While working from home these past few months, you may have noticed you need more office space than the kitchen table can provide, or perhaps you’re longing for a new deck so you can escape from that kitchen table. Maybe soundproofing would eliminate the roar of the washing machine that drowns out your business calls.

A Zillow survey conducted by The Harris Poll revealed many homeowners want to continue to work from home after the pandemic. They are happy in their homes but need designated office space, so they’re considering finishing a basement, attic or garage.

But is it safe to let construction workers into your home yet?

“Everyone will have a different level of comfort about allowing strangers into their home at this time,” says Amanda Pendleton, Zillow’s home trends expert. “To gain more confidence, ask a potential contractor what you can expect when he enters your home.”

She recommends asking the following questions: How many people will be on the job? What health and safety precautions will they be taking? What kind of personal protective equipment will they be wearing? How will they clean and sanitize the space before they leave?

“Most pros have adopted COVID-19 policies that they’ve posted to their websites,” says Matt Ehrlichman, CEO of Seattle-based Porch.com, which connects homeowners with contractors. “This is now table stakes in the new normal.”

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If a website doesn’t answer all your questions, Ehrlichman suggests requesting information about whether or not contractors take the temperatures of their employees and send home anyone who shows symptoms. Are they disinfecting their hands frequently and conducting a thorough cleaning of their gear between customer visits? Do they wear gloves when possible? Do they have recent references for the work they’ve done since the shelter-in-place directives were put in place? 

“Call those customers and ask if they’d hire the service again,” says Ehrlichman.

The projects homeowners are currently most averse to appear to be optional or deferrable major interior home improvements that require one or many contractors to be inside the home for an extended period of time, Ehrlichman says.

Outdoor projects, such as deck and patio construction, have been popular. (Getty Images)
Outdoor projects, such as deck and patio construction, have been popular. (Getty Images)

Revamping your exterior space

If you don’t feel comfortable with strangers inside your home, consider an outdoor improvement project. Ehrlichman says the projects he’s seen grow in popularity during the past few months include deck construction, landscaping, fence installation, exterior painting, patio construction and siding replacement. 

“We believe one driver is that hiring professionals for work on the outside of the home feels safer right now,” Ehrlichman says. “Beyond that, we believe folks are planning to spend more of their summer at home and in the backyard, and they’re making functional and aesthetic improvements to make that time more enjoyable and practical.”

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Indoors, according to Ehrlichman, there’s been a remarkable increase in air conditioning projects and within the home-cleaning category.

How to get a deal

The supply and demand dynamics for most projects are more or less back to normal.

“I don’t think homeowners should expect most projects to be significantly cheaper or more expensive right now,” says Ehrlichman. “Of the projects we see on Porch.com every week, prices have been fairly stable.”

If there’s a place where pricing may favor homeowners now, it’s interior projects, Ehrlichman says, including major improvement projects such as remodeling, painting and flooring. 

While so much has changed during the coronavirus pandemic, your due diligence in hiring a contractor should remain the same, says Pendleton. You can do the following from the comfort of your living room:

• Make sure they are licensed, bonded and insured.

• Check online reviews.

• Ask for references.

• Get multiple quotes.

Be patient with whomever you hire and work to establish an open channel of communication with them, says Erhlichman. 

These times are difficult for everyone, and a little flexibility and understanding go a long way to make any home improvement project a success.