June 18, 2021

Sitting in your beach chair, cold drink in hand, basking in the heat of summer, you close your eyes and wish to be anywhere but your backyard. You picture somewhere tropical with birds chirping and the sound of the ocean, but your fantasies are suddenly interrupted by the sound of drilling and labour. What could your neighbours possibly be up to while you’re trying to have some semblance of vacation?

They’re doing the same thing as you. Using money they would have spent on a balmy beach, people have now taken their spare time on redecorating or renovating their homes, a renovacation.

Torsten Huhse, a general residential contractor with Ostwall Contracting, says that the cause of these renovations could be that consumers notice how they could use space more practically. Spending time at home forces them to look at things they’ve always meant to fix, and now they finally have the time.

This could also be a factor in the rising real estate market. People are looking for homes with more space for at-home activities, making home gyms and finished basements desirable, as well as ways to entertain outside. According to Huhse, there is a noticeable increase in decking projects, causing a spike in demand for building materials: “you have to wait a lot longer than you used to for composite decking, and pressure-treated lumber.” 

He also says that since kitchens and bathroom renovations add the most value to the home, they are commonly requested projects, as opposed to flooring and bedroom projects, which add limited value.  “When at some point when they feel they want to sell the house, the house will become worth more by adding value to something like the kitchen or bathrooms,” Huhse adds.

Ron Brunetta, a Kitchener home owner currently renovating the rear of their house on the main floor, confirms this idea: “The objective is to increase our living space and create an open concept feeling within our kitchen and living area. So, we’ll be busting out walls, including the exterior wall, and building a brand new kitchen and dining area … Our mortgage is up for renewal in June, so we thought now is the perfect time to make some changes to add further value to our home, plus enjoy our new living space.” 

This increase in renovations is positive news for the industry, as this could bring numbers back up to the $80 billion Canadians spent on renovations in 2019, according to Atlus Group, a real estate and data solutions company.

However, this number did see a significant impact in 2020 due to COVID-19, as there was a 5.6 per cent decrease in home spending. Experts have hope for 2021, as loan demands have seen an increase, suggesting residents are borrowing against their property equity.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, the annual growth rate of home equity lines of credit doubled and nearly tripled for personal use,” Melanna Giannakis, a branch manager of Meridian Credit Union, said in an interview for CBC. That being said, it seems homeowners are taking care with their renovations, as most aren’t spending more than $5,000 on projects, according to Atlus Group data.

As the year goes on and summer arrives, Huhse predicts people will want to do more with their outdoor spaces, fixing or adding to decks, and pool areas, as one customer hired him to add to their deck, making it bigger and with multiple levels. He installed a swim spa with a jacuzzi and bar space for another customer last summer, which is fitting as they can’t go to a resort, they’ve thought to bring the resort to their home. As the weather gets warmer, people will be more motivated to see friends and family, and when the only option is to host outside, those spaces are important. 

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