WASHINGTON — Following a lull in residential remodeling at the end of 2002, professional remodelers reported a busier first quarter and significantly improved expectations for the rest of this year, according to results from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI).

"Driven by low interest rates, home equity conversions, and the strong appeal of investing in the homestead, residential property owners stepped up the pace of contracting for improvements, repairs, additions, and general maintenance on their homes and apartments in the first quarter of 2003," said NAHB Remodelors™ Council Chairman Mike Weiss. "This bodes extremely well heading into the spring home improvement season."

The RMI is based on a quarterly survey of more than 600 professional remodelers, whose answers to a series of questions are assigned numerical values in order to calculate two separate indexes. The first index gauges current market conditions and is based on remodelers' reports of major and minor additions and alterations, plus maintenance work and repairs, on both owner- and renter-occupied dwellings. The second index gauges expectations for the near future and is based on remodelers' reports of their calls for bids, amount of work committed for the next three months, job backlogs, and appointments for proposals.

Both indexes recorded significant gains in the first quarter of 2003, offsetting much, though not all, of their declines since the same time last year. The index gauging current market conditions rose to 46.4, up 3.2 points from the final quarter of 2002, but still off from its 52.7 reading for the first quarter of 2002.

Showing greater strength, the index gauging future expectations rose to 50.3, up 11.2 points from the final quarter of 2002, but shy of last year's peak 54.6 reading in the first quarter.

The Northeast was the strongest region for professional remodeling in 2003's first quarter, posting the highest RMI readings for both current market conditions and future expectations. Every region posted gains from the previous quarter.

Publication date: 04/28/2003