Economic Downturn Impacts Home Improvement

October 24, 2008 7:53:34 PM PDT
An uncertain economy could lead to uncertain sales at this weekend's home improvement show. The event kicks off today at the Fresno Fairgrounds and homeowners are looking, but not necessarily buying."There are things I probably need to be doing, but right now, it's not really a good time to invest in my home, because moneywise, mostly," homeowner Francell Farmer said.

Money is tight and with many families seeing a dramatic drop in the value of their home, improvement projects are not everyone's top priority these days.

But homeowners like Lynn Johnston need work done now. So she'll have to pick and choose from a laundry list of items. "At least the front door, that's where we'll start, next will be the flooring. We'll just have to prioritize and do one thing at a time," Johnston said.

Merchants are offering deals to customers, like Johnston, to make home improvements more affordable. "At the least, we want the merchants to offer specials and discounts, at the very least we want folks to pick up information when they're here," Webb said.

The most popular vendors this year are solar energy companies. One salesman says recent government tax credits are giving customers high returns on their investment, making solar panels a worthy addition to your home. "I don't know where else you can make an investment today where the government is almost going to match you dollar for dollar on the system and the minute the system is hooked up, you're going to save," Minick said.

Minick also says banks are more willing to provide loans for solar energy systems. "They're happy to refinance or do seconds on solar because they know that this is a for sure thing that will add value to property," Minick said.

Some lenders say equity loans and refinancing are still viable options for homeowners looking to make improvements. "The best option is getting within debt, in the short-term. Refinance a vehicle or another loan to get lower payment, to get away from the tight budget people impose on themselves," Powell said.

But most homeowners we spoke with say, in this rough economy, adding debt is the last thing they want to do. "I try not to use credit cards. I try to use cash, so as I find a project I think I can afford, I work towards that," Johnston said.

The home improvement show will run through Sunday. General admission is seven dollars.

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