SWEAT EQUITY

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Long ago, the early settlers of this country ventured into the wilderness, staked their claims and built their homes by hand. That same independent spirit lives on today among do-it-yourselfers. Whether resurrecting a crumbling fixer-upper, hanging new cabinets or just repairing a leaky faucet, the self-reliant bunch represents a growing market for brands like Black & Decker, Stanley Tools and Sears's Craftsman.

In 2002, do-it-yourselfers spent an estimated $144 billion on home improvements, up 38 percent from $104.2 billion in 1997, according to projections from Global Insight, Inc., a Waltham, Mass.-based economic and financial forecasting company. (Global Insight conducted the research for the Home Improvement Research Institute, a trade organization in Tampa, Fla.)

The accompanying map, provided by Claritas for American Demographics and based on data from New York City research firm Mediamark Research, Inc. (MRI), shows where do-it-yourselfers are likely to be found. Counties in dark red indicate locales having the highest concentration of those with a zeal for home improvement, while counties in pale yellow indicate areas that have the lowest concentration.

The nation's do-it-yourselfers tend to be residents of rural counties west of the Mississippi, particularly in the Plains and Mountain states (such as Colorado, Utah, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas). And because do-it-yourselfers tend to be homeowners who want to protect their investment, they are more likely to hail from suburban and, especially, rural counties, where homeownership rates far exceed those in central cities. The PopUpdates that surround the map highlight five counties where consumers are more likely than average to be do-it-yourselfers.

Today's do-it-yourselfers tend to be white and to be between the ages of 35 and 49, according to MRI. The propensity to engage in home improvement activities increases with education and wealth. In fact, Americans with a post-graduate degree are far more likely to be do-it-yourselfers than those with just a bachelors degree. The inclination to do-it-yourself is above average for consumers with incomes of $40,000 or more and is highest for those with incomes between $75,000 and $99,999. The latter may signify the level at which homeowners sense their time is still worth less than their money. But even the well-heeled, whose household income falls in the $150,000-plus range, are 24 percent more likely than average to rummage through the toolbox and spend time fixing up their homes.

Do-it-yourselfers are a breed apart. Compared with those who choose not to tinker, they are more likely to enjoy trying new things and making items they can use every day, according to MRI. They also tend to have greater confidence in their own abilities than in other people's. For many of them, it seems that old saying rings true: If you want something done well, do it yourself.

RAW MATERIALS

Amount spent by do-it-yourselfers in 2002:

PRODUCT CATEGORY SALES (IN BILLIONS)
Lumber & building material $44.0
Lawn & garden supplies $33.6
Plumbing $18.9
Electrical supplies $11.7
Hardware $11.0
Paints & sundries $10.8
Tools (hand & power) $10.4
Hard-surface floor coverings $3.7
Source: Home Improvement Research Institute/Global Insight, 2003

popupdate

STILLWATER COUNTY, MT

Number of households 3,376
DIY INDEX* 146
Bought exterior paint 141
Did home repair on kitchen or bathroom faucets 117
Bought indoor light fixtures 105

SUBLETTE COUNTY, WY

Number of households 2,434
DIY INDEX* 151
Bought exterior paint 119
Did home repair on kitchen or bathroom faucets 115
Bought indoor light fixtures 108

GOSPER COUNTY, NE

Number of households 861
DIY INDEX* 147
Bought exterior paint 139
Did home repair on kitchen or bathroom faucets 113
Bought indoor light fixtures 102

BEAVER COUNTY, OK

Number of households 2,189
DIY INDEX* 146
Bought exterior paint 131
Did home repair on kitchen or bathroom faucets 114
Bought indoor light fixtures 109

POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, KS

Number of households 6,859
DIY INDEX* 144
Bought exterior paint 136
Did home repair on kitchen or bathroom faucets 115
Bought indoor light fixtures 111

* The DIY Index measures propensity to engage in home improvement. For example, people in Sublette County, Wyo., are 51 percent more likely to be do-it-yourselfers than the American average. Indexes are based on activities of the past year.

Sources for map and PopUpdates: Claritas; Mediamark Research, Inc., 2002

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