As the COVID-19 pandemic forces millions of Americans to quarantine and spend additional time indoors, many are making improvements to their homes and becoming increasingly comfortable securing financing options for these projects online. Discover Home Loans surveyed homeowners in March and August 2020 to better understand how the pandemic has impacted their views about home improvement and the digital mortgage process.
Homeowners Are Planning to Renovate Within the Next Year
Discover’s survey revealed increased interest in home improvement projects. In August, over half of homeowners (58%) said they are planning home improvements within the next year, compared to 53% who said the same in March. As for what is motivating these homeowners to renovate, 83% said they view home improvement projects as a way to improve their comfort while they are spending more time at home, and 62% said they plan to make improvements to the health and safety features of their home.
Younger homeowners are more likely to move forward with home improvements in the coming year – 72% of Gen Z and millennials – compared to older generations – 57% of Gen X and 42% of baby boomers. Despite this interest in improvement projects across generations, 49% of those planning projects say they have been delayed due to the financial impact of COVID-19.
“In light of the pandemic, homeowners are looking for new and better ways to improve their homes as they spend more time than ever in them. Mortgage rates are very low right now and homeowners can take advantage by using the equity in their homes to pay for projects such as remodeling a home office, installing an air-filtration system or even consolidating high interest debt,” said Nicole Straub, General Manager of Discover Home Loans. “For those that are delaying a necessary home repair, homeowners may want to consider a home equity loan as an option to quickly and easily access funds.”
While kitchen and bathroom updates remained the most popular renovation projects this year – each attracting 31% of project planners – the survey revealed a pocket of Americans who are planning updates this year are interested in making the following improvements in light of the pandemic:
- Adding or remodeling home offices (18%)
- Replacing hard-to-clean surfaces (11%)
- Installing air-filtration systems (9%)
Interest in Digital Mortgages Increasing
The pandemic has also changed how homeowners apply for a home equity loan or mortgage refinance, due to the lockdown orders and calls for social distancing. Discover’s survey showed COVID-19 has increased homeowners’ preference for using digital options during the mortgage and refinancing process. 50% of homeowners now say they prefer securing financing online – compared to 43% before the pandemic – while the preference for in-person application has dropped from 57% to 50%. In fact, homeowners’ preference for using online options increased for many steps in the financing process, including: filling out an application, selecting loan options, submitting documents and scheduling closings.
“Our borrowers already appear to be comfortable with the digital mortgage process with more than 80% of applications initiated online. 98% of our borrowers use Discover’s secure website to provide requested information and track the status of their application,” said Straub. “With COVID-19, borrowers have been looking for ways to avoid in-person contact during the mortgage process. For example, we rolled out the capability for them to sign most closing documents digitally ahead of the closing event, which has been used in nearly 100% of loan transactions. We anticipate that post-COVID-19, this comfort with the convenience of digital processes will continue.”
The national survey of 1,189 homeowners was commissioned by Discover and conducted by Dynata (formerly Research Now/SSI), an independent survey research firm. The surveys were conducted online; the first was fielded from March 6 to March 23, 2020 and the second was fielded from August 27 to August 31, 2020. The maximum margin of sampling error was +/-3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.
Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a digital banking and payment services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company issues the Discover card, America’s cash rewards pioneer, and offers private student loans, personal loans, home loans, checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit through its banking business. It operates the Discover Global Network, comprised of Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; PULSE, one of the nation’s leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with acceptance around the world. For more information, visit www.discover.com/company.