There’s no shortage of tasks to do and projects to tackle as a homeowner. From necessary repairs big and small (cracks in the ceiling, roof repair, appliance repair, and more) to renovation projects (kitchen and bathroom remodeling, among others), many homeowners are trying to make their houses more than just a place to live—they’re trying to turn them into homes that are a source of shelter, security, comfort, enjoyment, and perhaps most importantly, a sense of belonging.
Homeowners invested more in maintenance than improvement in 2023. Home buying cooled as mortgage rates rose. Paired with a low housing stock, many current homeowners opted to make the best of their homes. Small changes such as swapping cabinets for open shelves and trendy improvements to curb appeal made a difference in the feel of homes while potentially increasing home value for a future sale. Energy-efficiency upgrades through government programs helped homeowners save money in the long term. Even people living in older homes made the most out of their abodes by investing in more modern systems and amenities instead of buying newer constructions. And many aspiring homeowners disenchanted by the housing market took matters into their own hands by building their dream homes in places where it is cheaper to build than buy. One thing many homeowners had in common in 2023 was the ability, desire, and determination to get creative.
To celebrate a year in home improvement, we pored over the nearly 30,000 projects across 400 categories BobVila.com readers hired for in 2023. From the most popular projects across the country to some surprising new changes you are making to your homes, we’re laying it all out. Who knows: Maybe this will inspire your home improvement aspirations in 2024.
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- California, Texas, and Florida dominated as the top three states that made the most requests overall for quotes for professional home improvement projects, with New York and Illinois rounding out the top five.
- Of nearly 30,000 projects, pest control took the biggest share with 1,700 requests for a pro. Appliance repair and mold and toxicity testing or remediation took second and third place, respectively.
- The most popular projects revolved around addressing problems that are tough to ignore for long periods of time.
- Climate played a huge role in determining not only some of the most popular projects, but also which states made the most inquiries. Specifically, above-average precipitation rates appeared to be the top determining factor for who made those inquiries, and the month in which they were made.
- The housing market isn’t expected to experience major shifts next year. For that reason, it’s expected that 2024 home improvement projects will center around relatively low-investment, high-return projects that allow current homeowners to enjoy the space they’re in.
To determine the popularity of projects in 2023, we reviewed how our readers have engaged with our content from January 2023 through December 2023 thus far. We defined “popularity” by focusing on topics with a higher-than-average number of readers, clicks to our vetted and recommended professionals, and even direct bookings made through our links. We also considered external official reports and studies.
The Top 5 Most Popular Projects of 2023
1. Pest Control
Homeowners across the country were united in having one very pesky problem: pests.
Pest control claimed the top spot as the most popular project for homeowners, with over 1,700 requests for service, comprising 7.5 percent of all pro quote requests. Surprisingly, small animals were the biggest nuisance over the likes of rodents, insects, bed bugs, and termites. Maybe this is related to the armadillo’s migration north, but there are plenty of other small animals that can wreak havoc on a lawn or garden.
California was the state that came out on top with the most requests for service. Texas and Pennsylvania were distant runners up. Pennsylvania may seem like a surprise contender for the unsavory honor, but both Terminix and Orkin named Philadelphia as one of the most bed bug–infested cities (with the metro area claiming the number one and three spots, respectively).
2. Appliance Repair
There were well over 1,000 requests for repair or service for appliances of all types and sizes. With appliances universally present in modern homes, it’s unsurprising that requests for repair took a top spot in our ranking, and that the states with the most requests correlate with population size: California, Florida, and Texas were the top three states by number of requests. Appliance repair costs can vary significantly from project to project, and they depend on the issue and the type of appliance, among other factors. However, there’s no getting around the project if the appliance is essential in the day-to-day functioning of the household.
3. Mold and Toxicity Testing or Remediation
There were over 900 requests for mold testing or remediation. Mold is an issue that is typically best tackled by a pro, especially if the extent of the problem is beyond the scope of the homeowner and DIY cleaners. Mold may not be visible, but a home’s occupants can experience health issues connected to mold. Mold testing is usually the first line of defense before remediation. As with pests and appliance issues, once the problem is identified, it’s hard to ignore, so remediation is often the next step. California, Florida, and Texas were the top three states in terms of number of quote requests for mold and toxicity testing and remediation.
Florida’s humid climate correlates with its ranking. Texas experiences strong hurricanes and therefore also often experiences flooding and water damage, which can lead to mold issues. However, California is considered to have a typically drier climate, making its ranking in the top three states for mold testing and remediation more surprising.
California saw record precipitation levels and intense storms, making 2023 one of the wettest in the state’s history, according to The New York Times. This year was considered to be highly unusual, with a year’s worth of rain falling in just 24 hours in Death Valley, courtesy of Hurricane Hilary, among other weather events. And where there’s moisture, there’s likely to be mold growth and damage. These events likely helped cement California’s ranking.
4. General Contractor for Major Home Repairs
BobVila.com readers made almost 400 requests for quotes from general contractors for major home repairs. Florida and Texas led the way with the most requests for quotes from a general contractor for a major home repair, followed by North Carolina.
In Florida, these requests picked up starting in June before dropping off in September. A few key factors likely played into this trend. First, the summer months are typically the best time for many to take on big projects, as it’s a less-busy season for families with children and the weather is agreeable. However, some adverse events may have played key roles, notably the news of homeowners insurance companies pulling out of the state due to risk. In July alone, two major companies, Farmers and AAA, announced that they would no longer be renewing or offering new homeowners insurance policies in Florida. Because homeowners insurance rates are dependent on many factors, including the health of a home’s structure, it’s possible that this news spurred many homeowners in a bind to make the necessary repairs to their homes in the hopes of getting a policy with an affordable rate from a new insurer. Finally, it’s also likely that some later-summer home repairs were made post-Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall on August 30, 2023. A similar scenario is likely playing out in Texas and North Carolina, where homeowners insurance premiums have risen anywhere from 20 to 30 percent since January 2022, according to Axios.
5. Foundation, Basement, or Crawl Space Waterproofing or Encapsulation
Waterproofing a home is an essential task to prevent some of the worst types of damage to a home, including flooding, water damage, mold growth, and structural damage. So it’s no surprise that New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio ranked as the top three states for quote requests for foundation, basement, or crawl space waterproofing projects—these states saw record-setting rainfall in 2023.
In New York, the majority of these requests were made in July and October: July 2023 was one of the wettest Julys on record (with rainfall amounting to 6.6 inches, compared to the mean of 3.8 inches), according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. October requests for quotes for foundation, basement, or crawl space waterproofing likely stemmed from September 2023’s heavy rainfall in the New York City area, which experienced heavy flooding due to Hurricane Idalia (the event, among other storms, made September 2023 the fourth-wettest month in New York history, according to The Weather Channel). Sure enough, most of October’s quote requests came from residents in New York City and its surrounding areas.
According to the same NOAA database, Massachusetts experienced a wetter-than-average year in 2023, receiving 50.79 inches of rain total compared to the 40.80-inch mean. Conversely, Ohio experienced a relatively dry year overall, but higher-than-average precipitation occurred in July and August, which correlates with the fact that the majority of the quotes for these projects were made in August 2023.
By and large, it’s no surprise which projects came with the most requests for quotes. But as we pored over the projects readers tackled this year, we came across some head-scratchers.
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The states that made the most quote requests were…
…California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Illinois.
The metro area that requested the most quotes was…
…Chicago, Illinois; top projects were pest control for bugs and insects and appliance repair. Houston, Texas, earns second place: Appliance repair was the top project, followed by major home repairs and home theater system repair.
The most popular home upgrade was…
…Pool building. There are many types of pools to choose from, as well as materials. Pool building can cost anywhere from $700 to $125,000 or more, and the national average is around $36,000, making this project a serious financial commitment. There’s value to building a pool, including health and entertainment benefits as well as increased home value. Most inquiries around pool building came from California and Florida, where the climate is warm and pools can be enjoyed during much of the year.
The real estate market was tough on hopeful homeowners, but they found a solution.
Aspiring homeowners looked to build custom homes and modular homes, particularly in Florida, North Carolina, and Texas. In these states, the cost to build is typically lower than the median home price, and they offer proximity to large metro areas while also having land available for sale. Weather is also warmer in those states than in many parts of the country, which offers additional incentive to make those areas home base. However, climate change and extreme weather remain a concern, making it essential for these new builds to be outfitted accordingly.
Remodels, builds, and replacements were overshadowed by repairs.
It can be difficult to know when to repair or replace a home system or a home feature without knowing the signs to look for. Replacements are also typically more costly than repairs, so it’s no surprise that most homeowners most often opted for the latter. There were, however, a few cases where the opposite was true; installations and replacements were more popular than repairs for the following home features:
- Water treatment and purification systems;
- Water heaters; and
The breakout project of the year was…
…EV charger installation, which is growing at a rapid pace. It was the top project of September 2023, reflecting an increase in electric vehicle purchases.
The award for the business with the most youthful customers goes to…
…The Washington state business that wanted to install outdoor play equipment.
We hope this person got the pro help they needed.
One Texas reader requested a quote for professional assistance from a locksmith for a vehicle.
And finally, the award for the most interesting project goes to…
…The one Texas reader who inquired about installing a barbed wire fence.
Our 2024 Predictions for the Most Popular Projects
It’s inevitable that 2024’s most popular projects, like those in 2023, will reflect economic circumstances, the pace of the housing market, and climate change and events, among other factors. The top five projects of this year are projects that aren’t the most DIY-friendly, and the top three hold their positions because of the necessity and urgency in the response to the issues at hand. We expect little change in those rankings, if any; in fact, it would be surprising to see an optional remodel or build crack the top five. Repairs will also likely continue to take up the largest share of the total number of project quote requests.
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The Federal Reserve recently announced that interest rates would hold, and many experts (including those at the Mortgage Bankers Association) are predicting that there will be modest decreases in mortgage interest rates into 2025. However, this may not be enough to offset similarly modest reductions in home prices. The housing stock may not see significant shifts, either, according to predictions by Goldman Sachs (via Newsweek).
Goldman Sachs housing forecast 👇 pic.twitter.com/MS49AbLuPF
— Lance Lambert (@NewsLambert) December 13, 2023
If predictions are correct, we’re unlikely to see any increase in quote requests for projects that are the most common to take on after buying a home, such as exterior painting. Other factors such as high interest rates and high material costs will likely also contribute to a slight decrease in overall spending in the home improvement market, per the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA). Big, costly projects are also likely to be downsized. For example, we may see fewer kitchen remodels but more cabinet refacing or countertop replacements. Interior painting projects might be confined to one or two rooms and not cover the whole house.
We expect to see an overall increase in the number of inquiries around projects that have the highest impact on homeowner satisfaction and return on investment (ROI), as well as a relatively low impact on the homeowner’s wallet. These projects may include small painting projects and curb appeal upgrades such as front door replacement or repair and landscaping or lawn care. Finally, homeowners looking to save money in the long term and reduce their carbon footprint may look to make their homes more energy efficient, whether that means installing solar panels or replacing insulation. Finally, homeowners with a penchant for leveraging the latest technology will look to install smart-home systems.
Tip: Whatever your renovation or remodeling project, there are many ways to finance your homeownership dreams. Consider taking out one of the best home equity loans from banks such as U.S. Bank. or Flagstar.
Whatever the home improvement industry looks like in 2024, current and prospective homeowners know that any investment is a gamble. High costs and unfavorable economic conditions can make it seem as if turning a house into a home is an out-of-reach goal. But the right investments, patience, and perhaps a little dip into DIY can help you make significant headway toward achieving your goals. Those uncertain of their DIY skills can turn to handy and comprehensive guides; for the less ambitious in that realm, requesting quotes from top local professionals is a fantastic first step (and it doesn’t require commitment to the project). Comparing quotes and speaking with seasoned home improvement experts can give you a good idea of what to expect, help you feel confident in your decisions, and empower you as a homeowner.
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