Extreme Homeowner Makeover

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Investments in home improvements are up, but more Americans, especially women, are doing it themselves, according to a marketing study released last week by Vertis.

The findings appeared in the marketing services firm's report, called "Customer Focus 2004: Home Improvement," which states nearly half, 47 percent, of adults surveyed are home improvement decision-makers who do the work themselves, compared to 38 percent in 2000.

Several drivers have buoyed the growing rate of do-it-yourselfers: Historically low interest rates have helped set record increases in home ownership and have made it easier to borrow money for home renovations. The increase in home improvement stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe's has increased product selections for consumers. Additionally, television has undoubtedly fanned the home improvement frenzy, evidenced by the popularity of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which is currently in the running for an Emmy this Sunday for Outstanding Reality Program.

These drivers, among others, are reflected in the amount Americans shelled out for improvements and repairs of residential properties last year, which were estimated at $176.9 billion, according to data released earlier this year by the U.S. Census Bureau. This represents a $3.6 billion increase over 2002.

According to the Vertis report, which polled 3,000 respondents across the U.S., Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1976) and Young Baby Boomers (born between 1956 and 1964) lead the way with 56 percent claiming they are do-it-yourselfers. Older Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) are slightly less ambitious when it comes to doing their own home improvements, with 52 percent claiming to do so.

And if many Americans have it their way, the amount they spend on home improvement next year may increase, as well. For example, of the adults 18 -- 39 years old with a household income of $75,000 or more, 22 percent plan to buy or build a new home, compared to 10 percent in 2000, the Vertis study says. Also, it reveals that13 percent of single Gen X adults plan to buy or build a new home, compared to only 6 percent in 2000.

Interestingly, not only are women getting more involved in making the home improvement decisions but they are rolling up their sleeves, as well. The report states 38 percent of women surveyed are the home improvement decision-makers who do to the work themselves, compared to 30 percent in 2000.

More Gen X women are opting to leave the workforce completely to raise their children, says Therese Mulvey, vice president of marketing research at Vertis, which she adds gives them more time to look around the home and find projects. In fact, the percentage of women between 25 and 34 years old who are staying home with their children has doubled from 14 percent in 1998 to 28 percent in 2004. "You've got a lot of really educated moms who've decided to stay home and they're putting their energy into the home," she says. "Seventy-eight percent of Gen X women are in some way responsible for home improvement decisions - that's up 10 percent since 2000. It's a lot."

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