Households are pouring money into renovation projects as the pandemic forces people to spend more time at home. While homeowners in blue-chip city areas were the biggest spenders over the past year, demand for more space has also seen renovation bills soar in growth regions and lifestyle suburbs.

A record $11 billion worth of renovations were approved by councils over the 2020-21 financial year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, up 30.7% compared to the previous year.

Homeowners in affluent inner-city Sydney and Melbourne outspent the rest of the country, however growth suburbs on Brisbane’s outer fringe recorded the strongest growth, with the value of renovation approvals in the Ipswich region soaring 378.6% over the year.

Council approved home alterations and additions totalled a record $11 billion over 2020-21. Picture: Getty.

Considering smaller, non-structural and cosmetic renovations don’t require council approval, the value of total renovation work is likely much higher.

REA Group economist Anne Flaherty said record low borrowing costs and government grants had encouraged households to make home improvements while stuck at home during lockdowns.

“HomeBuilder has been a major contributor to the record spend on renovating over the past 12 months, with the grant also applying to major renovations,” Ms Flaherty said.

“Lockdowns and the current low interest rate environment have also contributed to a surge in home improvements.”

The suburbs where renovators are spending the most in each state

Ms Flaherty said search activity recorded on realestate.com.au suggests a shift in housing needs as a result of the pandemic.

“A key trend which has emerged since the start of the pandemic is a growing demand for larger houses. People are searching for properties with three or more bedrooms more than they were in the past, whilst demand for one and two bedders has fallen,” she said.

“For many people in search of additional space, adding an extension could be more viable than purchasing a larger house.”

Almost 118,000 home alteration and addition projects were approved by councils last financial year.

Renovation activity across coastal and waterside Sydney suburbs featured heavily in the top 10 hotspots for New South Wales.

The exclusive harbourside suburb of Mosman topped the list, with almost $100 million spent on renovations in that area over the year.

The value of council approved renovations in Mosman hit $99.9 million in 2020-21. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy.

Renovation bills across neighbouring waterfront suburbs Double Bay, Rose Bay and Vaucluse all topped $50 million, along with Balgowlah, Clontarf and Seaforth in the Northern Beaches and the North Shore’s Willoughby, Castle Cove and Northbridge region.

The largest growth in renovation value was recorded in the Parramatta region, which more than doubled to $76.8 million.

In Victoria, Melburnians stuck at home during last year’s extended lockdown drove the state’s renovation boom, particularly across affluent inner-city and Mornington Peninsula suburbs.

Residents in Point Nepean were the state’s biggest spenders, forking out $70.7 million on home alterations and additions during the 12 months to June, followed by Albert Park at $60.2 million.

In total, $700.9 million worth of home improvements were approved across inner Melbourne, including the hard-hit CBD.

“Inner-city suburbs have overwhelmingly seen the highest spending on renovations. Many of these areas saw vacancy spike last year,” Ms Flaherty said.

“Some landlords with vacant properties may have viewed this time as an opportunity to improve the value of their assets as well as making them more attractive to future tenants.”

The highest value of renovation activity in 2020-21 occurred in Melbourne’s inner city. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy.

Brisbane’s inner-city region recorded a 15% jump in renovation activity. However it was the Ipswich suburb of Springfield Lakes that had the highest value of approvals in Queensland, with $125 million spent on home improvements over the year.

In South Australia, residents in the leafy suburb of Unley spent $55 million on alterations and additions over the year. In regional SA, homeowners in Port Elliot topped the list, spending $7.5 million on renovations over the year.

Renovation values hit $526.8 million across Greater Perth, with residents spending more than $17.4 million in Mount Lawley and Inglewood. Outside of the capital, homeowners in the Busselton region poured $12.5 million into alterations and additions over the year.

The ACT recorded the fastest growth of any state or territory, with renovation approvals up 58% over the year, led by $22.4 million worth of work in Kingston.

A 45.7% increase in renovation activity in Tasmania was driven by inner Hobart, with $46.6 million worth of alterations in the area added during the 12 months to June.

Darwin’s Humpty Doo recorded the most work for the capital city, with renovation bills hitting $7.5 million, while approvals in the state’s picturesque Gulf region reached $7.9 million.

Renovators to focus on the outdoors this spring

The renovation frenzy is showing no signs of letting up, with separate ABS data revealing a record $486.8 million worth of loans were issued for alterations and additions in June.

As Australians enter the warmer months, online tradie marketplace hipages is forecasting outdoor renovation jobs, such as garden maintenance and landscaping, will be the most in demand.

“Spring is often the time when we brush off the winter blues to clean out our homes and outdoor spaces, with cleaning and gardening categories the most popular,” hipages chief customer officer Stuart Tucker said.

Online marketplace hipages predicts pool and garden projects will top the renovation list this spring. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy.

He said while the usual peak spring renovation season may be impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, activity should bounce back quickly.

“This year we do anticipate that the various lockdowns experienced across the states, especially those which have halted or limited construction and home improvements, will have an impact on the jobs we would typically observe on the hipages platform in spring,” he said.

“As restrictions lessen across a number of states, we do expect a lot of project ‘catch up’ to make up for the jobs and renovations put on hold over winter.”

Sydney landscaper and owner of North Shore Landscaping, John McKinnon, said demand hadn’t slowed for his business during the extended lockdown across the city.

“They’re spending more time at home, so they want to tidy up the garden and do more work around the place,” Mr McKinnon said.

He said many clients had turned to backyard projects while overseas travel was off the cards.

“They can’t spend $30,000 overseas so they’re spending it on their garden or their home,” Mr McKinnon said.

According to hipages, demand for pool and garden maintenance is expected to surge this spring, while the warmer weather will also push homeowners to get their lawns and outdoor entertaining areas in order.

The five most popular renovation categories hipages predicts for this spring are:

  1. Pool maintenance
  2. Lawn and turf
  3. Garden maintenance
  4. Window cleaning
  5. Decking.

Fencers, tilers, concreters and painters are also expected to be in high demand.

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