Calgary

Home renovation spending rises as Alberta recession lingers

An ATB economist says the slow economy might be dragging down the market for new housing, but Albertans are spending billions to upgrade their current homes.

$1.56B invested on existing homes in 2nd quarter of 2016

People in Alberta are spending more money to fix up their existing homes rather than build new ones, statistics show. (CBC)

An ATB economist says the slow economy might be dragging down the market for new housing, but Albertans are spending billions to upgrade their current homes.

Statistics Canada says Alberta homeowners spent $1.56 billion on major projects in the second quarter of this year, expanding or improving properties.       

That's up from $1.53 billion in the first three months of this year.

Spending on new home construction in Alberta, by contrast, fell 17.4 per cent to $4.2 billion in the second quarter this year compared to last year. 

"Mostly I thought the numbers were really intriguing, that in fact we're seeing almost record high spending on home renos at the moment," said ATB chief economist Todd Hirsch.

And he says the figures probably underestimate the total value of renovations, because they don't include minor improvements, such as new flooring or painting.

But Lewis Cowie, who owns Corefront Home Renovations, says while business is stable, it's still tough.

"It's more of a challenge and everybody is aware that the marketplace is slower, so it's very competitive to get any project out there," he said.

Hirsch says that could be an indication that homeowners are turning to out-of-work friends rather than hiring renovation companies.

"Because there are a lot of people and a lot of labour available at the moment …  there might be that sense that we're going to do it entirely ourselves, or we're going to use friends and neighbours and you know, people who are handy that way."