The survey showed that Democrats are willing to spend $3,417 on annual home improvement, more than 50 percent higher than the planned Republican household outlay, at $2,194 on average. For repairs, the gap is, percentage-wise, about the same. Democrats say they will spend $2,343 on repairs to their home, compared with $1,499 for Republicans.
The HomeAdvisor survey delved further into the psychology of this disparity, and it appears that the Republicans spend less because they are more fearful about their finances. Only 27 percent of Democrats expect that the economy “will get much worse” in the next 12 months, compared with a majority (58 percent) of Republicans. People who are nervous about their financial future are more likely to cut back expenditures that are not absolutely necessary. Lingering economic jitters are holding back growth in some of the “indulgences” of home improvement, such as spas and hot tubs.
When Republicans take on a home-improvement or repair project, they tend to do it themselves rather than hire a pro when it looks as though the project is likely to have a hefty price tag. The survey found that 60 percent of Republicans will “DIY” when they think the project will be too expensive to hire a professional, versus 43 percent of Democrats.
It is interesting to note that Democrats spend more time researching their planned home-improvement projects than Republicans do. A quarter of Democrats surveyed say they spend six months or more learning about their improvement project, compared with Republicans, 60 percent of whom spend less than three months. Although Republicans are more worried about the cost of projects, they spend less time on upfront investigation, partly because the projects they take on are less-involved (requiring less of a financial investment and less of a learning curve) than the projects of Democrats, and because in the case of DIY repairs, you can learn as you go.
Going beyond political affiliation, there are differences across age groups and generations. HomeAdvisor’s research shows that homeowners older than 55 were most likely to spend more than $10,000 on home improvement in the next 12 months.
Brad Hunter, chief economist at HomeAdvisor, writes an occasional column on home-renovation trends.