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Remodeling industry not crumbling amid virus

Although expenditures for home improvements to the owner-occupied housing are anticipated to decline in most of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas this year, local building contractors hope that won’t be the case here.

“With the pandemic exacerbating localized slowdowns in house prices, existing home sales and homebuilding, many metros will see even more pronounced erosion of home renovation activity this year,” Abbe Will, associate project director in the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, said in a statement. “The largest remodeling spending declines are not isolated to any one region, but are projected to occur in markets throughout the country.”

Jim Brown, owner of J.R. Brown Construction, Hollidaysburg, said he doesn’t see the pandemic having a major impact on area contractors.

“Blair County and all of the central Pennsylvania area have always had a very strong remodeling market, so I don’t see a sudden or significant impact on home improvement projects in the short term,” he said. “We have been in business for 30 years and have weathered 9/11, the Great Recession and many other major events. So long term, I could see a downturn, especially if there is a resurgence of the virus in the winter months. However, we have continued to see a high demand with our business over the past few years, so even if there was a slight downturn in consumer spending, I don’t foresee that it would have much of an impact.”

Brown said his business has been impacted by the pandemic.

“We had to lay our employees off for six weeks. This will certainly put us somewhat behind in scheduling. As we move forward, we are working to maintain the safety of our staff and customers. We are following the guidance set forth by the state by maintaining social distancing, providing hand-washing stations, wearing masks, etc. Time will tell how the shutdown will impact our supply chain and pricing, but having been an established part of the business community for so long, we will more than likely be less impacted than some of our smaller and lesser-known members of the building and construction community,” Brown said.

Mark Metz, president and owner of Metz Builders Inc., Hollidaysburg, said he was shut down from March 19 until May 1.

“During that time we had virtually no activity — a complete shutdown. Now that the shutdown has been lifted, we are continuing with projects that we had started and starting a new home that was under contract. We continue to work on some new home designs to start possibly later this year along with some requests for remodeling,” Metz said. “My hope is that the construction industry locally will quickly return as long as we continue to have good news on the recovery from the pandemic.”

Donald Delozier, owner of Donald C. Delozier Inc., Hollidaysburg, said he also was shut down for about six weeks and has a backlog of about two months.

“It takes awhile to gear up. I don’t think money will be a problem for a while. People have their stimulus checks — there is a lot of pent up demand. I should have had a half dozen projects started by now. Labor and supplies will be the problems. Contractors were screwed up by the unemployment,” Delozier said. “People laid off don’t want to go back to work because of the unemployment.”

“I feel the governor has really dropped the ball on efforts to provide unemployment compensation to affected individuals,” Brown said. “This lack of confidence in our leaders will definitely impact consumer spending if we go through another shutdown, or anything similar to what has taken place already.”

Delozier said there was a lot of work done during the shutdown as a result of various types of waivers or emergency repairs.

Aaron Byler, owner of Byler Builders, Roaring Spring, said he was able to keep working.

“I was fortunate. I did a metal roof project in the city of Altoona. The city worked with me, and I got an exemption to finish the job. I also did a remodeling job at Ivyside Estates and got a waiver to complete that project. It was a headache at time, but we haven’t skipped a beat. We were fortunate,” Byler said. “I have to thank the customers. Most customers wouldn’t have gone that far; they would have decided to wait. We have a lot of work lined up, and we will be busy for a while.”

Jeffrey Wolfe, co-owner of Dawson & Wolfe Con­struction Inc., Duncansville, has some concerns.

“Some people are a little hesitant to spend their money and have people in their homes. We’ve been lucky, our customers are staying with us, The phone has been ringing. We are getting a lot of calls and are in a pretty good situation. Two or three customers didn’t say no, but said they are going to wait,” Wolfe said. “It will have an impact, there are so many contractors in town there will be a lot more competition for jobs. I do expect to be busy. I can’t say it won’t impact us, but we will still have a decent year. It will not be that bad.”

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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