News-Leader: ‘It’s a good time to build’

On Monday, October 19, Springfield News-Leader reporter Cory de Vera had this report from the weekend HBA Home Remodeling Expo:
‘It’s a good time to build’
Remodeling expo attracts fewer,
but more serious patrons this year.
For Battlefield residents Judy and Jerry O’Dell, the Home Builders Association Home Remodeling Expo was the place to be over the weekend.
After living in their home 33 years, Judy O’Dell said she’s ready for some upgrades.
“I’m looking at remodeling the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room,” she said. “I’m wanting wood floors, granite tops. I’m wanting marble in my bathroom.”
Matt Morrow, executive director of the HBA, estimated that this year’s show at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds drew about 4,500 people Friday through Sunday, fewer than the 5,000 to 7,000 that the show has drawn in years past.
But, vendors told him, those who did come seemed to have definite plans for projects. In other years, the show may attract higher numbers of people who come for entertainment.
“They did say the show helps create a few jobs that will help get them through to the next construction season,” Morrow said.
If the Remodeling Market Index is an accurate measure, business has been picking up from when the index hit a low point in December 2008.
The RMI is an economic indicator created by the National Association of Home Builders based on a survey that goes out every quarter to 2,000 remodelers around the country. The survey asks questions about the current demand for remodeling for projects under $25,000 and for projects over $25,000.
A second portion of the survey calculates an index number quantifying future expectations of remodelers, based on responses to questions about topics like their calls for bids and their backlog of work.
In December 2008, the index number measuring future expectations hit a low of 18.6, but that climbed to 30 after the first quarter of 2009 and to 34.2 after the second quarter. The index numbers reflecting actual contracts showed the same trend.
Still, those numbers are a far cry from when the indexes were over 50 in 2003 and 2004.
Morrow said anecdotally, he has heard that business for remodelers had been picking up locally, but there isn’t an easy way to get hard data for the area.
“A lot of municipalities and most counties in this part of the state don’t issue permits (because) they don’t have building codes,” said Morrow. “So you can’t just go down to the courthouse and say, ‘How many remodels have we had?’ You can for a particular permitting jurisdiction that they happen to track, but you can’t do it for all of southwest Missouri.”
One trend Morrow has seen is that as demand for new construction has decreased, builders have moved into major remodeling projects instead.
That was true for builder Sam Bradley.
“Almost all the calls that I get have been for remodeling this year, up until about three or four weeks ago,” Bradley said.
“Then just this last month I’ve had five calls for new homes. That’s why I think new construction is coming back.”
Springfield residents Gary and Tish Orrick came to the show because they are planning to build a new home, starting in the next 30 days.
“It’s a good time to build,” Gary Orrick said. “With the economy being bad, all of the subs and all of the people who furnish materials for you have lowered their prices.”
Judy O’Dell, who was planning major remodeling, said she was spotting good deals, too.
Remodeling appeals to her more than buying a new home because she likes where she lives, she said. In the long run, she believes remodeling will cost less.
“And when you remodel you can do it one room at a time,” she said. “You can save your money, do one room, rather than dishing out all the money at once. … Nowadays with the economy, you have to save for each project.”