Home renovations spiked during lockdown

Andrea Ross and her husband decided to renovate their home in Toronto’s Davisville Village to make it more functional after learning she was pregnant, and then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“We had our third child coming and our plan was to sell it in the next three years, but we needed it to be functional for us then and were willing to put in that money,” said Ross, 38. “Thankfully we did because the basement became my husband’s office after we started working from home. We needed the space to work for us before selling, so while that was in the back of our minds, we didn’t just do the renovations with the purpose of selling.”

However, forced to spend more time at home during the pandemic-induced lockdown this past spring, the Rosses decided to undertake other major renovations to their home, redoing the upstairs bathroom, expanding the kitchen, and having a new backyard deck built. The interior renovations, which included installing new doors and windows, took five to six weeks, while the deck was finished in about seven days. In total, they spent roughly $130,000.

“We knew were going to use the kitchen space a lot more, and I was going on maternity leave at the time, so that was a really important piece for us,” continued Ross, who works in finance and accounting. “If we were going to cook at home more, we needed that space, and the deck was to host family. We had to be outdoors and distanced more, so we got a larger, nicer deck to safety host family.”

The Ross family are far from unique in deciding that, forced to stay home, their house needed to be upgraded. According to a survey of 351 Canadians from across the country by HomeStars, a home renovation review website for consumers, 47% of homeowners did some kind of home repairs during the pandemic, 50% of which upgraded their outdoor space.

In fact, service requests for backyard pools surged by a whopping 600% compared to last year, says Shir Magen, CEO of HomeStars.

“This was the biggest one. We did have big increases across all landscaping projects, like fences and decks, which all significantly increased year-on-year,” Magen told CREW. “Of people surveyed, 20% spent over $20,000 on home renovations, and that’s a huge number, because when you think about consumer appetite to spend during a pandemic, that shows homeowners have a lot of confidence expanding their space.”

Compared to 2019, service requests increased by 17% this past spring and summer, peak renovation months, according to the HomeStars survey. Magen explains that, while the pandemic drove the spike in home renovations across the country—a quarter of respondents cited having to spend more time at home as the reason for renovating—they reinvested money they would have spent elsewhere.

“A trend we see at HomeStars is 21% of Canadians coast to coast are taking their vacation money and reinvesting it into their homes to make them more enjoyable,” she said. “People can’t fly to resorts, so they’re using those vacation dollars on landscaping, or even closing their decks to make them extensions of their indoor spaces.”

Eighty percent of respondents still intended to renovate their homes in spite of the pandemic.

“In more expensive cities, people opted to renovate their homes as opposed to move into a new home,” said Magen. “We saw it across the country, but it was more prominent in expensive cities.”

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