By all accounts, 2009 has been a dismal year for the remodeling industry. And it was; no question. However, the results of this year's Qualified Remodeler Top 500, which includes data from 2009, paint a less grim picture than might be expected.
Total remodeling revenue for those in the Top 500 was $4.2 billion - down from $4.5 billion in 2008. Average remodeling revenue for the same group was $8.4 million - down 1 million from 2008.
Certainly there were challenges for most firms. Consumers were more cautious, and credit was tight. Home equity, for most, was gone. And yet, there was remodeling work to be had for those who aggressively and imaginatively sought it, even if jobs were smaller and less ambitious.
Competition for remodeling dollars was more intense than ever. While some firms left the market, in most cases they were quickly replaced by builders who saw the remodeling market as the only game in town or by single operators who suddenly may have been forced to become construction industry entrepreneurs.
Earnings of exterior contractors, those specializing in roofing, siding, windows, decks and similar projects, stood out. Many reported healthy gains from what homeowners perceived as more practical jobs that promised a return on investment, particularly through energy savings.
The mix of remodeling contractors by type of firm in this year's list is similar in composition to last year's. The largest group is again full-service remodelers (160), closely followed by exterior contractors (155). Design/build is represented by 100 firms, while insurance restoration, kitchen and bath specialists, insurance restoration firms and others make up the balance of this year's Top 500.
Most remodelers think the market has reached a bottom but are not expecting a rapid recovery for the rest of 2010. The Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, according to its recently released Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), predicts modest growth in remodeling spending this year, but points to double-digit growth in the first quarter of 2011.
2010 Top 500 Remodelers List