How the pandemic has changed our kitchens and bathrooms

How the pandemic has changed our kitchens and bathrooms

Reading time: 5 mins

Article written by Thomas McDevitt, HIA Senior Economist.

The Housing Industry Association’s Kitchens & Bathrooms Report doesn’t just shed light on what is happening within the kitchens and bathrooms sector itself. It also provides insight into the factors shaping the broader housing market and, indeed, the entire economy.

The results of a survey of renovation-focused builders across Australia show that, compared to pre- pandemic, people are demanding more bathrooms and better kitchens.

The pandemic has changed households’ relationship with their home. After so much time spent locked down and/or working from home, Australians are putting a higher value on their home environment, demanding more space and amenity.

Additional bathrooms were especially popular. With people spending more time at home, there was an increase in the average number of bathrooms per new home being demanded, up from 2.2 in 2019 to 2.6 in 2022.

Part of this increase in the number of bathrooms is also attributable to the shift of population away from apartments to larger detached homes which, among other things, typically have more bathrooms.

Bathrooms were also being renovated sooner, with the average age of bathrooms being upgraded or replaced falling from around 17 years pre-pandemic to less than 14 years in 2022.

This dynamic is probably a short-term trend that will unwind over the course of the decade. Nonetheless, it has added to the large pool of renovation work currently underway.

There were changes in kitchen demand dynamics too. Even with a single kitchen still being sufficient for most homes, owner occupiers were improving their home environment with the purchase of higher- end kitchen finishes and appliances.

All of this is occurring in a context of a market that is continuing to make its way through a record volume of work accumulated during the pandemic – homes, kitchens, bathrooms and broader renovations. This is despite the rise in the cash rate slowing the volume of new work entering that pipeline.

The easing of materials constraints and the return of overseas workers are set to help Australia’s builders complete this significant pipeline of building work. What is waiting on the other side is more uncertain.

The RBA’s tightening cycle, combined with ballooning construction costs, will see new renovation work slowing over the next couple of years, but from a record high, and with ample renovation work still in the pipeline.

The renovations sector is expected to sustain elevated levels of activity going forward. Extreme weather events have resulted in the need for repairs, which can also catalyse decisions for broader renovations . The increasing costs associated with new home building, combined with the pandemic trend towards home improvement, will also continue to support demand for such renovations.