For years Carlos Valencia from Guadalupe had a desire to expand his DIY skills.
But until the new coronavirus pandemic forced him to work from home – and limit contact with people outside his family – he never had the time.
“When my father-in-law first moved to North Phoenix (two years ago), I told him, ‘If you guys ever want to do any projects, I’m more than willing to help,'” Valencia said. “The last few weekends we’ve finally made it.”
The couple have embarked on an ambitious decking project that will require woodworking, masonry and roofing skills, among other skills. Valencia said he’s invested in new equipment and supplies, made frequent, masked trips to Lowe’s – and made a socially distanced home visit to buy a miter saw. He also plans to build a wall in his own house after helping his father-in-law.
“I’ve always had so many ideas,” he said. “That time allowed me to reflect on her and move on.”
If rising home improvement store sales are any indication, thousands of Americans are doing the same.
The Farnsworth Group – which, together with the Home Improvement Research Institute, analyzes home improvement activity on a weekly basis – called DIY projects a “bright spot during COVID-19 for March and April” and said the research “suggests the strong activity will continue in May “.
“Intent remains strong as many homeowners remain at home and their disposable income is shifted to home improvement rather than entertainment, travel or retail,” the research team’s mid-May report said.
Reliable systems priority for customers
That’s exactly what Ken Goodrich, CEO of Goettl Air Conditioning and Plumbing in Tempe, observed.
He said his company had seen a more than 35% increase in business this time last year, leading to an expansion in hiring. It’s also difficult to stock parts for indoor air quality systems “because there’s such a high demand right now.”
“People are home, they have time, and they’re like, ‘While I have that time, let’s fix this or that,'” Goodrich said. “I think that’s what’s driving our uptick – people just wanting to do those projects they’ve been neglecting.”
Of course, on-site visits look a little different these days. Technicians wear masks and gloves, and customers who prefer not to interact directly with a technician can use a contactless billing and payment system.
The company also offers a FaceTime option for consultations.
“Many of our customers say they want to make sure their HVAC and plumbing systems are reliable so just in case someone, God forbid, gets sick in the house, those two essential systems are the best they can be .” he said.
“It’s interesting because we’ve been preaching that at Göttl for 81 years, and now everyone’s starting to understand it. Air conditioning in Phoenix is not a luxury, it is life support.”
Pools are a bright spot in the Reno market
Although repairs and DIY projects appear to be staying strong, the outlook for larger scale remodeling projects isn’t so rosy.
The Houzz Renovation Barometer, which surveyed more than 2,000 construction, architecture and design firms nationwide, reported that more than half reported canceled projects and three-quarters reported project delays and dips in initial inquiries.
In some cases, customers have raised financial concerns in light of the abrupt economic downturn. Safety concerns affected others, as contractors and other home improvement enthusiasts often need access to the inside of a home.
Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies has projected that spending on major renovations will slow through early 2021 “due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
However, there appears to be at least one exception in Arizona — perhaps a predictable one given the triple-digit months ahead.
According to Michael Conley, owner of Boundary Waters Pools and Spas in Queen Creek, pool builders and installers have been doing “crazy” deals lately.
This is despite the fact that projects sometimes take longer because some contractors, as a precautionary measure, limit the number of employees on site at any given time.
“In that time, for us and for all the people I’ve spoken to (in the industry), there’s been a pretty big uptick over last year,” he said. “I think it’s just, people are at home and they’re seeing these projects that they’ve wanted to do — in some cases, for years.”
Conley said he received a call from a client who, for example, first inquired about a new pool four years ago and now wants to move on since he works full-time from home.
“He called me and said, ‘Hey, I have the money, can we do this?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely,'” he said. “I deal with a lot of projects like this.”
Safety tips for home services
Consumer Reports has outlined a number of steps homeowners can take when they need to make a service call that can’t wait or are considering going ahead with a renovation.
- Ask about precautions before an appointment. This could include asking a representative if workers must wear masks and maintain a 6ft distance from customers and if they bring disinfectant to clean tools or supplies.
- Be transparent about your own exposure. Many companies use screening questions before appointments to avoid sending their employees home where someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is being quarantined.
- Request a contactless transaction. This can be a mobile payment method or any approach that doesn’t require the exchange of pens or paper.
- Draw a path. Plan how to guide the employee around the house so he or she does not enter rooms or touch surfaces unnecessarily.
- Disinfect workplace before and after the visits.
- Stand 6 feet away when interacting with workers.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or 602-653-6807. Follow her on Twitter @mpolletta.
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