Home remodels slow in Austin

Aren Crews, owner of Aren Crews Construction, saws boards last October in the apartments above the Martial Arts Fitness Center in Austin as part of the Main Street Project, which began in 2005. Herald file photo

Contractor urges patience for homeowners scheduling a project

Austin residents are a little hesitant to get that much dreamed-about remodel going.

Aren Crews, owner of Aren Crews Construction, said it’s not unusual for fewer people to aim touch up their homes this time of year. Crews, a home improvement contractor, said January is a slow point in the year for remodeling projects.

“It seems like everybody rushes to get everything done for the holidays,” he said. Afterward, there’s a lull projects until months later when people begin to get their tax returns and are looking for ways to spend the money, he added.

But even considering the season, Crews said most of the work being done is not going toward upgrades in comfort or luxury, but instead toward the basic upkeep of the house.

“There’s less of the splurge,” he said. “It’s more maintenance issues.”

That means new roofs, windows or siding are being put in out of necessity, not for the sake of making aesthetic changes.

When remodeling projects are done, the most popular ones include kitchen and bathroom work as well as putting in a deck, which people arrange for in anticipation of warmer weather and time spent outside.

While five years ago it was more common to remodel large chunks of the house at a time, Crews said it’s typically split up now. Families will work on one room per year, for example, instead of doing it all at once. Part of the reason for the change is the economy.

“The banks tightened up their lending,” he said.

The Austin housing market is a little slower this time of year as well, according to data from the Southeast Minnesota Association of Realtors. It seems local residents are content with the homes they have, as new home listings in Austin dropped slightly from 740 in 2011 to 688 in 2012, with five more Austin homes sold in 2012 compared to the previous year.

During other parts of the year when remodeling picks up, Crews said he sometimes will have three such projects going on at once.

His advice to those looking to remodel their homes is to get references and have patience when scheduling a contractor. While it may be tempting to go with the first person available to do the work, that may not yield the best results.

—Trey Mewes contributed to this report.

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