Home renovations have become unaffordable, unbearable and seemingly unavoidable, survey finds

·4 min read
Home renovations have become unaffordable, unbearable and seemingly unavoidable, survey finds
Home renovations have become unaffordable, unbearable and seemingly unavoidable, survey finds

Finding a home that fits your budget can be a titanic effort, and a MoneyWise survey suggests homebuyers are rarely done once they get the keys.

In today’s tight market, many Americans are buying properties that don’t quite fit their needs and making up the difference with home improvement projects after closing.

Four out of five respondents with home renovation experience say they bought their abodes with renos already in mind.

Our survey of 1,002 homeowners shows these renovations are often lengthy and expensive endeavors — and even if everything goes to plan, satisfaction is never guaranteed.

Key takeaways

  • One in 4 respondents said the biggest obstacle to completing their project was a hike in material costs due to supply chain issues.

  • Respondents who experienced mistakes during the renovation process spent an average of $1,984 fixing the worst one.

  • 56% of respondents felt, at least at some point, that their home renovations will never be complete.

Home is where the hardware is

Reasons to renovate

It’s rare to find a truly turn-key property that fits all of your wants and needs, spanning location, size, amenities, style and cost. For some, renovations are just an essential part of the homebuying process.

The specific reasons for breaking out the hammer and hacksaw varied among respondents. No more than about half shared the same goal, whether that was beautifying their home or increasing its value.

Issues of form and function were both well represented among the responses. So were financial concerns, although the long-term cost savings of increasing energy efficiency came in a distant last place.

Whatever the reason for renovating, our survey found projects often take a substantial amount of time to complete.

When asked how long the renovation process is taking — or how long it took, if completed — the most common response was three to six months. Only about 1 in 10 respondents wrapped up the job in under 30 days.

Don’t miss

Construction costs

The price of uncertainty

Homeowners shelled out an average of $6,721 for their home improvement projects, a number that encompasses the many surprises and uncertainties that can pop up after you open your walls.

Thirty-five percent of respondents reported that their renovations ended up costing a little more than they originally planned, and an additional 8% said they paid substantially more.

A common problem, identified by 28% of respondents as the worst they experienced, was the increased cost of materials due to supply chain issues.

The pandemic inspired a flurry of home renos but crimped the flow of critical goods. The price of lumber, for example, soared 90% between April 2020 and April 2021.

Twenty-nine percent said they had to do more renovations than anticipated, which can happen for several reasons.

Homeowners frequently bemoaned unpleasant discoveries like mold, but nothing stings as much as a serious mistake that threatens to derail the whole project. Respondents who experienced one or more mistakes paid nearly $2,000 extra to fix the worst one.

Not all surprises are bad, however. About 23% said they actually paid less than originally quoted, with 5% saying they paid much less.

Renovation regrets

If you could turn back time

While the goal of any renovation is to make your home more comfortable or more valuable, the process itself is rarely a rollicking good time.

About 63% of respondents said their home renovations left them feeling overwhelmed. Yet finishing the project doesn’t always bring relief.

There’s no feeling quite so painful as the slow, inescapable realization that you just spent an incredible amount of time, effort and money on changes you absolutely hate.

Mercifully, the most common regrets are fairly cheap to change, such as gaudy kitchen cabinets or accent walls that draw the wrong kind of attention. Creating a deck or master bathroom, not so much.

More than half of respondents said that, at least at some point, they felt they would never reach perfection. That said, sometimes it’s best to settle for “good enough.”

Getting your home just right can turn into an expensive obsession. To see what that looks like, check out our previous survey on how embarrassment and envy can influence home decor decisions.

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Methodology and limitations

MoneyWise partnered with a polling firm to ask 1,002 American homeowners about their experiences with home renovations. Data was collected from March 7 to March 9 of 2022. Among the respondents, 52% were men and 48% were women. By generation, 10% of respondents were baby boomers, 29% were members of Gen X, and 61% were millennials or younger. The margin of error for this study is plus or minus three percentage points at a 95% confidence level. Outliers were removed from free-response questions. Surveys relying on self-reported data have limitations, such as exaggeration, telescoping and selective memory.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.