in Boise, which enjoyed a 20 percent increase in sales in 2016. A one-man company, Peterson works as general contractor overseeing about 30 subcontractors for remodeling projects. Much of his work is in the North End, where owners often want to add square footage to older homes or knock down walls to make the houses more open.
In other parts of Ada County, such as Southeast Boise, customers more frequently want to update kitchens and bathrooms, Levitch says.
Peterson went into business in 2008 after the construction company he worked for folded. Homeowners who held off on improving their homes during the Great Recession are now making appointments, he says.
“Now that home values and retirement accounts have come back, people are more comfortable spending money,” he says.
The industry’s growth isn’t likely to slack soon. The Harvard study estimates that spending on home improvements will increase by an average of 2 percent annually through 2025. Those expenditures are concentrated in cities where home values and homeowner incomes are highest, the study says.
Nationwide, 700,000 people worked in the remodeling industry in 2012, a 35 percent increase from one decade earlier, the study found.
But employment growth has stagnated and commercial projects have been delayed because of a shortage of skilled labor across construction sectors.
“It used to be I’d call two days in advance to get subcontractors scheduled,” Peterson says. “Now, sometimes I call a month in advance.”
Levco is working on projects ranging from $10,000 to $110,000. Sandra Braley, real estate agent for Sotheby’s International Realty in Boise, says some buyers in the upper end of the home market spend more than that before moving in.
In 2016, a couple bought a Boise home for $900,000, then ordered remodeling work that took 14 months to complete. They waited for the work to wrap up before moving in. “They just completed in excess of $2 million for the remodel,” she says. “The home now has a value of $2.5 million or $3 million. They are moving in next week.”
Remodelers are benefiting from the record-low housing inventory and rising home prices on the real estate market, Peterson says.
“A lot of people look at remodeling instead of buying because of the cost of replacing their homes,” he says.
Zach Kyle: 208-377-6464, @ZachKyleNews.This story appears in the April 19-May, 16, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on residential real estate.