Americans spent $198.6 billion on remodeling projects last year according to the U.S. Census Bureau, up from $176.9 in 2003 and the largest increase in more than a decade, the National Association of Home Builders announced today.

Remodeling expenditures in 2004 were up 12.3 percent from 2003.

“A combination of increased home sales, more owner equity and low refinance rates all contributed to the tremendous growth last year,” said Don Novak, chairman of the NAHB Remodelors Council. The council, founded in 1982, represents the 14,000 remodeling industry members of the builders’ trade group and has 160 local councils in 43 states.

The council forecasts continued growth in remodeling activity, with a projected $209 billion in remodeling spending this year, up 6.3 percent from 2004.

Owner-occupied properties saw a major increase in remodeling spending, at $143.4 billion in 2004 versus $119.9 billion in 2003. At the same time, spending on renter-occupied properties decreased slightly in 2004, down to $55.1 billion from $57 billion, the association reported.

“Because of rising home prices, homeowners are more willing than ever to invest in their homes,” said Dave Seiders, NAHB chief economist. “We see this as a continuing trend for several years to come.”

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