If there is one positive to the stay-at-home orders that were issued across New Jersey six months ago, it may be that homeowners are investing their extra time and money in making improvements to their living space.

Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of Realtors, feels all of our attention has been focused inside our homes since March.

She explained that NAR's measure of how homeowners feel about living within their property is called a "Joy Score," and that people began their quarantine period by upgrading outdoor spaces then moving to inner details.

"Painting, just painting one room, really does transform that space, and we actually found that it's one of the highest Joy Scores that people do have," Lautz said. "That's something you would easily DIY on a weekend."

The initial focus on outdoor projects was, for many, to spruce up the only outlet people had to get fresh air in the early spring. Lautz added that beautifying the outside of your home adds measurable curb appeal — up to 300% return on value for those looking to sell.

And with many people furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19 shutdowns, getting the biggest bang for your buck on home remodeling and renovation is crucial.

But also, yard work is one thing New Jerseyans can do themselves without having to call professionals to come into their homes.

NAR even asked its member realtors at one point this summer if the sellers they were working with were undertaking DIY projects, and half reported that they were.

"Those are people who may put their home on the market, but I think a lot of people are DIY-ing projects, as they have time, and thinking about how to do it and learning how to do it on YouTube," Lautz said.

Home improvement does not have to be an either/or proposition, however, according to Lautz. It can even give you an excuse for a getaway.

"You can rent a cabin or a place on a beach for an extended period of time, as long as they have Wi-Fi, and work from there while you have someone in your home doing these remodeling projects," she said. "So there are ways to stay safe if you need to."

Now as we enter the fall, working from home comfortably seems to be on the minds of many.

When quarantine orders began, Lautz said people thought they might be able to work from the kitchen table for a couple of weeks. But they have since discovered that they need a dedicated office with a door and a way to keep things separate and quiet for the whole family.

"Right now, I think what people are really focused on is making sure that not only they have a home office, but perhaps there's a home schooling section of their office, at least, for their kid," she said.

Lautz also said this may turn into a "fall cleaning" season, as homeowners continue to pare down.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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