The “Consumer Sentiment Tracking Study,” published quarterly by the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), surveys homeowners on a variety of remodeling-related topics.

In addition to gauging general opinion on a variety of large-scale issues (see chart, below), the questionnaire taken by homeowners asks specific questions about plans for home improvement projects, including who will be involved in the work and what kind of project it will be.

Source: Home Improvement Research Institute

So, for instance, while the most recent release of the data confirms what everyone already knows — that demand for remodeling is down nationwide from last year — it also shows that the downturn is happening across the board. In other words, no specific project is being affected significantly more or less than others, with the exception of landscaping and fencing, which are more popular in 2008 than they were in 2007. Additionally, absent any highly specific local anomalies, none of the nine regions of the country as defined by the Census is substantially “hotter” or “cooler” than any other. The questionnaire also focuses on what causes homeowners to undertake home improvement projects, by cross-tabbing the attitude ratings in the chart below with responses to questions about projects that were planned. The biggest driver for the 41,586 homeowners interviewed during the first three months of this year was that it was a good time to invest in their home.

The full data from the current study, as well as access to future releases every quarter, is available to HIRI members at The study itself has been around since 2002, but the methodology has recently changed to focus more on plans for specific areas of the house, rather than overall home improvement spending.

Figure This

Portion of baby boomers who earn less than $50,000 annually who are likely to buy environmentally safe brands, the highest of any other income group
Source: AARP/Focalyst

$396.6 billion
Estimated losses due to investments in subprime loans and securities. In June, two former Bear Stearns hedge fund managers became the first to be indicted on fraud charges related to the subprime collapse
Source: Wire reports

$1 billion
Estimated total losses caused by mortgage fraud cases currently under investigation
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

May increase in the index of leading economic indicators, the third consecutive monthly increase after five months of decline
Source: The Conference Board

Homeowners who report that a contractor asked them out on a date; 2% say a contractor napped on their bed or couch
Source: Kimberly-Clark Professional/ Opinion Research