Building material dealers surveyed last year about their 2013 revenue prospects now report they underestimated their likely growth, just-released results from a follow-up survey by Hanley Wood reveals. And that latter poll suggests continued optimism for 2014.
Dealers as a group topped builders, architects, and remodelers in terms of their expected growth numbers for both 2013 and 2014, according to results from the poll of 2,000 building industry people nationwide conducted for ProSales' parent company. The results were released Sept. 25 in Chicago at Hanley Wood's Foundations Conference, where economists for the company also predicted the number of starts would rise 23% next year to nearly 1.2 million while the number of "pro worthy" remodeling jobs would increase 7% to 11.6 million.
"Get over it. The housing recession is over," Hanley Wood vice chairman Frank Anton declared.
Most dealers know that already. When surveyed last year, 68% predicted revenue would grow in 2013, and 36% of the total forecast gains of at least 10%. But when asked this year to update those forecasts, 81% now say they expect revenue will rise this year, and 50% said the gains will top 10 percentage points.
For 2014, dealers were slightly more optimistic. Eighty-three percent of the group surveyed forecast revenue gains, and once again half forecast increases of at least 10%.
The survey also revealed a shift in dealers' perceived growth opportunities away from remodeling and toward commercial, custom, and big builders.
In 2013, work for repair and remodel crews emerged as the top growth opportunity, getting cited by 62% of all dealers asked. This year, only 53% of respondents listed this category.
Custom builders moved to the top of the list of growth prospects, named by 57% of dealers, up from 43% in 2013. The custom crowd was followed in the rankings by commercial work (45% in 2014, up from 38% in 2013), production builders (32%, up from 20%), and multifamily projects for sales (20%, up from 13%). The only other category besides remodeling for which prospects diminished was the multifamily-for-rent sector; that slid to 16% from 21%.
Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Hanley Wood's Metrostudy data unit, gave dealers plenty of reason to feel bullish when he predicted construction spending on new single-family homes would grow 57% in 2014 to total $304.9 billion. Average home sizes are topping those in 2007, he added.
Both Anton and Smoke noted that home prices are increasing, so to justify those price hikes new-home builders need to put higher-quality products into the houses. Higher quality usually means higher pricetags, so that trend also should contribute to revenue gains.