Canadian Contractor

Maclean's magazine article claims the renovation boom "puts the economy at risk"!

The article in the July 28, 2014 Maclean's, by Chris Sorenson, is called "The Dark Side of the Renovation Boom." It says that Canadians are over-indebting themselves with renovation spending that is nothing more than "conspicuous consumption" and that a rise in interest rates or a housing price correction could bring our industry crashing down - affecting the entire economy.


August 27, 2014
By Steve Payne
Steve Payne

Wow, what a depressing – and, for me – irritating read.

Journalist Chris Sorenson takes a wrecking bar to the entire feel good feeling of our current renovation boom (an average 7 per cent per year increase in Canadian renovation spending) in the July 28, 2014 Maclean’s magazine.

His article paints a picture of an over-indebted, over-leveraged homeowner base in Canada who are spending money like water on home renovations based on low interest rates and the expectation of rapid, ever-increasing real estate prices.

What happens when those interest rates go up, he asks. What happens if the housing market drops 20 per cent?

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His basic theme is summed up in this statement, which I believe is totally unsupported by serious research: “(The renovation boom is) driven by the premise that thousands spent on new floors and fixtures is an ‘investment’ as opposed to mere conspicuous consumption.”

And then he says that many renovating homeowners do so because they believe that “shelling out $2,000 for a new granite countertop could add another $10,000 or more to the value of a home.”

And then there are lots more questionable claims like that in the article.

It’s not because I’m the editor of Canadian Contractor that I disbelieve most of the doom-and-gloom statements in this article. It’s because I live in Toronto, where so many of the Maclean’s-types, and the CBC-types, and the Globe and Mail-types write their own versions of the “Canadian” (read: the Toronto) economy.

It’s true that in the trendy, Starbucks-lattes-nested-in-gigantic-baby-stroller neighbourhoods of midtown Toronto, where Land Rovers and Mercedes SUVs sit outside of million-dollar 1,800-square-feet mock tudor homes covered in ivy, “conspicuous consumption” and debt drive many renovations.

But I think that is a gross misrepresentation of the renovation work being done by most of our Canadian Contractor reader-contractors across the country. I believe renovations are more rationally thought-out than THAT, in most marketplaces outside of the Centre of the Universe.

Read the full Maclean’s article here.

Tell us what you think. Do you think this article is anywhere close to the truth? Or do you share some of these concerns?


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3 Comments » for Maclean's magazine article claims the renovation boom "puts the economy at risk"!
  1. Bob2 says:

    I think there is way too much money being dumped into RE that is taking away from other parts of the economy, whether that’s buying an over priced house or spending on unnecessary renovations, so I have to agree with the article to a degree.

    I travel quite extensively in Ontario and I see this phenomenon everywhere, people have become obsessed with housing, they don’t trust the stock market so they dump every $ and then some into housing, not good.

  2. Jason Denkers says:

    This is just more of Maclean’s typical fear mongering journalism. I for a time was an avid Maclean’s reader til I noticed that I was borderline depressed after reading each new issue. If you read and believe their articles, than the sky is always about to fall. Yes maybe low interest rates have helped fuel this so called “boom” but as a second generation renovator with 50+ years combined family renovation business, there has always been more work than we could handle. Renovating as consumer decision has more to do with common sense and necessity than media hype for big returns on resale.

  3. dave says:

    Most cases putting money into your home is a better investment than buying a 60,000.00 car or truck. Unless your home is falling apart the price will stay the same or close to it or go up.

    But nobody has any problem with the severe depreciation on a vehicle. If you take a close look at the vehicles on the road today , most are fairly new.

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