Renovating Your Home During the Pandemic

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 10 November 2020 05:00

Canadians spent an estimated $80.1 billion updating and repairing their homes in 2019, according to a recent report by Altus Group. This year, with the pandemic putting the squeeze on homeowners’ pocketbooks, spending is expected to decline – but not as much as the overall economy.

So far real estate market activity during the pandemic has exceeded expectations. Usually after someone buys a home, renovations and repairs soon follow. Certainly, the home improvement stores seem to be booming as many people who now have more time at home are using it to take care of home improvements.

A survey by TD says that 24 per cent of working Canadians say their living space isn’t designed for them to work at home on a regular basis. Twenty-nine per cent say they don’t have enough room in their homes to exercise. As a result, more than a third of those surveyed say they plan to complete “significant home renovations or repairs” to help them cope with the pandemic at home.

The Altus report says the pandemic caused a sharp decline in interest rates for home equity lines of credit and five-year mortgage rates. With the Bank of Canada announcing that rates are likely to remain low, that is giving renovation spending a boost. Altus says that although spending this year will not match 2019, it’s likely to rebound next year. Home renovation spending has increased every year but two during the last 20 years, and it is a bigger segment of the economy than new homebuilding.

Another survey, by CIBC, says the average project will cost $10,211, according to those who say they will renovate within the next 12 months. It says 58 per cent plan to fund the job with cash and savings, while 34 per cent will borrow the money.  

Among those who say they completed their projects already, 39 per cent said they went over budget. CIBC says millennials are the most likely to put a budget for their renovation in place but are also the most likely to exceed that budget.

The top three renovation projects planned: basic home maintenance, landscaping and bathroom renovations, according to the CIBC survey.

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) has introduced guidelines for its renovation members to follow when working on residential projects.

The guidelines suggest that contractors stagger shifts, coffee and lunch breaks to keep the number of people in one area to a minimum. It says workers should take their breaks alone in their personal vehicles.

For residential jobs where the homeowners are still living in the home, CHBA recommends that clear space boundaries be established – so the crew would not enter most parts of the house and the homeowners would stay out of the workspace, even after hours. If a client must come into the work zone, they must wear a mask and physical distancing is required. Clients are asked to communicate only with the site supervisor and avoid contact with others.

An Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) guideline says that for projects that last longer than two days, portable toilets and designated wash stations should be made available to workers. Or, if possible, a washroom designated by the client could be used exclusively by the crew.

OHBA guidelines say that daily cleaning is required and should be documented in a cleaning log. Communal areas must be cleaned regularly. 

The guidelines suggest that on weekends, it should the be homeowner’s responsibility to clean these areas.

Shipments and deliveries should be dropped off, avoiding personal contact. If a signature is needed, the person signing for it should use their own pen.

OHBA also suggests that contractors provide schedules of when trades will be in the home and at what time, so that no workers show up unexpectedly.

Frequent handwashing is required, and everyone is expected to wear personal protective equipment and gloves when possible. Sharing of tools and equipment should be limited.

The TD survey says the pandemic is also changing Canadian’s lives in other ways that could result in renovations. For example, they are cooking more and watching tv more, which could lead to kitchen renovation and media room projects.

It says relationships are also being impacted, with survey respondents saying they acted sooner than they anticipated to move in together with a significant other (28 per cent), make large household purchases (27 per cent) and get engaged or married (17 per cent).  

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Jim Adair

Jim Adair has been writing about Canadian real estate, home building and renovation issues for more than 40 years. He is the former editor of Canada’s leading trade magazine for real estate professionals, as well as several home building, décor and renovation titles. You can contact him at [email protected]

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