Remodelers could see their backlogs begin to grow in the next several seasons. According to a new survey from Move Inc., as many as one in four Americans plan to buy a home during the next five years, and more than half of them will be first-time homebuyers. Despite challenging market conditions, 18.1% of respondents plan to buy a home in 2009 to take advantage of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit recently passed by Congress as part of the economic stimulus package.

"It's not all doom and gloom," said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move, a network of online real estate search sites. "We found Americans are optimistic about homeownership despite concerns. They're doing everything they can, from reducing discretionary spending to pay their mortgages, to planning to take advantage of the administration's new program to stop foreclosures. They're also working with lenders to modify loans. Even more impactful are numbers that show interest in homeownership is strong, as nearly a quarter of all adults plan to buy a home in the next five years."

Itching to Buy
The Move survey found that the housing downturn has actually created significant demand for homeownership, especially among first-time homebuyers. Last year, first-timers made up 41% of homebuyers. This year, that number is expected to rise to more than 53%, according to the National Association of Realtors.

It's not just the tax credit that's driving interest. Nearly half (47.6%) of those surveyed by Move were unaware of the credit, and nearly a third (29.3%) said that the credit wasn't large enough for them to act right now. Potential homebuyers with higher incomes are more interested in the tax credit than those in lower income brackets, the organization says, as 43.4% of first-time buyers earning $50,000 or more say they plan to use the credit.

Potential buyers are watching real estate prices more closely today than 12 months ago, the report says. Half of all Americans (49.6%) are paying more attention to home values today than they were a year ago, especially those aged 25 to 34 (61.9%). According to the National Association of Realtors, the median age of first-time buyers is 30 years old.

Opportunities for Remodelers?
With many remodels taking place either shortly before a home is sold or soon after it's purchased, the prospect of a boosted homebuyer market could be a boon to the remodeling industry. That said, green remodelers may have some extra marketing and educating to do. In light of the fact that homes are more affordable today, survey respondents said that if they could purchase more home for their dollar, bigger is definitely better. Survey results found that homeowners value more space by a slight margin (10%) over a list of other options, including, energy-saving features (6.8%), a bigger or nicer yard (6.1%), a better location (4.2%), or updated amenities (3.4%).