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Home Improvements Continue to Slow

This is not good news for Home Depot or Lowe's.

As more people struggle to pay their mortgage and fewer take out home-equity loans, many homeowners have cut back their spending on remodeling kitchens, replacing windows and other improvement projects.

Two out of three homeowners who had planned an improvement project this year said they would wait until the market stabilizes, and about 11% said they were abandoning the idea of a project this year, according to an e-mail survey with 2,100 responses from homeowners in 11 metro areas.

The survey by the Zoomerang research firm, while not a random sample of homeowners, offers anecdotal evidence of the jitters about the housing recession. And it matches industry figures. The remodeling industry, with annual sales of about $280 billion, is expected to see a 2.6% annual rate of decline through autumn, the Joint Center for Housing Studies says. Freddie Mac says Americans pulled out only $38 billion in cash from their homes in the fourth quarter last year, about half the amount for that period in 2006.

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