Home remodeling booms during coronavirus pandemic

CLEVELAND, Ohio — As Clevelanders have stayed home during the pandemic, they’ve been thinking more about their living space.

Some have seen the need for a home office. Others have wanted to update their kitchens and bathrooms, and some have even had complete first-floor renovations. Basements have been refurbished, too.

“They’ve realized that their house doesn’t fit their needs anymore because if they’re going to stay at home and work from home, they realized they need different spaces,” said Mike Kandra, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Cleveland. “Or they just got tired of looking at their house and finally saying ‘Hey, if we’re staying here we need to change out cabinets, we need to update our bathrooms, we need to update our flooring, we need to paint our house, so forth.’”

The home remodeling industry has boomed during the pandemic. Part of the reason for that, though, is because the housing market is so tight.

A homeowner may want to build a new house, but there’s currently a lack of inventory of developed lots to construct one, Kandra said. Kandra, who also is the president of Edgewood Homes, said that means some families are then forced to remodel, particularly if they live in a nice neighborhood with a good school district.

“And then the other thing too is the price of houses has gotten pretty damn high,” Kandra said. “It becomes a little bit more cost effective for people to just remodel their house versus trying to build one from scratch.”

The median price for a new home in the suburbs is at least $550,000, Kandra said. On top of that, the price of lumber was up 188% as of the week of March 11. With lumber prices very high, that impacts home building, but not quite as much for home remodeling because lumber isn’t as needed, said Otero Signature Homes president Ted Otero.

“The new construction is difficult because of the availability of land and the cost of land, as well as lumber,” Otero said. “So remodel is a great option. If you’re in a decent house with decent bones in a nice neighborhood in a good school district, then it makes a lot more sense to remodel the home than to build.”

Cleveland.com spoke with several home remodeling and construction businesses to learn how much they’ve seen an uptick in clients. Some have seen a rise in business, but others haven’t experienced much of a difference.

Harmoni Designs + Build

The work-from-home lifestyle is turning into a long-term situation for some folks.

And it’s become so much of a reality that people are wanting bigger, more workable home offices, said Martin Johannessen, president and director of Harmoni Designs + Build.

“We’re coming up with all kinds of creative ways to make actual home offices that people can use not just during the pandemic, but a lot of people are actually planning on continuing to work from home long after the pandemic,” Johannessen said.

Home office above garage

A picture of part of a home office, sitting above a new garage, that was constructed by Harmoni Designs + Build. The home office is enough space for two to work, and it also has a shared workout area.

(Harmoni Designs + Build)

Johannessen runs Harmoni Designs + Build out of Cleveland Heights with his wife, Diana, the company’s chief operating officer. Johannessen said some people are adding offices on top of garages. One office he has recently constructed has enough space for two people to work, plus a shared workout area.

Home offices have been Harmoni’s most common renovation during the pandemic, Johannessen said. The offices range from 300-500 square feet, much larger than in past years.

“In the past, it may have been like 50 square feet,” he said. “Just a little area somewhere, an old closet or whatever it might be. Or an old spare small bedroom, something like that.”

Clients want a good space to work in full time, so they are willing to put money into an office. The price is hard to say, though, because they’re typically part of an addition such as a full garage. A project he did last year, which included a garage, was $150,000. The home office portion was probably $80,000-$100,000.

With Harmoni’s revenue up over 40% for 2020 over 2019, Johannessen hopes the boom can last.

“We get a lot of referral business because we have a lot of happy clients,” Johannessen said. “We try to do higher end work and more quality service, so we tend to get a lot of referrals, so we expect it to continue to grow for years to come.”

New Beginnings Home Renovation & Property Management

Business has been slower for Patrick Powell during the pandemic, but work is still available.

Powell has owned New Beginnings Home Renovation & Property Management since 2018. Powell said clients haven’t looked to do huge upgrades, but he’s recently received requests for bigger jobs such as kitchen and bathroom remodels.

Powell said those clients have been wanting to do kitchen and bathroom renovations but held off because of the pandemic, leery of having people in their homes.

“So now it’s easing up and it’s not as much of a biggest threat like it was in the beginning, so now they’re ready to move forward with their projects,” Powell said.

Working on both the East and West side of Cleveland, Powell receives “a nice share” of his jobs through referrals and gets good feedback from his clients. Going forward, he’s not sure how long the home remodeling boom will last.

“I have a lot of referrals, so you can’t really put a time to that,” Powell said. “Now it can start off being one or two (projects) and next month it can be four or five that came in. Four or five projects could open just from the one because I post a lot of pictures onto the (website) page.”

Odell Construction

During the first part of the pandemic, Odell Construction didn’t have many projects going. Clients had pushed projects off because of concerns of having people in their homes.

But since last summer, business hasn’t slowed down, said Jenna Raus, Odell Construction’s business development manager. Operating out of Westlake, Odell Construction has worked on building home offices, renovating kitchens and remodeling bathrooms. People want to make sure they get what they need, Raus said.

“It’s the pain point for people, so a pain point of having the need for more space becomes a priority versus budget because of how they’re experiencing life at the moment,” Raus said.

Odell Construction’s boom in business has also included a rise in new clients. Raus said the company has had an increase in leads, or requests for new projects, from new clients.

“I would say we’re probably 25% over what we would have expected for leads,” Raus said.

Otero Signature Homes

Revenue for 2020 over 2019 stayed relatively stagnant for Otero Signature Homes, but 2021 is looking like it will be “a bounce back year” with increased demand, said president Ted Otero.

Otero, based in Chagrin Falls, does home remodeling, home construction and home design. Otero said the remodeling market has been strong as the company has worked on creating multiple home offices and workstations for children to do online learning.

“Kitchen remodels are very important right now,” Otero said. “We’re still doing a lot of exterior living environments, covered porches and so forth. Ways that the family can spread out a little bit more.”

Otero said the company has also worked on creating dual laundry rooms, one on the first floor and one on the second floor.

Though Otero didn’t have a revenue increase in 2020, this year has showed signs of promise because some of last year’s projects that got pushed aside have returned.

“They’re more certain about which direction we’re heading, the world’s not coming to an end,” Otero said.

Payne & Payne Renovations & Design

Last March, Payne & Payne Renovations & Design had about a quarter of its year paused or canceled within the two weeks of the state shutdown, said co-owner Dean Tompkins.

But when the early summer rolled around, clients were willing to complete projects and Payne & Payne had more leads than before. Some of the company’s most common renovations have been kitchens and bathrooms.

“It seems like everybody now that they’ve been cooped up in their space has realized the projects they’ve been putting off, it’s time to do ‘em,” Tompkins said. “I think there’s been a pent-up renovations need for a while. Cleveland has older housing stock and just kind of a perfect storm of people being in their houses more and still having some cash to do it and move forward on it.”

As the boom goes on, Tompkins said it’s hard to say how long it will continue. He said he prefers to have smaller, steadier growth because it’s easier to manage and make sure clients are connected with.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Tompkins said. “It’s just you don’t want to let anybody down and not return a phone call. Like we’re even looking to hire somebody right now just to take incoming calls.”

Perrino Builders & Remodeling

Pat Perrino doesn’t see the home remodeling and home buying market letting up any time soon.

With a shortage in housing and people moving to Cleveland because of lesser traffic and a lower cost of living, the market should look to remain vibrant. According to a 2020 U-Haul study, Ohio ranked fourth for Americans making one-way trips, right behind Tennessee, Texas and Florida.

“I think this remote thing is huge because you can work from anywhere,” said Perrino, owner of Perrino Builders & Remodeling. “So we’re seeing a lot of people come from California, from New York from Chicago that can work remotely and that are picking Cleveland.”

Perrino noted Cleveland’s quality healthcare and schools as potential reasons for people wanting to move to the city.

“I mean why would you want to be in New York City, pay $4,000 for a 1,200 square foot apartment?” Perrino said. “Six hundred square foot apartment actually is probably more like it. Or California and deal with everything that’s going on over there and the high costs of living.”

Perrino’s company is based in Chesterland, and focuses on large scale renovations, including first floor and kitchen remodels. They also do additions. A typical first floor renovation usually takes three-four months, and an addition takes six-eight months.

“They’re putting on bigger kitchens, they’re putting on bedrooms, they’re putting on bathrooms, family room,” Perrino said of his clients. “Increasing the size of the family room, and then redirecting their spaces.”

The company has continued to ride its growth, as its revenue doubled for 2020 over 2019, Perrino said. Perrino said his company is currently working on around 10 projects.

“I’m like a yo-yo, it’s just really busy, which is great,” Perrino said.