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Auburn-area contractors debate remodel trend

Construction company owner says he was thinking of leaving California
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Local contractors have mixed reactions about a recent index compiled by a Texas-based company that says residential remodel activity is on the rise. One Meadow Vista resident said she is remodeling her home to make it more attractive to herself and future buyers. According to the Austin, Texas company BuildFAX, it’s remodeling index, which the company said is based on monthly building permit activity filed with local building departments across the country, shows that residential remodeling activity rose 23 percent in June in year-over-year comparisons. Joe Emison, the company’s vice president of research and development, said there seems to be a connection between the information and the housing market. “The first half of 2011 brought pain to many sectors of the economy, including home sales and jobs,” Emison said. “However, Americans continue to invest in remodeling, sending the BuildFAX Remodeling Index to a new all-time high. With so many Americans unable to sell their current home, it is apparent that they are planning on staying in their current residences and are making renovations and upgrades.” According to the index, remodel activity rose 6 percent in June in the western United States. Jan Haldeman, owner of Haldeman Homes in Auburn, said he thinks people are remodeling because prospective buyers wouldn’t be able to afford purchasing homes otherwise. “It’s my understanding a lot of people are just barely qualifying for these houses, and they don’t have the money to fix them up,” Haldeman said. “So you are better fixing them up for them before you sell it.” Meadow Vista resident Ann Lee said she is having her kitchen remodeled for her enjoyment as well as for a potential future buyer. “My kitchen is really old … and the appliances needed to be replaced,” Lee said. “The cabinets, I had a hard time opening and closing because they have got a funky latch. And (the remodel) was cheaper than moving to a different home. Maybe in 10 years or so we may move, but still my kitchen is not really sellable. So, it needed to be replaced for in the future if I wanted to resell it. It wasn’t very attractive or user friendly. So, either way it had to be done.” Lee said she is having her cabinets, appliances and countertops replaced as part of the remodel. Duke Dudash, owner of Blue Sky Builders, based in Meadow Vista, said he is seeing the trend turning to remodeling. “I have been doing remodels for probably 10 years now,” Dudash said. “People are finding (they can), rather than moving into something else, fix up what they have got. That seems to be the trend. People are hopefully starting to spend money. The main thing is that a lot of people are happy where they are, they just have an older dated home and if they can fix up the kitchens just upgrade the faucets, fixtures … maybe a little rearranging, they are willing to do that.” Rex Roberts, owner of Blueridge Construction in Auburn, said he doesn’t agree with the index’s information. “I don’t think building remodeling is on the rise,” Roberts said. “I don’t think any kind of construction is on the rise in California at all. This is as slow as I have seen it. If somebody thinks it is, they just happen to be fortunate and they just happen to have a couple of jobs right now, that’s all.” Roberts said with the state raising the contractor’s license fee and other requirements hitting contractors hard, he thinks more companies are going out of business. “Hopefully some things will still happen, but it’s just not good, not good at all,” he said. “I was thinking about leaving the state altogether, honestly.” Glenn Plushanski, owner of Auburn-based United Services construction company, said he has seen more home remodels lately and people seem to be doing it because they have waited about 20 years and want their homes to look the way they want them to. “Lots of customers are upgrading their kitchens, because granite, flooring, materials and appliances have come down in price,” Plushanski said. Mark Gentry, owner of Meadow Vista-based company Mark Gentry Remodeling, said he is seeing a rise in remodeling work. Gentry is currently working on a kitchen remodel in Meadow Vista. “My own experience is that it’s definitely improved some in the last few months,” Gentry said. “I do both remodel and repair work, and I’m just seeing a little bit more remodeling going on. This business is completely driven by discretionary income and consumer confidence. It’s just driven by how confident they are that they can pay for it.” Gentry, who specializes in bathroom and kitchen work, said his particular market seems to be people who want to stay in their homes and are making changes they have wanted for some time. He said clients seem to be trying to get more bang for their buck. “I don’t know how you would phrase it, but I just feel like people are being smarter with their money,” Gentry said. “They are not being as extravagant. They are making sensible choices and getting a good value for their dollar.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com