Home Improvements Rise as Home Sales Fall

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As interest rates rise and residential real estate sales slow down, homeowners are pumping more money into remodeling and renovation projects, boosting business for local contractors and the suppliers of building products.

With such a skimpy housing inventory, many homeowners have opted to improve their existing properties by installing new windows and siding, expanding interior storage space, adding new kitchen countertops or cabinets, or even brightening up their houses with a fresh coat of paint.

“The trend is getting the most out of the space they [the customers] have because of rising costs and the home situation,” says Matthew Brown, owner of Absolutely Custom Closets and Home Solutions LLC of Canfield.

The company personalizes home storage options, including closets, pantries, laundry rooms, mud rooms and garages. The business opened in 2020 and serves northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Brown says his company serves approximately 200 customers each year.

Homeowners are looking for the best way to organize space, he says, and preferences include custom build-ins, drawers, wardrobe lifts and other features to make items more accessible.

“We personalize the storage options in the room to really maximize every inch they have,” he says.

Brown says the growth of the business and demand for the products has been exponential.

“Storage and organization is a $12 billion a year industry,” he says. “It’s nice to be a part of that.”

Unlike other businesses, Brown is no longer facing supply issues. “All of the supply issues seem to have been corrected at this point,” he says.


Sales of single-family homes have steadily dropped over the past year, while the remodeling and renovation industry has enjoyed a steady increase in business, data show.

According to Ohio Realtors, home sales in February 2023 reached 8,032, a 13.5% drop from the 9,284 sales recorded the same time a year ago.

Simultaneously, the country’s remodeling market is on the upswing. According to Green Builder Media, the U.S. remodeling industry grew by 7% to $306 billion in 2022 compared with the previous year. The largest share of this market – $193 billion – was dedicated to residential improvement projects.

Gina Schumer, marketing director for Window World, says demand for windows remains strong as more people opt for home improvements rather than moving. “We have seen a steady increase since 2019 and some of the best double-digit yearly increases that we have ever seen,” she says.

Window World installs replacement windows, entry doors, vinyl siding and almost any improvements that could be made to the exterior of a house.

Window World is headquartered in Youngstown and owned by Fred and Pat Moran. They also operate locations in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Akron, Detroit, Toledo and Weirton, West Virginia.

White windows are a consistent staple, Schumer says. There is also a high demand for black exterior and interior windows and higher quality vinyl siding.

“Our siding sales have taken a huge jump over the years, and that is with insulated siding,” she says.

Schumer says trends evolve over the years.

“It’s not trends like having colors and exterior colors,” she says. “They have a lot more longevity. They don’t change year to year. But colors of homes, for instance, if you look at older homes from the 1980s, the neutral and tans were big. Now people are getting away from tans and go towards either white or darker colors.”

While demand is good for the company, it still faces supply chain issues. Manufacturing delays and higher costs, and the rising costs of financing have all affected the company.

“Last year we had two [manufacturing cost] increases,” Schumer says. “It’s definitely an issue.”

Other challenges stem from the lack of skilled labor.

“We have seen issues in the past with installers. But fortunately for us our installer pool has increased due to the fact that we stayed busy,” she says. “A lot of people are coming our way, so we no longer have installer issues.”

Window World products come from specific manufactures that are Window World branded. While the local company doesn’t have issues with raw materials directly, Schumer says the problems trickle down.

“A lot of it isn’t necessarily getting the raw materials anymore,” she says. “It’s more labor [to produce the windows].”

Since the company was able to add installers, Schumer says it is keeping up with the growing demand.

“Our lead times have come down over the past six months quite a bit,” she says.


David Raspanti, co-owner and president of Rockwood Painting Contractors in Poland, says his business is a second generation, family-owned painting contractor that specializes in residential and light commercial work.

Rockwood does interior and exterior paint jobs, drywall repair, plaster repair and wallpaper installation.

Raspanti says the typical residential repaint cycle is five to eight years. This year, he’s noticing “a diversified color outlook,” he says.

“Usually manufacturers are going in the same direction. This year, what I have seen is a divergence from having one color of the year per manufacturer. Instead, each manufacturer is going with a curated palette of colors – something for everyone’s taste.”

In this way, Raspanti says it is a move toward more of a collection as opposed to a singular color. A lot of times this means more “milky pastel” and warmer neutral colors, he says.

“Whether they were off-whites or grays, they are moving to warmer colors,” he says. “That would mean having brown, orange, red or yellow colors.”

Raspanti says they are also seeing layering of off-whites where there are changes in texture or gloss levels.

“Digital color tools are improving,” he says. “That has been a constant trend.”

These digital tools allow major manufacturers to swap out different colors in predesignated rooms. Customers can simply upload a digital image of their actual room and apply a specific color to sample what the space would look like before applying any paint on the walls.

“We also have digital color matching tools,” he says.

Another trend that Raspanti says he sees is the use of “accent walls” where part of the wall is a different color to add a color pop effect. He says customers often choose wallpaper for that accent wall.

“The cost of raw materials has gone up, the cost of delivery has gone up,  and so has the cost of paint,” Raspanti says.


Thomas Brenkert, who co-owns Custom Counter Top & Kitchens in Cortland with partner Robert Knepper, says despite the challenges others were facing, the company has  not experienced many supply issues.

Tom Brenkert and Robert Knepper stand inside their Custom Counter Top & Kitchens showroom in Cortland.

The business does laminate countertop manufacturing and other countertop sales such as solid surfaces, granite and quartz. Brenkert says they offer installation services on everything they sell.

“We also sell kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, vinyl flooring, tile backsplash – most home renovation kitchen things,” he says.

Brenkert says he has been doing home renovations for about 15 years. The business serves Trumbull County and some parts of Ashtabula and Mahoning counties.

“A big thing that has been trending probably the last five years is LVT [luxury vinyl tile] floor vinyl click-in,” he says. “It’s a cost effective and very durable product. That has been a big seller.”

As far as countertops, Brenkert says trends go through spurts.

“People want grays and blacks,” he says. “It is kind of trending more towards warmer colors as of right now – tans, beiges and things like that.”

Brenkert says the company hasn’t noticed any real supply chain issues, and business has been consistent.

“We have two guys that kind of sub with us and help with installs because there are just the two of us,” he says. “We see expanding a little bit more by the end of the year.”

Pictured at top: Matthew Brown, owner of Absolutely Custom Closets and Home Solutions LLC, in front of a model closet.