TORONTO — Christine Davies and her husband were in their east-end Toronto home for about six years before deciding to pull the trigger on a massive renovation.
With two young children and a house "literally falling apart," Davies says, the couple needed an upgrade but didn't want to move up in the city's pumped-up real estate market — where home prices have increased by about 25 per cent over the last year, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.
"Finding the house we have in Toronto, a free-standing home with a private driveway — that would be very difficult to find at an affordable price," says the 45-year-old health data analyst. "It's just more cost-effective to renovate."
But that's not to say gutting her home and building a two-storey addition hasn't been without stress, she adds, including the additional cost and inconvenience of renting another house to live in during the eight-month process.
A recent poll for CIBC indicated that as many as 56 per cent of Canadians embarking on renovations are choosing to stay in place instead of selling their home and buying another — for reasons ranging from wanting to make a space that better fits their needs to increasing the value of their homes.
However, the survey also suggested that homeowners starting renovations worry about household disruptions, project delays and overspending — despite the fact that 61 per cent of people planning to renovate admit they don't have a detailed budget.
CIBC says homeowners should do their research first by seeking expert advice from a realtor, a trusted contractor and a financial planner before embarking on any major projects to determine which options will fit their needs and budget.
Knowing if you will live through your renovation or move out is another key consideration and so is understanding what you can and can't do on your own.
"Be clear about the goals and limits of your project as well as the costs before you head over to the hardware store or pick up your toolbox," warns Scott Wambolt, senior vice-president of retail and business banking at CIBC.
"While DIY can add up to some cost savings, it could end up costing you more if you don't know what you're doing."
To keep her costs in check, Davies says she and her husband hired a fixed-rate contractor, whose price for the work includes all labour, materials, sub-contractor labour, equipment and other expenses.
"So if the scope of anything changes he lets us know ahead of time and we make decisions about whether we want to go with those changes or not," she says.
Dan Brewer, president of the Appraisal Institute of Canada, says homeowners doing renovations also need to consider whether the project is being done to increase the enjoyment of the property or to increase its value — or both.
In terms of renovations with the highest return on investment, "the biggest bang for your buck is bathrooms and kitchens," says Brewer, provided that the quality of materials and workmanship is consistent with the area you live in.
Less expensive renos that also pay you back include updating decor such as lighting and plumbing fixtures, or replacing or refinishing worn flooring — and even something as simple as a fresh coat of paint.
However, renovations that increase the enjoyment of your space — such as basement finishing, landscaping or adding a sun room — won't necessarily increase the value to your home, Brewer says.
CIBC's online survey was conducted from May 10-14 among 2,068 Angus Reid Forum panellists who are Canadian adult homeowners.
The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.
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David Hodges, The Canadian Press
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