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Renovation nation

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Australia's love affair with home renovations is nothing new. Binge-watching renovation programs and trips to the local DIY store are something of a national sport for us, but when COVID hit many predicted that would grind to a halt.

Liz Barrett

Senior Content Producer

Australia's love affair with home renovations is nothing new. Binge-watching renovation programs and trips to the local DIY store are something of a national sport for us, but when COVID hit many predicted that would grind to a halt. 

However, the pandemic and forced remote working have seen households spending more time than ever before at home. The enforced lockdown has shifted the priorities for many occupants and home improvement is top of the agenda.  

In a recent Houzz survey, homeowners reported that the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns (from March 2020), despite predictions, didn't stop renovations going ahead and had minimal disruptions and changes to plans. In fact, less than one per cent cancelled their ongoing project. 

‘As we saw from our recent COVID-19 survey, lockdown inspired new projects for many homeowners on Houzz. In fact, three-quarters reported that they were thinking of changes that would help them enjoy their home more, with outdoor, kitchen and bathroom projects topping wish lists,’ says Tony Been, Managing Director for Houzz Australia and New Zealand. 

The same survey showed that during COVID-19, respondents got busy around the home: decluttering and organising (56 per cent), and cleaning and tidying up (51 per cent) as well as doing more cooking and baking (47 per cent). It seems this became the perfect opportunity for many to assess spaces that needed improvement.  

To add to this, Australians have diverted funds typically used to travel and eat out to save and renovate their homes. Kitchen and bathroom renovations have increased, partly due to householders up- or down-sizing, and these renovations are taking place immediately before or after the sale. The other driving factor is from residents looking to improve the quality of their home life. Research from the HIA National Outlook Report, shows that this spike in renovation activity is likely to continue throughout 2021. 

Tony Been: Managing Director Houzz Australia and New Zealand

When it comes to renovating homes to meet post-pandemic needs, here are four essential areas to consider when discussing options with homeowners:

Flexibility 

After months of extended work from home orders, flexibility is something every homeowner is crying out for. The home requirements have expanded beyond leisure, and with remote and flexible work here to stay, the home must adapt.  

Expanded working areas are now a must for homes, and often for more than one occupant. Workspaces need to be conducive for productivity and in many instances, away from the main areas of the house.  

‘We’ve seen a rise in interest for homes that can be adapted in the future, particularly modular designs, a term which is cropping up in more searches on Houzz,’ Tony says. ‘Professionals also tell us that their clients are requesting rooms that are suitable for multiple purposes.’ 

Non-permanent walls that can be shifted and inventive ways that rooms can be opened up and shut off as needed are proving to be increasingly popular, he adds.... ‘Small spaces and awkward layouts are also common pain points, and we see renovators searching for solutions on Houzz.’

With some restrictions still in effect, dining out has become less frequent. Home entertaining has also become the norm; we have revived our home cooking, and entertaining skills and kitchen renovations are on the rise. 

It isn't all work and no play, however. Bathroom renovations are another area that many homeowners are focusing on. Desperate for relaxation, these spaces – once utilitarian – are being converted into functional and flexible sanctuaries of tranquillity.  

Having so many requirements, it is unsurprising that storage and furniture must also be adaptable, with many requiring custom-built joinery that can be used as a solution for both.  

Healthy home

The pandemic has shown us that maintaining wellbeing is vital and creating a healthy home should be a priority. When designing spaces, see where you can maximise natural light. Sunlight regulates moods and recharges energy, especially when spending the day in front of a screen or under artificial light. 

Just like outdoor air pollution, low indoor air quality can be detrimental to the family’s health. Incorporate cross ventilation into your projects in order to create good airflow throughout the home. This will also have an added advantage of reducing heating and cooling costs for the owners. When choosing materials and finishes, look for natural stone, flooring and fibres – most are low maintenance and low toxic, promoting better health.  

Nature also has a significant impact on our overall wellbeing, so we have begun to see a surge in outdoor renovations. This is not surprising given lockdowns have restricted people’s access to natural recreational areas typically sought after on weekends and holiday getaways. Creating a space that combines the indoor and outdoor will help with air quality and the occupants feeling closer to nature.

Sustainability

The pandemic isn’t the only thing shifting consumer behaviours – climate change has become an important factor in decision making. Traditionally, renewable and energy efficiency measures were not considered essential when renovating a home. However, more homeowners now see both the financial benefits and the ecological ones. 

After the pre-pandemic bushfires, awareness of environmental impact began to grow, as did the demand for green homes. Climate conscious clients now see sustainable building, biophilic interiors, circular design, and water and energy efficiency as a step towards self-sufficiency and a desirable way to reduce their carbon footprint.

To meet this, the HIA GreenSmart Program was developed to provide builders, designers and contractors with the knowledge and expertise to create accredited green and sustainable spaces and access to recognised environmentally friendly suppliers and manufacturers.   

Financially fit 

The pandemic has created much uncertainty around job security, causing many home renovators to become more budget conscious. As builders and designers, we need to help clients to plan their renovation and set realistic budgets so it is important to have an open conversation about expectations and timelines. These will help keep costs and blowouts to a minimum and avoid delays in payment when the project comes to an end. 

If your client is renovating to sell, be upfront on what will enhance the space but won’t over capitalise the property and reduce their return on investment. 

Look for smart and sustainable ways to reduce costs, see what you can reuse or recycle from the site, or other projects. If your clients are purchasing new, guide them to affordable choices regarding material selections and finishes.   

HIA and Houzz have teamed up to bring you a directory of established and reliable builders, designers, renovation specialists and contractors to help bring your project to life. By hiring an HIA registered builder or contractor, you can be confident you will receive quality workmanship and are backed by Australia's largest residential association. 

For more information and inspiration on how we can help with your 2021 renovation project, visit the HIA website.