Local renovation boom brings homeowners big bills, headaches

PARK CITY, Utah. — Park City is growing like a pubescent teenager. Development and the population have increased in recent decades, and the pace has hit the stratosphere since the COVID shutdown and rise in permanent remote work.

The challenges of buying a home locally (especially for those without an unlimited budget) are no secret. Less commonly understood, yet potentially more challenging, is the current market for remodels, renovations, or service work of any kind at all.

Contractors and others in the home repair and improvement industry believe the surge in demand for renovations is connected to increased time spent at home during the pandemic. John Spencer, who co-owns Black Diamond Property Management with Scott Holzrichter, believes the flourishing economy and increase in property values are feeding the demand.

“Home and condo values have gone up so much, people are inclined to put more money into them to improve them,” he said.

Tim Chesley, who owns Chesley Electric, has worked in Park City for nearly three decades, and summed up the current service industry temperature this way: “Renovation is at a feverish pitch right now because there is so much to get done, and people don’t know where to start.”

The result? It can be a challenge getting someone to make a service call – or even return a voicemail – to repair an essential appliance, issues that fundamentally affect daily life.

Parkite and homeowner Lee Gerstein has lived here nearly 20 years, said things have really changed in the past four years. “Where in the past, I would expect someone to say we can be there in two days or three days, they will now say I can be there in a month, I can be there in two months. They are slammed, they are super busy, no one lacks for work,” he said.

Park City isn’t the only area facing renovation-related hardships, according to Chesley. “In the last 27 years, there has never been more demand. Along with that, demand is not just Park City; it’s the whole world,” he said. “With COVID and factories being shut down, along with the boom in the economy right now, it’s very difficult to get parts. Unfortunately, a lot of our suppliers are starting to charge more money for parts. It is truly difficult right now to keep up with the demand.”

Chesley said he’s committed to maintaining fair and consistent prices, even amidst supply shortages. But he said not all companies share the same values, and suggested that people hire local to try to avoid price-gouging.

“Hopefully, people in Park City are hiring Park City contractors,” he said. People are coming up from the valley trying to gouge people in Park City because they think they have money.”

Chesley said the best way to prevent poor service is diligence when hiring contractors and skilled laborers. “People need to be really careful on who they choose to do the project.… You got to have the right architect, plumber, and builder…. There are lots of guys out there trying to bang through these jobs and not really give clients what they deserve,” he said.

Higher costs, though, may be unavoidable in this climate. And some homeowners may be more concerned with getting a job done than marginal increases in charges.

“It’s so hard to get somebody. I’m not going to shopping around for an electrician or plumber for the difference of $75,” Gerstein said. “I also understand that they are starting to build in a Park City premium.”

Historically, demand for technicians and remodeling work is greater than supply. The current climate magnifies that. “Right now, especially in remodeling, there are only so many people who can do that kind of work… There are a lot of people who want that kind of work right now,” Spencer said.

The boom in home make-overs comes at a cost for Park City residents. Property managers, contractors, electricians, plumbers, painters, HVAC technicians, masonries, and interior designers have ample work options, and business is thriving. What’s good for business isn’t always the most convenient for residents.

Gerstein said he understands the reasons underlying long waits for services, and is empathetic towards the business owners. “You know things are cyclical. The last cycle, Park City real estate value, went down 25-30%, and everything else goes with it. Right now, we are in a boom…there is money to be made, and these guys are going to make it. I can’t blame them; I would too. They are doing what anybody who has their own business would do. I don’t like it takes me three weeks to get a repair appointment scheduled, but I can’t fault them.”

While many Park City homeowner have the means to hire renovators, there is a drawback to a mountain town economy. Namely, despite adequate finances to fund home upgrades, there aren’t always enough technicians to go around. For second and vacation homeowners, the Park City pace can be a significant change to the speed at which they receive services elsewhere.

Black Diamond works as a mediator between their clients and service technicians. “We do business with a lot of people who live out of the area, most of our owners don’t live here locally, and it’s always an ongoing discussion with them.… There is only so much labor, and it isn’t a huge market… It’s not like LA or New York,” Spencer explained.



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