Tag Archives: Renos

Home renos that increase value

By Sheryl Smolkin

Whether you have recently purchased a resale home or you have lived in your house for many years, when you view your winter-weary residence in the bright spring sunlight you may be hit by the urge to renovate.

The problem is of course that your resources are limited and you want to make sure that any enhancements you make add value to your home, particularly if you plan to sell your property over the next several years.

The Appraisal Institute of Canada offers the following tips for choosing “smart” home renovations.

  1. Choose improvements with long life expectancy: Roofing, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems and windows can provide you with worry-free home improvements for as long as 10 to 15 years. But remember…regular maintenance is as important as the initial investment.
  1. Invest in modern updates in high-traffic areas: Update the core rooms of your home such as the kitchen and bathrooms. This can be as simple as changing door knobs, resurfacing cabinets, or replacing fixtures and counter tops.
  1. Don’t underestimate the value of inexpensive updates: A fresh coat of paint, modern lighting fixtures, landscaping or gardening, or upgraded door handles can give your home an updated look and feel – and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money!
  1. Consider energy-efficient renovations with a high return relative to cost: Energy-efficient renovations are considered one of the highest paybacks relative to cost. Energy efficiency translates into reduced operating costs over time.
  1. Be careful about over-improvement: Consider your neighborhood and the expectations of buyers in your area when planning your next renovation project. Investing in an expensive project may be an over-improvement for a home in particular market, and the investment may only be partially recognized by home buyers.
  1. Think about your personal needs: How much you spend on improvements will depend on how long you plan to live in your home. If you you’re thinking shorter-term, smaller and less–expensive improvements may be your best bet to recover your investment.
  1. Be sure to get a building/renovation permit: Take the time to obtain the proper building permits from your municipality or appropriate authority. This is a good step to ensuring that the renovation work complies with the building codes.
  1. Hire a designer, architect, or contractor: Talk to a professional when you start planning your renovation project. They can help you draw up a plan, provide renovation advice, or assist in the construction. This will add to the quality of the renovation and go a long way in preventing cost overruns.
  1. Consider unique features with care: Unique designs or improvements that are uncommon for a particular market may impact your ability to resell home. This is where the expert advice of a real property appraiser can provide an objective perspective on the marketability of the property.

While maintaining or increasing the value of your home are important considerations when you renovate, making the home more livable for your family may be what really matters to you. Nevertheless, keep in mind that quality kitchen and bathroom improvements and a new interior/exterior paint job are the top three renos with the highest rate of return. And decluttering can also help to showcase the best features of your house.

Renovating? What you need to know

By Sheryl Smolkin

You are expecting a new baby and the house feels too small. Your kitchen and bathrooms look shabby and you want something more up-to-date. You need a home office. 

In all of these circumstances you may be tempted to sell your home and buy a new one that has the features your family needs. However, when you consider the costs of moving and what you can get for your money, you may decide that renovating makes more sense. 

But everyone knows someone who has experienced a renovation nightmare. The project that was supposed to take two months stretched to six. The $50,000 budget doubled. The contractor disappeared before finishing the job. 

The more planning and care that goes into the renovation in advance, the better your chances of having things turn out to your satisfaction. Here are some tips from the Canadian Consumer Handbook[1] that can help you hire the right people to do the right job properly.

  1. Scope of the project: Make a detailed list of what you want to accomplish. Any contractor you hire will base their quote on your specifications. If the scope of the project changes or you request extras, the renovation will cost more and take longer.
  2. Permits: Check with your municipal building inspection department to find out which permits you’ll need before you start work (this is not your contractor’s responsibility unless that is spelled out in your contract) and check which inspections you’ll have to arrange part-way through or when the project is finished.
  3. Find a contractor: Ask friends, relatives, neighbours and local business associations for recommendations. Talk to at least six prospects and interview three. All subcontractors or tradespeople like plumbers or electricians should be certified. Contact your local Better Business Bureau or business association to see whether any complaints have been filed against firms that you are thinking of hiring. Ask for and call references.
  4. Get quotes: Provide each supplier with the same specifications so you can compare apples to apples. Ask for a written estimate of all costs including labour, taxes and any extra charges. Paying cash “under the table” for a job is not a better deal. If you pay cash you have no warranty, no recourse for poor workmanship and the added risk of liability if an injury takes place on your property.

The Contract

Make sure you and your contractor have a written contract. Don’t sign it until you have fully reviewed it, are satisfied with all the terms and are sure that the contractor is capable of meeting your needs.

Ask the contractor to include a detailed description of the work to be done. Get him to list specific information about products, manufacturer, size and colour of materials and equipment to be installed.

It is a best practice to even include product numbers for items such as carpet, tile, countertops and hardwood floors etc.. The more details that are contained in the contract, the less room there is for error.

The contract should include the following information:

  • The type and amount of work to be done.
  • Who is to complete the work (including a list of any subcontractors and who is responsible for their payment and when).
  • Who is responsible for ordering and paying for materials.
  • Who is responsible for permits.
  • The total cost.
  • What percentage is the deposit  and whether it seems reasonable.
  • The start date and date of completion.
  • Who is responsible for clean-up afterwards.
  • The business and GST/HST number of the contractor.
  • The name and address of the contractor and your name and address.


For more information on what to do when hiring a contractor, visit the Get It In Writing website, run by the Canadian Home Builder’s Association.

Surviving your reno

Hiring the right contractor and nailing down the cost and the duration of the project can help facilitate a successful renovation, but don’t forget other practical considerations.

Can you still live in part of your house while the other part is being renovated? If not, you may have to factor in a short-term rental for your family. Will your neighbours be inconvenienced because workers are parked on your street day after day? Talk to them to be sure they understand what you are doing and ask for their patience.

Be prepared for surprises. If your current home is not compliant with building codes, unexpected structural work like rewiring the house or removing asbestos from the walls may be required. In these situations you will have to either come up with more money or re-think the scope of work you can afford.

Finally, take heart. A renovation is a little like having a baby. Once the project is finished and you have a beautiful home addition to show for it, the birth pangs will quickly be forgotten.

ALSO READ: Consumer Tip – Contractors, Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice and Attorney General

[1] Produced by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Consumer Measures Committee