Hammering out the home projects | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hammering out the home projects

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneMeeks' forklift operator Esteban Del Real loads a unit of lumber Monday for a residential project.

The trend in home refinancing could be lost to concerns about the economy and a stubborn winter.

“I know the refinancing will more than compensate for (the business), but that remains to be seen,” said Hal Altman, a South Lake Tahoe general contractor.

With high unemployment and low consumer confidence, Altman said economic uncertainty and war are contributing factors to a later-than-usual rush for building jobs in the Tahoe basin.

“There are a lot of economic factors out there that weigh in on this,” Altman said. “You don’t remodel if you don’t feel confident about the economy.”

And then there’s Mother Nature putting her hand into things.

Contractors and building-center managers agreed the wet April slowed the start of many jobs.

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“I still have snowblowers on the floor,” Meeks manager Tom Leonard said from the South Lake Tahoe location.

From the floor traffic to the yard, a late spring that helped the winter season rebound has shortened an already limited building period that starts in a flurry in May and ends in October.

“This winter has been interesting — that’s for sure,” the store’s building yard manager Pete Caramazza said. “I was out plowing not too long ago.”

But Caramazza has noticed business starting to pick up as those who took out money when they refinanced prepare for those long-awaited jobs.

And Meeks has geared up for the possible increase in business with extra materials from residents seeking to upgrade their properties.

“We do seem to have a little bit more on hand this year,” Caramazza said, while overseeing truckloads of deliveries leaving the yard on Monday.

Most jobs start with exterior work and end the season with the interior. Lumber makes up the bulk of the early sales.

Residential business accounts for more than 80 percent of the home improvement center’s revenue, Meeks sales manager Buzz Bera said.

From June to November, the store takes in 75 percent of its business for the year. More than 90 percent of the sales fall into the category of single family homes.

Bera believes the basin has remained slightly insulated from the economic downturn now being experienced in other regions.

“Tahoe is still Tahoe. People with money still want to spend here,” he said.

The trends have somewhat affected the Carson City-Carson Valley area, too, despite the year-round growth boom that retail operations like Home Depot experience.

“We think it will be up some because of the low interest rates. Once the weather breaks, we hope to see the business pick up,” Home Depot manager Jeremy Brown said.

Kitchen remodel and carpet overlay jobs make up the majority of sales the home improvement superstore has seen lately.

These are the types of jobs Dave Medina of Lake Tahoe Construction Co. has taken on this spring. Medina remained optimistic about the shorter building season picking up on the heels of the refinancing craze.

“They did take advantage of those interest rates,” Medina said.

Home refinancing swelled to nearly 50 percent in the state, the California Contractors State License Board reported. The board anticipated the spring remodeling season should heat up with the mortgage activity.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com