1. Be proactive

Lawrence Krimker, founder and CEO of Toronto-based home energy servicing company Simply Group, says it’s important for homeowners who know they will be making improvements to their properties to get started immediately.

“Homeowners in Canada should be proactive with their upgrade decisions,” Krimker says.

Reaching out to contractors or suppliers now will help you lock in prices at current rates. And that doesn’t just apply to materials or appliances. It applies to labour, too.

“There isn't a contractor or builder I know who isn't desperate for [tradespeople],” says Vanessa Roman, Victoria-based real estate investor and realtor at Pemberton Homes.

“This desperation means carpenters, plumbers, electricians... can demand higher wages because there are so few people to fill the many job vacancies.”

Securing the services of these tradespeople at today’s prices will save you from having to pay higher fees tomorrow.

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2. Scale back, but do it judiciously

There are certain aspects of a reno where you can choose less expensive options and still see a gorgeous result that improves the value of your home. At a time when supply lines are clogged, opting for a more common finish or material can prevent extended wait times, too.

“Instead of waiting 18 to 22 weeks for special finishes, people are settling for chrome or black finishes, which is bringing down the cost a little bit,” says Doug Walton of Nest Builder Renovation and Construction in St. Albert, Alta. “The warranties are the same across all finishes.”

But Walton urges renovators not to skimp when it comes to choosing a contractor. You might save money in the short-term, but the long-term effects of shoddy work can cost you.

“When [the work’s] not done right, it’s a very quick way to increase your costs because you have to redo it,” he says. “I definitely recommend really vetting who you're having do your work for you, and making sure that they have all the necessary coverages and warranties in place.”

And if a corner-cutting contractor makes your home less energy efficient, you could also be facing higher heating and cooling costs for years.

Hence this next piece of advice.

3. Make energy efficiency a priority

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency provides a number of long-term benefits. You’ll lower your overall monthly costs, make your home more comfortable and increase its resale value.

Roman recommends getting started with a home energy audit completed by a certified EnerGuide advisor, which will give you a detailed report to guide you on which renovations are the highest priority in terms of maximizing efficiency.

The cost of an audit will run you around $99 in Atlantic Canada, but they cost between $300 and $500 in Ontario, so you’ll want to check what the going rate is in your province.

While that might seem at first like an unnecessary extra cost, energy audits also give you access to a wide variety of federal and provincial green energy rebates, Roman points out.

“These rebates help to off-set the renovation costs. It's a win-win.”

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4. Weigh your payment options

If paying for a particular reno all at once is giving you sticker shock, look into what payment plans are available from the suppliers and service providers you’re thinking of working with.

If the terms are more favourable than what your line of credit or credit card offer, it can be a cost-effective way to ensure a necessary renovation doesn’t get delayed until prices are even higher. Remember: not all debt is bad debt.

Finding a more agreeable way to pay for renos is also a way to avoid putting them off for too long.

“We've seen it in the past where people prolong upgrading the furnace in their home, for example, and they run into cold winter days with furnaces that aren’t working properly,” Krimker says.

Better to renovate now and work out a payment plan than put off your updates until a critical part of your home’s infrastructure breaks down and you find yourself paying extra-high emergency rates to a repair contractor.

5. Change course

If you’re determined to give your home a facelift but can’t afford to do anything too extensive, focusing on smaller updates to your kitchen and bathroom could put you in a position to save money by implementing used or refurbished items.

There’s bound to be tight competition online for used appliances, as a shortage of electronic components is preventing manufacturers from shipping many new products, but any used fridges, ovens or dishwashers that come with a warranty could provide tremendous value.

And don’t forget to check online resale sites to see if other homeowners have supplies they don’t need. If a fellow renovator miscalculated and now has an oversupply of flooring, tiles, or material for new countertops, you could score yourself a bargain.


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Clayton Jarvis is a mortgage reporter at Money.ca. Prior to joining the Money.ca team, Clay wrote for and edited a variety of real estate publications, including Canadian Real Estate Wealth, Real Estate Professional, Mortgage Broker News, Canadian Mortgage Professional, and Mortgage Professional America.

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