After a slow start, home improvement spending is expected to trend up later this year, according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), released today by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. If this momentum continues to build during the second half of the year, remodeling activity is on course to end 2012 on a positive note.

“We’re beginning to see some hopeful signs in the economy, and the housing market is finally starting its slow recovery,” said Eric S. Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center. “That should prove helpful for home improvement spending as the year progresses.”

“Sales of existing homes have been increasing in recent months, offering more opportunities for home improvement projects,” added Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center. “As lending institutions become less fearful of the real estate sector, financing will become more readily available to owners looking to undertake remodeling.”

The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) is designed to estimate national homeowner spending on improvements for the current quarter and subsequent three quarters. The indicator, measured as an annual rate-of-change of its components, provides a short-term outlook of homeowner remodeling activity and is intended to help identify future turning points in the business cycle of the home improvement industry. The LIRA is released by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (www.jchs.harvard.edu) in the third week after each quarter’s closing. The next LIRA release date is April 19.