The number of homeowners embarking on home improvement projects without creating a budget is increasing, according to the latest homeowner sentiment report from home-improvement lead-generation service Modernize. According to the report, 79% of homeowners did not create budgets before starting a project, an increase from 75% in the same Modernize report from a year ago. Nearly half of homeowners reported having to pause or cancel a project because it was too expensive. Of homeowners who did create a budget, online tools and cost calculators and friends and family were cited as the most helpful tools in developing one.

Modernize's homeowner sentiment survey is an ongoing, long-term study of how homeowners research and evaluate home improvement projects. The study covers how homeowners budget for home improvement projects, how they find and select their preferred contractor, and how they plan to pay for their projects.

To help find contractors, homeowners most frequently turn to friends and family for referrals. Fewer than 15% of respondents indicated using search engines such as Google, lead-generation services such as Modernize, or social media. Around one-third of homeowners planning improvement projects will compare quotes from three different contractors. Beyond price, homeowners said expertise, online ratings and reviews, and references were the most important factors for contractor selection, according to Modernize.

Homeowners said an unclear or confusing bid or a lack of communication was the biggest turnoff for potential contractors during the sales process. Tardiness, lack of insurance, and ego were also negative factors that would likely deter homeowners from hiring contractors.

"The information, insight, and guidance that an experienced contractor can offer a homeowner, in an unbiased and helpful manner, can make all the difference in securing a major home improvment project," Gregg Hicks, Modernize vice president, said in a news release. "Our research shows that homeowners are at a deficit when they're considering a home upgrade. They want a trusted partner, which is exactly what professional contractors can and should be."

A majority of homeowners reported spending between one and five hours researching their project before submitting a lead. Around three in ten homeowners reported completing no research before requesting a contractor contact them. Among homeowners planning to complete a project in the near future, 42% plan to conduct between one and five hours of research before hiring a contractor and 26% plan to spend an additional 10 hours researching before hiring a contractor, according to Modernize. After search engines such as Google, homeowners rated lead-generation sites, such as Modernize, social media, and YouTube as useful resources during their research process.

Modernize's homeowner sentiment report, available in a downloadable eBook, reflects the responses of more than 26,000 homeowners looking to complete a solar, roofing, window, or air conditioning project. Modernize fielded the survey between November 2019 and April 2020.