Americans Diving Into Debt to Make Home Improvements

There’s something a little strange going on in the home improvement industry.

According to a study from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), nationwide spending on home improvements could break the $324 billion record, but it seems that people aren’t spending their money on it.

Instead, homeowners are borrowing. They’re not sinking into debt. They’re plunging headfirst.

“Consumers are increasingly putting money back into their homes,” said Todd Nelson, a business development officer with SunTrust Bank’s online lending unit LightStream. “This is good for the economy and the home-improvement industry overall.”

However, it may not be all that great for the homeowners, or their finances.

According to a new survey by SunTrust, about 57% of the some 1,300 homeowners surveyed plan to invest $5,000 to $10,000 or more on home improvements this year, not unlike last year. However, the amount of people willing to put the whole cost of the project on their credit cards has jumped from 21% to 30% this year.

It’s also worth noting that these projects are not all that small. MarketWatch reports that contractors have seen a demand for bigger home-improvement projects. Kathi Fleck, co-owner of Lonestar Property Solutions remodeling company, told MarketWatch that more and more of her customers are beginning to ask for bigger projects, such as kitchen remodels, which can cost up to $60,000.

Although only a fraction of consumers (8%) who borrow do so with the intent to increase their property value and re-sell their property, it’s still a wise idea for these homeowners to make the most cost-effective improvements. According to the National Association of Retailers’ 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, replacing a fiberglass or wooden front-entry door with one made of steel had a return on investment (ROI) of 101.8%, and replacing a garage door generates an 88.4% ROI.

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