Renovation Nation: Canadians spent $80 billion on their homes in 2019

Tuesday, August 11, 2020   /   by Sergey Korostensky

Renovation Nation: Canadians spent $80 billion on their homes in 2019

Canadians spent an estimated $80 billion on renovations in 2019, and plan to take a bit of breather this year because of COVID-19.

According to a new report from real estate services and software company Altus Group, renovation spending grew 2.6 per cent last year, which was a faster pace than the broad economy at 1.7 per cent.

Three out of four renovation dollars were spent on upgrades versus necessary repairs. At $61.2 billion, spending on upgrades alone was about the same as new home construction.

Altus Group estimates at least $14 billion spent on renovations was borrowed. Secured financing, like home equity lines of credit (HELOC), accounted for six in ten dollars borrowed for home improvements. 

As Canadians aged 35-49 have gained equity in their homes during the past decade, they’ve increasingly turned to HELOCs, and renovations are no exception. Altus Group estimates the cohort represented about 36 per cent of HELOC borrowing for renovations, a 28 per cent jump from 2017. Homeowners aged 35-64 accounted for 80 per cent. 

Because the pandemic has helped push interest rates lower, there’s room for further gorging on HELOC debt, but Altus Group projects spending on home renovations will fall 5.2 per cent through 2020. That’s less than the forecast calling for a 7.1 per cent GDP decline because of COVID-19, and would still total still $76 billion. 

Because people are still spending on renovations, there have been shortages in materials like lumber. Whether through shortages, or fewer dollars spent, retailers are sensitive to any dip in renovation sales. Altus Group says renovation spending and home improvement retail sales are strongly correlated (0.97).

Altus Group expects the biggest declines in renovation spending will be in Quebec, Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. It also expects overall renovation spending to rebound to 5.3 per cent growth in 2021.