Now Might Be the Right Time for a Home Improvement Project



August 24, 2020

If someone had told you on New Year’s day 2020 what would be going on in your home today, would you have believed them?

  • Your home is now your:
    • Office
    • Kids’ school
    • Zoom room
    • Family recreation spot

Before Covid-19 became part of everyday life, none of us could have foreseen these kinds of realities. But here they are, and according to MarketWatch, they’re boosting business at home improvement and hardware stores. Consider this from a study by Porch Research:

Over three in four (76%) homeowners in the United States have carried out at least one home improvement project since the start of the COVID pandemic, according to our survey. 78% plan to undertake at least one home improvement project in the next 12 months.

So, if the realities of your 2020 life at home have you thinking about doing an upgrade or expansion project, you’re not alone. If you do decide to pull the trigger, here are some things to consider.

Working or Schooling from Home

While home schooling has become commonplace across the country, working remotely hasn’t. Yet, historically, it’s been more appealing to employees than employers. Before the pandemic, Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 3.6% of people were working at home half-time or more. Covid-19 is changing this number. “Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by 2021,” says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics.

Room Office Before and After

The abrupt shift caught many people off guard. Makeshift workspaces popped up in basements, dining rooms and bedrooms. Dianna Reynolds, ECCU Director of Compliance and Internal Controls, decided to create a home office because “I was tired of working at my dining room table and ‘never’ putting away my ‘office’.” With the project complete, she couldn’t be happier. “Now I can come out of the extra room (office),” she says, “and feel like I have arrived home to my non-work space.”

Reynolds’ experience reveals that, while it’s possible to make due with existing space or furnishings, making changes to your home can create an environment where you can flourish while working. The same is true for schooling. In her USA Today article “Remote learning during coronavirus: How to make your home into a workable school,” Jennifer Jolly writes: “Whether it’s a dog bed, bathtub, kitchen counter, or actual desk, create a space for your child to tackle his or her school assignments free of as many distractions as possible.” How you create this space for each of your kids may require some ingenuity, but the improved learning environment makes it worth the effort and expense.

One option is to retrofit the kids’ rooms to include a dedicated study space. Another is to find student-friendly furnishings. Jolly’s a fan of what she calls the Macgyver-style Edge Desk, which she describes as “one compact piece of furniture that transforms into whatever you need.” It’s a fairly economical solution that is also marketed as an ergonomically comfy desk for people who are working from home.

Tips for Home Improvement Projects

Unless you have a lot of experience here, a good place to start is by talking with people who do. Reynolds, who considers herself “pretty handy,” used a contractor she’d worked with previously as a sounding board for strategies and direction. If you don’t know a reputable contractor, you can network with people you know to find one. And there are online services to evaluate them like Yelp and Angie’s List.

Another consideration is safety. Social distancing is easy when getting the materials you’ll need, Reynolds says, because “you can order pretty much anything you’ll need online.” For things that you just have to see before buying, like flooring, there are the big stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Rather than going out in public, Reynolds worked with a sales person at Floor and Décor who dropped samples at her house from which she selected the right one. And the contractors that worked in her home all wore masks.

An added benefit of Internet shopping is that you can hunt for deals. For the desktop in her new office, Reynolds found a “really inexpensive” quartz remnant. Full disclosure...having that remnant cut and finished cost her more than the piece itself.

How do you pay for it?

Since the project you’re considering probably wasn’t in your 2020 budget, there’s the matter of paying for it. Ideally, you have savings to cover the cost. Otherwise, it’s either make due with what you have or get a loan. One thing you don’t want to do is put big expenses like this on a high-interest credit card. A home equity loan might work. Another alternative is ECCU’s low-interest Personal Loan, which you can learn about here.

We’re all dealing with unexpected realities during this pandemic. Maybe, though, you can turn extended time at home into a time of flourishing for everyone who lives under your roof.

Category: Common Cents