Why Torontonians are Choosing Renovating above Selling

High home prices, love of neighbourhoods behind homeowners’ drive to create space that works
Kara Kuryllowicz
November 3, 2017

Torontonians who love their neighbourhoods continue to renovate – rather than sell and move – to get the extra space they want – because it often makes the best financial, practical and even emotional sense, according to local agents and renovators.

“Due to Toronto’s housing prices in the past two to three years, the starter home has become the forever home as people decide to stay in place and renovate,” says Erik Calhoun of Re:Placement Design Inc., Toronto. “As a result of that investment and long-term commitment, particularly in more marginal pockets, homeowners will really benefit from gains over the next five, 10 and 30 years.”

Preferable to the Big Move

A 2017 CIBC poll reported that, of the 48% of Canadian homeowners who planned to renovate in 2017, more than half are choosing to renovate their existing homes rather than sell to buy a new home. Homeowners spend the most on renovations in Ontario, at an average of $15,988 in 2017, which is higher than the previous two years – even though the national average reno spend has dropped.

Calhoun adds, “[In Toronto] we’re seeing increasing and ongoing demand for renovations with conversions that include rental units, because so few can afford to own and need that extra income.”

Aside from the property price, a home move can cost as much as $100,000 – or more – once you include the Toronto and Ontario land transfer taxes, legal and real estate fees, professional movers and commitments such as new paint, window treatments, appliances, furniture and accessories that may or not have been part of the original plan and budget, notes Sandra Pate, a broker at Johnston & Daniel, Royal Lepage, Toronto. Pate, who has 36 years of real estate experience, is now adding a third floor to the second home she and her partner share on the same Toronto street as their own residence.

Creating Your Space

Aside from the stratospheric cost of a move, many Toronto families stay put because they absolutely adore the neighbourhoods they live in. After 12 years in Toronto’s Greektown, the Baril family was finally ready to tackle the renovation they’d been contemplating for years.

“Aside from the cost of moving, our location is absolutely ideal and we love our neighbours,” says Melody Baril, who appreciates the one-block walk to the subway, short subway ride to downtown and three-minute drive to the Don Valley Parkway, as well as her two-car parking spot and big backyard. “Packing for and managing our first move was so traumatic, I knew that I never wanted to do it again.” 

Toronto Greektown reno
Photos by Samantha Keay for Re:Placement Design

 The contemporary addition doubles the home’s total living space, giving the Barils the space they needed instead of having to move

Re:Placement Design masterminded the Barils’ six-month renovation, which included a three-storey, 20-by-20-foot addition on the back of their small character house. The contemporary extension doubles the total living space with a huge new kitchen, a fourth bedroom and two new bathrooms for a total of four bathrooms. Just as importantly, all of the windows and knob-and-tube wiring were replaced and the home got its first-ever insulation, air-conditioning system and ceiling lights.

The kitchen, which has a walk-in pantry off to the side, is the hub of the home, where both parents cook and their three daughters do homework and hang out. The Barils also appreciate the third-floor master suite with its his-and-hers closets, walk-in shower, soaker tub and view of the trees and sky as well as the natural light that pours in, thanks to the new layout and windows.

“The girls love having their own bedrooms and get along better as a result of the extra space,” says Baril, whose heat and electricity bills have dropped 20% despite the fact they are heating, cooling and lighting twice the space. 

Toronto Greektown Reno 3
Photos by Samantha Keay for Re:Placement Design

The new kitchen in the Barils’ huge new extension has become the hub of this beloved Greektown home

Staying in the ’Hood

Like the Barils, Pate and her partner wanted extra square footage as well as a floorplan and esthetics specific to their needs and sense of design and style. The renovation keeps them right beside one of Toronto’s largest, least-used parks, across the street from transit and a short stroll from the Danforth, Gerrard or Queen Streets with an outstanding independent coffee shop mere steps away. 

So what are the most popular renovations that are keeping owners in their homes? Aside from basic maintenance and landscaping, which were the most common, the CIBC poll found that bathroom and kitchen upgrades respectively accounted for 31% and 26% of planned renos. A brave 7%, like the Barils, committed to full-scale renovations and home additions to better meet their families’ needs.

Canada-wide, the poll found owners recognizing that as much as they enjoy living in the results of their home transformation, the upgrades also increase the homes’ value at resale.

“A good reno meets your family’s future and current needs, but of course, it’s also sure to increase your home’s value and appeal at resale – whenever that might be,” says Pate. 

Kara Kuryllowicz
Kara Kuryllowicz is a Toronto-based writer with 30 years of experience writing and editing for a wide range of magazines, websites and corporate clients. She has a long-term interest in real estate, as a journalist, homeowner and landlord with investment properties. She is fascinated by the Greater Toronto Area real estate market and is equally interested in how the Toronto market affects seasonal and second homes.