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Improve vs. Move: How Do Today's Homeowners Trend?

Put away those cardboard boxes — American homeowners are staying put. When their house no longer meets their needs, people are choosing to improve vs. move.

A recent study by Houzz shows that the majority of homeowners are undertaking renovation projects — not to increase resale value but to make their home more livable. These homeowners have no plans of moving, so they're investing in makeovers designed to improve the look, feel and functionality of their homes.

These findings were corroborated in a more recent study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). People shared that their top reasons for wanting home improvements were to add amenities and space as well as to avoid moving.

An initial look at data seems to indicate that the shift to improve from move was a reaction to the recession as people's ability to move into a better home declined dramatically. This signals that discretionary moves were limited by economic circumstances, including falling home values, restricted access to credit and an uncertain job market. Instead of moving into houses that fulfilled their needs, people refocused their limited resources on making their current homes more livable.

Now that the economy is showing notable recovery and consumer confidence is growing, why isn't the trend to improve vs. move reversing?

Upon deeper analysis, evidence suggests that this trend actually began decades ago and that there has been a long-term shift in the mindset of homeowners. People simply aren't as interested in moving into a better home as they used to be. According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of people who move every year has actually been declining since the mid-1980s. While the recession accelerated the adoption of an "improve vs. move" mindset, the shift is actually part of a longer-term trend.

How does this shift from move to improve impact manufacturers of home + building products?

Homeowners want more control over researching and purchasing products for their home renovations. Because they're focused on improving appearance and function, consumers are taking a personal interest in everything that goes into their home. But according to Houzz, the most common challenge consumers face during home remodeling projects is finding the right products.

In order to take advantage of this shift toward improving, manufacturers must guide homeowners to the products that can be tailored to their style, personality and way of life. This entails clear marketing communications which, in some cases, may require visualizers and selector tools. They are especially important in the home + building industry where the path to purchase is often complex and consumers don't see a finished product until after the purchase is made. Specialized tools not only demonstrate product benefits in believable ways but also make the journey less overwhelming.

Manufacturers that can lead homeowners to the products that will improve their lives will capture homeowners' attention — as well as their sales.

Transforming the American Home: Findings from the 2014 Houzz & Home Survey
2014 Houzz Healthy Home Trends Study
Simple Desire for New Amenities Remains Top Reason to Remodel (NAHB)
The Rate At Which Americans Move Has Been Falling For Decades (Business Insider)