Judy Waisanen

Judy Waisanen

Home industry seeing positive shift

Thanks to Mike Holmes and other TV home show personalities, more informed customers are in the new home and renovation markets, say exhibitors at the Red Deer Home Show.

Thanks to Mike Holmes and other TV home show personalities, more informed customers are in the new home and renovation markets, say exhibitors at the Red Deer Home Show.

Of the hundreds of Central Albertans who perused about 300 trade show booths sponsored by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association at Westerner Park this weekend were more potential customers who knew exactly what they wanted.

“People are looking for more quality in building. They want options that last longer, are more efficient and sustainable, said Rob Rolston, custom homes manager for Avalon, Central Alberta.

And he thinks this is positive for the industry.

“There’s nothing bad with educating yourself,” Rolston said.

In fact, he believes asking for more energy-efficient options, such as spray foam instead of standard insulation, at the outset means no regrets later on. “It’s good to ask a lot of questions, and TV is having that effect.”

Home show chair Kevin Wilkie, vice-president of the home builders’ association, Central Alberta chapter, feels television, magazines and the Internet are all contributing to a wider knowledge base.

As a result, he’s noticed more clients coming in with specific requests.

“They often bring pictures with them and say ‘I want it to look something like this,” said Wilkie, who is also vice-president of sales for True-Line Homes.

Christine Long of Red Deer was among those looking for a specific product at the home show. “I want flat, shiny doors for my (kitchen) cabinets in a glossy grey colour — pretty modern,” said Long, who hadn’t found them on Saturday, but comes every year to “see what we can see.”

Attendance to the 2013 home show appears to have increased from 2012, and the number of booths was up a few from last year’s 280 exhibitors. “We found space for a few more,” said Wilkie, who noted the show’s space sold out again, regardless, with more businesses on the waiting list.

While several local builders have seen a growing interest in new entry-level homes and higher-end homes, they say demand for mid-range homes has softened a little. Wilkie believes it’s because new lots for those homes have not been made available in the city for a while.

As for the accelerating demand for custom-built homes, David Hozjan, president of Elk River Mountain Homes of Fernie, B.C. — who constructs luxury homes in the $750,000 to $1-million price range — believes it’s because “the quiet money comes out” during recessions when affluent people can build when commodity prices are lower.

Hozjan said his company has doubled sales volumes in the last four years. The main trend he’s noticed over that period is a customer preference for quality finishes over large square footage.

Rolston’s company has also been busy been filling a demand for nicely finished houses that are not as big as they might have been in the past. “I find that people want a more reasonable size, when it comes to cleaning,” he said, noting a lot of these homes are only about 1,600 square feet.

Kent and Karen Carmichael of the Rocky Mountain House area, understand the sentiment behind building a more compact, but luxurious home. The couple, who were looking at hot tubs and decking, recently built an upscale home on an acreage that has only two bedrooms and no basement.

“We don’t want our kids to move back in,” said Kent, with a chuckle.

Other trends noticed at the show are for front door renovations and improvements to outdoor living spaces. There’s also an on-going fascination with dark wood flooring and casings and larger floor tiles in natural materials, including slate.

“I just saw some granite that looks like leather. I guess it all depends on how they scrape it,” said Wilkie.