Remodeling activity fell sharply in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and the outlook for the first quarter of 2008 is worse.

Source: National Association of Home Builders

The Remodeling Market Index (RMI) sits at 40.9, down considerably from 46.2 the previous quarter, and substantially below the 43.3 predicted by the index. The future expectations portion of the RMI forecasts a low 37.9 for the next quarter. A reading of above 50 is considered a positive sign for the growth of the industry.

The NAHB press release announcing the data focused on the fact that remodeling hasn't and isn't expected to fall off nearly as much as home building has, which is in itself telling — the downturn has hit enough of the country that it can no longer be disguised with public relations spin. Still, Chicago remodeler Mike Nagel, chairman of the NAHB Remodelers, does give one hint as to where struggling peers might look for work: “Homeowners realize the importance of maintaining their property and making necessary repairs to support the value of their homes.”

Figure This

Revised estimate of the amount of equity homeowners had in their houses in the second quarter of 2007, the first time debt exceeded equity since 1945, when records were first kept
Source: The Federal Reserve

Percentage of Americans who plan to cut back on “indulgent spending” this year
Source: HSBC Bank USA

Shorted shares of stock on the American Stock Exchange in trading completed through February 26, 2008, up 65% from the previous year
Source: The American Stock Exchange

Number of March additions to the now misnamed list of 2,000 uses for WD-40
Source: WD-40 Co.