In spite of being underwater on mortgages homeowners are sprucing up, renovating their properties.  Home improvement stores are breathing a sigh of relief and the construction sector is seeing a ray of light. Homeowners and landlords are improving their properties for the first time in several years.
IHS Global Insight is predicting a nationwide increase in home-improvement spending of 5.7 percent for 2012.

Small-scale improvements are popular with most updates, including new light fixtures and faucets, kitchen cupboards and exterior doors, rather than room additions. 
The rise in improvement spending comes as the economy and consumer confidence are picking up. It's encouraging to the construction industry, which has seen new-home construction fall since the recession. 
Though more new homes are being built, the number is still low.  One interesting fact is that people who know they are underwater on their mortgages are going ahead with improvements. 
Whatever their homes are valued at by others, they and their children like where they live. They can afford their mortgage payments, and are secure in their employment. 
People in such situations think their property values will rise in the future but know that could be some years away. If they need a room or a patio, they think they might as well go ahead with it. 
Financing with home-equity loans probably isn't available for them, so personal savings or other types of loans have to be used.