Floor and roof upgrades stretch contractors in Maine housing boom

Contractors got busier during the pandemic as homeowners expanded remodeling projects to help sell their house or make one they own more livable, a national study released Wednesday found.

Homebound owners found time to make repairs or add a home office or other space during the pandemic. Refinishing hardwood floors and putting on a new roof were among the projects that added the most return on investment and homeowner satisfaction after completion, the study by the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry said.

Americans spent $420 billion in 2020 on home remodeling projects, with 83 percent saying they would have renovated even without the pandemic. The numbers are driving strong demand for contractors of all types in Maine and stretching their booking dates out for months.

DG Floor Sanding in Bangor is already booking jobs into late September, owner David Garcia said. He has clients who are staying in their home and those who are either selling or have just purchased a property.

“Floors help improve the aesthetics,” he said.

The national study found that a $3,400 hardwood floor refinish brought the most payback value, with owners able to recover 147 percent of their investment. Still, only 22 percent of realtors surveyed recommended refinishing floors before selling a home because many will buy as is.

Redoing floors and hardware may be worthwhile if they are in terrible shape because they can be done relatively inexpensively, Jeffrey England, a broker with Coldwell Banker in Portland, said. Having hardwood floors to begin with rather than having to rip up carpet can make a big difference to a buyer.

“It’s always nice to show somebody with a new pair of shoes versus scuffed shoes,” he said.

Fixing the roof is a functional rather than a cosmetic choice, and can affect whether a buyer can get a home loan. Roof problems are a big turnoff to buyers because they can cost $12,000 to $20,000 to replace, a lot of money for someone with a new mortgage, he said. Sellers should replace them if they can afford it.

Roofing is always in high demand, David Deschaine of David J. Deschaine Roofing and Siding in South Portland said. His team can install a roof in one day, weather permitting, which is a much shorter time than the week needed to refinish floors or even more time to redo a kitchen.

Gary Zaremba comes down a ladder after being on the roof of a house he oversees while they replace the roof on Oct. 7, 2020, in Dayton, Ohio. Credit: Aaron Doster / AP

Some upgrades, such as kitchens, were popular among homeowners who wanted to replace worn surfaces or add features, but with an average price tag of $45,000, owners only see a 67 percent return on investment. England said it is hard to put in a new kitchen to sell the house because you might pick the wrong kitchen for the buyer.

The fix recommended the most — by 48 percent of real estate agents — is painting the inside of the house, which can be done inexpensively by the owner to give the home a fresh, clean look.

But owners do not have to make a lot of changes to sell a home in Maine’s hot real estate market, where properties are snapped up as soon as they are listed. That leaves buyers doing the necessary work to make it livable after they have spent all the money they have to buy the home, Kim McManus, a broker with Realty One Group Compass in Auburn, said.

“Buyers know that they’re paying top dollar, it may need fixes and there are no contractors to do the fixes,” Renee Hudgens, a broker at Realty of Maine in Bangor, said.