Homeowners remodeling instead of building

Instead of building new houses in a troubled real estate market, homeowners have been remodeling.

Building permits for new residential development between May and July were down 61 percent from the same period in 2006, the peak of the real estate boom in Colorado Springs.

But permits for residential alterations – home remodeling projects – were up almost 37 percent this May through July above the same period in 2006.

May through July are typically the busiest months of the year for remodeling and construction projects.

Danny Mellen with Hammers for Hire, a construction company that specializes in remodeling projects, said he’s seen a surge of business.

“It’s been very, very busy,” he said.

Many of his customers are people who have decided to stay put as housing prices have fallen. Rather than risk losing money, or get less than they want for their homes on the market, Mellen said people are opting to fix their places up.

He’s also seen some of the same customers he’s always worked with, he said. He’s always done remodeling projects for older couples who never planned on leaving their homes, but who haven’t updated their kitchens in decades.

But people aren’t delaying projects now, because they believe they’re getting a discount, Mellen said.

“The market is really saturated with remodelers right now,” Mellen said. “It’s really competitive.”

He said remodeling work costs an average of 15 percent less now than it did during the building boom, because many of the contractors who used to work on new construction projects have moved into the remodeling business.

Mellen doesn’t blame them. It’s a steady business. He’s stayed relatively busy through all the ups and downs in the market.

Mark Witty, who owns Dream Maker Bath and Kitchen, said he’s found stability in the remodeling business as well.

“It’s usually not as high of the high or as low of a low,” he said.

He said his business fell off after the housing market crash. But since then, it has rebounded. He said people seem to feel more secure than they did at the height of the recession.