Time running out for homeowners looking to take advantage of HRTC

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Peter Simpson

Examples include finishing a basement, renovating a kitchen or bathroom, building an addition, landscaping, flooring, windows, fencing, furnace, painting … Well, you get the drift. Routine repairs and maintenance such as house cleaning, lawn care and snow removal are not eligible. Also, the program won’t credit you a penny for furniture, appliances or the purchase of tools.

The attractiveness of this program is that you can do various jobs during the eligibility period, hold onto your applicable receipts, then add them all up when you complete your tax return. You might have refinished your hardwood flooring in March, replaced your cabinetry in April, paved your driveway in July, and plan to renovate your bathroom next month and paint just before Christmas.

Alas, my wife and I likely won’t be able to claim the maximum tax credit but we are about halfway there. I suspect many Canadian homeowners improving their homes are in the same boat. According to the feds, about 4.6 million families will reap the benefits. Not a bad deal at all.

The HRTC, with its requirement for receipts, helps to dissuade homeowners from engaging in the underground cash economy, thereby eroding business opportunities for tax-evading contractors.

However, the sad reality is under-the-table cash deals often trump written contracts which define the terms and conditions of a home-improvement project, including scope of work and payment schedules, permits and inspections, WorkSafeBC compliance, liability insurance and warranty.

If you are tempted by the lure of cash deals, give your head a shake. Nothing good will come of it, and you might pay a great deal more in the end. Just ask my buddies Mike Holmes and Shell Busey.

With time running out on HRTC eligibility, consider taking advantage of the advice and inspiration at the Vancouver Home and Interior Design Show, at BC Place Stadium. The show starts Thursday and closes four days later.

Headliners include Ty Pennington, star of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and Colin and Justin from HGTV’s Home Heist, but there are a host of other entertaining personalities as well.

My bias exposed, if you are interested in sound renovation advice, a must-visit feature is the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association Renovation Council’s 2,000-square-foot Renovation Gallery.

Renovations have become more complicated and multifaceted, so it is crucial that homeowners do their homework before embarking on any home-renovation project, regardless of size and cost.

Visitors to the gallery will be able to view many superb home makeovers and discuss their own renovation intentions with pros such as John Friswell, chair of the Canadian Renovators’ Council and winner of a record three straight Georgie Awards for best residential renovator in B.C.

All the renovators showcasing their fine work at the Gallery are members of RenoMark, a national program designed to help homeowners differentiate the pros from the schmoes. RenoMark contractors must abide by a 10-condition code of conduct, or risk expulsion from the program.

B.C. homeowners will spend about $7 billion on home improvement and renovation this year, with a similar expenditure expected next year.

Last week a contractor invited me to tour a renovation project his team was close to completing. This makeover will have no problem qualifying for the HRTC. The value of the renovation is a cool $6 million. I intend to take him up on his offer. Apparently the features in the home are phenomenal.

Visit vancouverhomeshows.com on the Internet for details on the show, and renomark.ca for information on the RenoMark program.

Peter Simpson is the chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association. E-mail: [email protected]

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