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Don’t put down that hammer

Rebates abound for recession renos

GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY with home renovations this spring and you could get a tax rebate from the federal government while improving your property's value. (Philip Alves/Vaughan Today)

Hankering for a new bathroom but the recession has you hugging your wallet a little tighter these days?

If you are, you’re not alone and the federal government knows it.

“It’s human nature to withdraw in times of economic crisis, to either stop spending or to put all your money in cash and put it under the bed,” Thornhill MP Peter Kent says.

To get you to loosen the grip on your wallet, the federal government included incentives in its recent budget to help scratch that home-reno itch.

“The new Home Renovation Tax Credit (HRTC) makes it very interesting for Canadians who have some home improvement projects to undertake, allowing significant savings on materials and services purchased,” says Tony Dranitsaris, Rona’s Woodbridge store manager. “The current economic context is a good time to be thinking about improving the value of your home. Reno projects — remodelling the kitchen, installing a new hardwood floor or finishing the basement — will add value to the property.”

Under the HRTC, homeowners can claim between $1,000 and $10,000 in eligible renovation costs they incur from January 27, 2009 to February 1, 2010. The maximum amount a homeowner can get back in next year’s tax return is $1,350.

It’s good news for owners looking to sell their homes and maximize their investments in a buyers’ market, says Peter Arci, a top broker with Re/Max Excellence Realty Inc. in Vaughan.

Examples of Home Renovation Tax Credit eligible projects:
• Renovating a kitchen, bathroom or basement
• New carpet or hardwood floors
• Building an addition, garage, deck, garden/storage shed, fence
• Re-shingling a roof
• A new furnace, woodstove, boiler, fireplace, water softener or water heater
• A new or resurfaced driveway
• Painting of interior or exterior of a house
• Window coverings directly attached to the window frame and whose removal would alter the nature of the dwelling
• Laying new sod
• Permanent swimming pools, both in ground and above ground
• Fixtures — lights, fans, etcetera
• Associated renovation costs like permits, professional services, equipment rentals and incidental expenses

Examples of ineligible expenditures:
• Furniture, appliances, and audio and visual electronics
• Buying tools
• House or carpet cleaning
• Maintenance contracts, including furnace cleaning, snow removal, lawn care and pool cleaning
• Financing costs

Source: Canada Revenue Agency

“Kitchens and bathrooms,” he says. “Those are actually the most effective ways of increasing the value of your property.”

In the kitchen, Arci says the most cost-effective improvements are refacing dated cupboards, adding a new backsplash and replacing an old countertop with a new, granite one.

“The price of a granite countertop has come down to a level that is very affordable now,” he says. “Just that simple change . . . will increase the appeal.”

Homeowners can also get a big bang for their home-reno buck in the bathroom, Arci says.

“Sometimes the shower could be mouldy and dingy, and a rebuilt shower with a glass door can really add a lot of appeal,” he says. “Even the simple things like changing the counter, the sink and even the toilet in a bathroom, it’s not that expensive to do.

“You can probably do all of this for under $2,000.”

Which, Arci adds, can be claimed under the new HRTC.

Other improvements that qualify for the tax credit include new carpet or hardwood floors, a new furnace or garden shed, or re-shingling a roof.

“The tax credit directly benefits consumers, who receive a significant income tax credit upon completing an admissible reno project,” Dranitsaris says. “It also benefits the home renovation industry as a whole — retailers such as Rona included — helping stimulate a market which is affected by the current economic downturn and helping save or even create local jobs.”

Rona is getting in on the act, too. The Canadian home-reno retailer is offering a cash-back program, RONAdvantage, to coincide with the HRTC. Customers who sign up and spend between $1,000 and $10,000 at the chain will get 10 percent back in the form of gift cards.

“We have already a few million dollars worth of projects registered with us on a national basis, and we see about 10 new projects being registered . . . daily,” Dranitsaris says.

In addition to the HRTC, the federal government also recently announced a temporary two-year 25-percent hike in grants available through the EcoEnergy – Retrofit Homes program, which is targeted at increasing the energy efficiency of homes.

“This is a great chance for Canadians to save money on home renovations that will cut their energy bills for years to come — but I do encourage homeowners to act quickly,” Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt said in a March 30 statement.

To be eligible for EcoEnergy grants, a homeowner must first hire a government-certified energy auditor, who assesses the home and recommends upgrades. The homeowner pays for the audit up front but the province rebates half the cost up to $150.

Once the recommended improvements are complete, the homeowner applies for eligible EcoEnergy grants. The more energy saved, the larger the rebate.

Homeowners who take advantage of the EcoEnergy program, Raitt pointed out, may also qualify for the HRTC.

Vaughan Today
In print: April 3, 2009, page 6
Online: April 3, 2009 [link]
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