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Renovation spending soars. (Guest Columnist).

Renovation spending last year reached an estimated $11.5 billion. This is an incredible increase from just five years ago when renovation spending in Ontario was at $7.9 billion.

This growth is not surprising when one looks at the aging housing stock in the province. Currently, half of the existing housing was built prior to 1970. Even the housing built within the last decade will need repair and upgrading in another 10 to 15 years. This consideration presents a fantastic business opportunity for contractors, but knowing where to position your business is often the greatest hurdle.

The renovation industry is characterized by small businesses, run by individuals who frequently started out in one of the construction trades and moved on to become general contractors and owners of their companies. This has allowed for the kind of adaptability needed by professional renovators to weave their way through various types of projects.

Within the last decade or so the marketplace has seen the emergence of the professional renovator who successfully combines hands-on experience with extensive business and management skills. Unlike the pickup truck operators, who can be here today and gone tomorrow, the professional renovator has dedicated his business, and indeed his life, to this industry through quality workmanship, product variety, integrity and long-lasting customer service.

A true professional renovator makes it his business to know what trends are current and what's on the horizon. For example, environmental concerns play an increasingly important role in the decisions consumers make about their homes. Whether these concerns lie in the purchase of a new home or renovating an existing one.

A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) study conducted a few years ago concluded that consumers appear willing to invest in environmental housing features that improve indoor air quality, provide more space-efficient designs and result in significant reductions in energy and water use.

Criteria for selecting environmental features include economic, health and lifestyle benefits and a concept of social responsibility.

While the study focused primarily on new home buyers, there is a similar trend among homeowners who are renovating. Energy efficient renovations are on the increase in many parts of the country. Additional insulation, high-performance windows and high-efficiency furnaces may add to the cost of a renovation, but homeowners are willing to pay the premium knowing that they will receive a return on the additional investment through lower energy costs and through added value at resale.

Recycling has become a way of life for Canadian homeowners. Kitchen renovations regularly incorporate storage space for the blue box or a "separation station" for recyclable materials.

Another surprising trend has been the "shrinking" of additions. Significant expansions, such as doubling the floor area of a home, are becoming less frequent. Young families still need bedrooms, bathrooms and family rooms to accommodate their growing needs. However, many homeowners will carefully reshape their homes to maximize the use of existing space before building out, up or down.

Indoor air quality is a growing concern. As new housing continues to become tighter, many homeowners find that the quality of the indoor air their families breathe is not as good as it could be. Fresh-air ventilation systems such as heat-recovery ventilators can be a beneficial addition for a healthier indoor environment. At the same time, the homeowner also saves money as heat is recaptured from the stale air that is exhausted from the home.

Many professional renovators report that consumers today are vastly more knowledgeable about products and systems than they were just a few years ago. The Internet has played a significant role in educating homeowners about features they otherwise might not have had access to in the past. The professional renovator needs to keep as current as his potential customers, if not one or two steps ahead.

In addition to the growing environmental awareness is the need by the professional renovator to recognize the aging demographic within the Canadian population.

Thoughtful, creative, and often simple renovations, are breaking down the barriers to independent living, dramatically increasing the comfort, safety and convenience of existing dwellings, while accommodating special physical needs.

The Ontario Renovators' Council through the Ontario Home Builders' Association is constantly working to improve the image of the renovation industry. Professional renovators should consider membership to help market their business and promote professionalism in their community.

Article prepared by Dave Henderson, director industry relations, Ontario Home Builders' Association.
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Article Details
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Author:Henderson, Dave
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:May 1, 2002
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