The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 11, 2013

While men seek deer, women now go hunting for tools

POINT BLANK: By John Blankenship

— Jack may be out scouting for whitetail deer, but Jill is on a power trip of her own.

Many stay-at-home moms are no longer sitting in front of the TV waiting for the hubbies to bring home the bacon, or venison, whichever the case may be.

A number of them are roaming the aisles of Lowe’s and Walmart looking for the perfect cordless power drill, electric saw and maybe even a power sander.

“I’m tired of using my husband’s old tools or borrowing them from a neighbor,” explained one Grandview woman while replacing a toilet and sink at her home. “If I’m going to be doing the work around the house, then I want my own tools. I want ones that work for me.”

So move over Mr. Fix-it. Women do-it-yourselfers are nailing the home improvement scene. Stores once typically regarded as a man’s domain now estimate that about half of all purchases are made by women.

Earlier this year, an Ace Hardware survey of 1,000 U.S. homeowners found that in 62 percent of the households, the women in the family were at least partially responsible for completing home repairs and projects.

“In the past, women’s home projects usually leaned toward decor-wallpapering, painting and things like that. But today they’re getting into hardcore repair,” a spokesperson for a local lumber company reported recently. “Women today are fixing leaky faucets, changing toilets, repairing sheet rock and installing ceiling fans.”

In other words, women are making home repairs themselves.

The trend is partly due to demographics. Single women make up the second largest group of home buyers after couples, according to the National Association of Realtors. And with home ownership comes home improvement.

There’s also the cost factor. Hiring a contractor or handyman for every repair or project can get very expensive.

And then there are those women who are simply tired of waiting for someone else to do it.

“A lot of women have given up on their husbands or significant others ever getting around to these things,” explained one clerk at Lowe’s in Beckley. “Women are doing everything else today. Why not fix the plumbing or lay the tile floor yourself.”

Although not created specifically for women, an increasing number of hand and power tools are lighter in weight, have more comfortable handle design and “just seem to lend themselves to women more than others,” one local hardware store manager explained.

He added, “Women don’t want some wimpy kind of tool. They want something that packs some power. Like anyone else, they just want the right tool for the job”

And now, with the dry autumn days upon us, it’s a good time to think about remodeling or improving your home.

A number of surveys and reports indicate that home values once again are on the rise, and borrowing costs are low.

In short, it’s a good time to make some major changes around the house.

The median home price is about $150,000, up about 6 percent from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. Mortgage rates on 30-year loans, meanwhile, are averaging about 7 percent.

For many homeowners, that’s the perfect combination for tapping home equity to finance a big project.

Even if some homeowners haven’t built up enough equity yet, they can still afford to think big, some experts say.

Think big, but don’t go overboard. The best reason to add a deck is because you like them — not just to boost the future sale price of your home.

Just about any kind of improvements, however, will affect your ultimate sale price, mostly for the good.

Naturally, some kinds of upgrades have greater home-price boosting power than others.

Remodeling magazines on the newsstands identify kitchen and bathroom upgrades as offering the most bangs for the buck.

On average, a homeowner should recoup 80 percent of the outlay on either project if the house is sold a year after the improvements are made, surveys show.

Even so, the economic trade-offs in home improvement can be decisively complicated.

Therefore, it is important to consider your risk. Home prices are edging upward, but when the time comes to sell your improved home, will you be selling to the local or national market?

A home improvement changes the look or character of your house. And a new roof, foundation repair, modernizing plumbing and wiring will assure your home remains standing for the next generation.


Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a reporter for The Register-Herald.