News articles written about Pekel Construction and Remodeling
Business was flat and in some quarters, down dramatically, until this month, Rowell said. "There was a lot of turmoil with the financial markets out there and people were sitting and waiting, having as little done as possible," Rowell said. "Consumers realize their home is their biggest, most precious investment, so normal upkeep - roofing, windows, tuck-pointing, general maintenance - went on a steady basis. But people were fence-sitting on remodeling," said Rowell, president of Royal Chimney Service Inc. in Wauwatosa.
Spending increase predicted Milwaukee/NARI doesn't track spending, but Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies predicts this year's remodeling outlays will exceed last year's $101.9 billion, despite declines in other economic sectors. Only rising interest rates could stunt that growth, center analysts predicted in January. Since their forecast, interest rates have fallen. Locally, the home improvement market perked up earlier this month as interest rates dipped and the litany of economic bad news seemed to abate, Rowell said. 'We're seeing a resurgence, with discretionary income being freed up.
We're hearing from people who have had projects on hold, but we're seeing new work generated too," he said. New work is coming from people who could afford to trade up, or build new, but want to stay put and improve, said David R. Pekel. president of Pekel Construction & Remodeling Inc., in Wauwatosa and Mark Brick, president of B & E General Contractors Inc. in Thiensville. "Upscale projects are in high demand - major additions, master bedroom suites, great room additions with kitchen remodels," Brick said. "On a smaller scale, in the under-$100,000 range, we're doing things like putting second-story additions over family rooms."
Bigger budget Even smaller projects tend toward the lavish, noted Carl Krueger of Carl Krueger Construction Inc., 6001 N. 77th St. "A typical bathroom remodel now would be $8,000 to $15,000," about double the price in the late 1990s, Krueger said. "Now they want the whirlpool, the upper-end ceramic tile work, the more elaborate cabinetry, even spatial alterations in the bathroom." Kitchen remodels this year are running $20,000 to $40,000. The high-end price "means Conan or even granite counters, cherry or ash cabinets instead of oak or pine, ceramic tile floors with inlays instead of vinyl, an $800 stainless steel dishwasher instead of a $380 off-the-shelf model," Krueger said. "More and more, I look at these projects and say, 'It's breathtaking.' I think to have someone look at the room and say, 'This is absolutely beautiful' is more and more what people are expecting," he said.
A growing number of customers are abandoning phased improvements for construction extravaganzas, said Pekel. "They figure interest rates are down, and they're going to be here for the long haul - maybe 'til the kids are out of high school, maybe 'til they're pulled out feet first - why not do it all at once?" Pekel said. Wauwatosans Mary and Michael Sylvester are a case in point. With three growing boys, two closets and one leaky basement in their 1912 wood frame two story, something had to give. "We looked around at other houses," said Michael Sylvester.
"The kids were frustrated because they didn't want to leave their friends and neighborhood, and we absolutely love the area. So it came down to location, location, location." Instead of moving, they chose basement repair and an 800-square-foot $75,000 house expansion, adding a bedroom, a mudroom, a half-bath, a fireplace, more kitchen and basement space and three more closets. Pekel's crew started the work in March, with expected completion in August. "It's cold, since there's only thin plywood between us and the outside on one side of the house," said Mary Sylvester. "And even though the house is closed up, dirt is always getting in. But it's exciting. You see changes every day."
Lesser expense Some new remodeling work is coming from new home shoppers who want to make a more conservative move, Rowell said. "They're still not sure about the markets, but they don't want their money to sit idle. They're not going to build a $500,000 house at this point, but maybe they'll go with a $30,000 remodeling job. They know if they plan smart, center on something like a bath or kitchen remodel, it will be a pretty safe investment, should they choose to build in the next year or two," he said.