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Remodeling businesses featured at Grand Forks’ Home Design and Garden Show

A couple checks out the more than 150 booths Friday at the Home Design and Garden Show at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. The show continues through Sunday. Photo by John Stennes/Grand Forks Herald.

Garages aren’t just for vehicles anymore, Rob Corbett of Grand Forks has discovered.

“The trend is that people are making garages an extension of their living space,” said Corbett, an exhibitor at the Home Design and Garden Show at the Alerus Center this weekend.

“With big-screen TVs, couches and barbecue grills, garages are turning into neighborhood gathering places in the evening,” he said. “Twenty years ago, a garage was a place to tinker.”

Remodeling is a big trend among homeowners these days, in part because growing families are looking for more space and in part because the cost of housing is so high that it makes more sense to add to an existing home than to buy a new one, according to Rusty Wysocki, a member of the Forx Builders Association and its former president.

The association is the main organizer of the home show, which features more than 150 exhibitors, most of them involved in home improvement and remodeling. The Rusty Wysocki Building Co., for example, gets 100 percent of its business from remodeling jobs.

Businesses grow

The remodeling trend has been good news for Corbett’s business, Monkey Bars Storage of North Dakota, which offers a combination of shelving and adjustable bars and hooks that bring order to the garage’s belongings, even amid a social environment.

“When you think of a garage 20 years ago, you don’t think of it as a social place,” he said. “In some cases now, it’s become a place to entertain, meaning some garages are getting nice cabinets and decorative flooring along with orderly storage.”

Corbett, a battalion chief with the Grand Forks Fire Department, his wife Shelly and son Nick started the sideline business in 2011.

Kevin Marcott, owner of Northland Custom Woodworking in East Grand Forks who also has a booth at the show, said his business has blossomed since the explosion of do-it-yourself, home improvement programs on television.

“People watch those shows to get their ideas and then come to us,” Marcott said. “Eighty percent of our business the last two years has been remodels.”

Growing families

While the 1997 flood destroyed a lot of homes that would otherwise be remodeled, many replacement homes have been built since, and families are starting to outgrow them, according to Wysocki.

About half of customers looking to remodel are building additions and about half are just making underused space more usable, for example finishing a basement, he said. Generally, it’s not so much new bedrooms that are added but larger kitchens, larger master bedrooms and more bathrooms, he said. This suggests to him that what’s driving the market is families adding more living space as children get older.

It’s an alternative to buying a new home, which may force people to move away from neighborhoods that they like and costing them more, he said. With housing prices on the rise, he said, even those who have been able to put a lot of equity in their existing home would need hefty loans to buy a new home, he said.

According to Greenberg Realty, the median price of a home sold last month was $165,500; the highest median price in the last 12 months was $205,550 in November. Five years ago, the median price was $147,500, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Adjusted for inflation that’s about $161,540.

If you go

  • What: The Home Design and Garden Show.
  • When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: Grand Forks’ Alerus Center,
  • How much: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors. Kids 12 and younger enter free.
 This story has been edited from the original to make the meaning of Wysocki's comments clearer.