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I'm not much into New Year's resolutions because I've never been able to stick to any of them. That doesn't mean I've never resolved to change my life in one way or another. It simply means that putting too much emphasis on a starting date has always been doomed to failure.

For example, I gave up smoking 28 years ago, but that happened in September, not on Jan. 1. I decided to leave editing and return to writing when I turned 40, but that happened in the spring, not on New Year's Eve.

I guess it's another thing that keeps me out of the social mainstream. A lot of people are in the process of making resolutions as you read this, and there are those who make a living trying to determine whether there are any patterns to be discerned.

For example, myGoals.com, a website that gauges how people set and reaching personal and professional goals, has come up with predictions for 2007 based on the goals that were posted on the site during the third quarter.

What myGoals.com found was a decrease in goals related to buying real estate such as homes, second homes, and investment properties. This trend, however, is offset by a corresponding increase in goals related to home improvement.

"It's just like what the economists tell us," said Greg Helmstetter, CEO of myGoals.com. "When people stop buying houses, they concentrate on improving the house they've already got."

Last year, 30 percent of all real estate-related goals were to buy a home, while 45 percent were to improve a home. This year, only 9 percent of real estate goals involved to buying a home, while a whopping 64 percent will involve improving a home.

While home improvement is typically a form of financial investment, as a goal category, it includes some benefits that are not unlike those seen in goals related to personal growth, according to Helmstetter.

"Improving your home -- whether you do it with your own two hands or hire professionals -- can be an extremely challenging and rewarding experience," he said.

"It's a very creative process, always involves learning, and results in happiness and other tangible benefits that will surround you every day for years to come. All in all, putting money, hard work, and love into your home is not only good for the home, it's good for the family and good for the soul."

My family would probably disagree that it was completely good for them based on their experience with me over 25 years.

Resolutions about home improvement reflect reality. Remodeling activity picked up in the third quarter of 2006, according to the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI). The current market conditions index increased from 45.6 to 47.8 on a seasonally adjusted basis and future expectations moved up by nearly two points to 45.4. The RMI measures remodeler perceptions of market demand for current and future residential remodeling projects.

"Though market strength varies across the country, we are pleased to see a rebound in remodeling activity," said Remodelors Council Chairman Vince Butler. "The trillions of dollars in homeowner equity combined with the growing age of the housing stock means that the remodeling market will remain relatively strong in the face of a slower housing market."

Current market conditions in the South and West jumped back into the positive range, up to 51.1 and 51.4, respectively. The future market conditions in both areas increased by more than six points to 50.4 in the South and 56.8 in the West. In the Northeast, current market conditions remained the same at 46.6 while future conditions increased to 47.7. Current conditions in the Midwest grew from 41.3 to 45.4 while future conditions moved from 40.6 to 38.3.

The RMI component for owner-occupied units increased from 49.0 to 51.4 in the third quarter, while the component for renter-occupied units decreased slightly from 39.0 to 38.8 during the same period. In the future expectations index, the component for owner-occupied units moved from 47.2 to 45.0 and the renter-occupied component jumped dramatically from 28.8 to 37.1. Rental-property remodeling accounts for a third of all remodeling expenditures.

"While growth of remodeling activity slowed as new home construction has declined, we still anticipate a strong year in the remodeling market," said NAHB Chief Economist Dave Seiders. "We currently forecast $233 billion in home remodeling spending for 2006, up from $215 in 2005."

The RMI "special questions" section asked about energy efficiency and "green" remodeling trends. Of remodeling companies surveyed, 25 percent saw an increase in demand for energy features within the last three months, compared with 69 percent who saw no change. Of common energy-saving materials installed within the last three months, the most popular were low-energy windows (86 percent), insulated exterior doors (69 percent), upgraded insulation (65 percent), and ceiling fans (59 percent). Overall, 62 percent of remodeling companies use recycled or recyclable products in remodeled homes.

So if you're considering a resolution you might be able to keep, head for the home center. Most of them are open early New Year's Day.

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