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The success of Paul Switzeny's business is proof that there's still a very healthy market for odd-job home-improvement companies in Canada. And that demand is poised to continue growing as the millennial generation ages.

Indeed, Generation Y — typically defined as those born between the late 1970s and the late 1990s ­— call on home-repair companies such as Mr. Switzeny's Toronto-based The Handy Force for help with everything, from small fixes to small renovations — projects that the homeowners either don't have the skills for the work or the desire to manage it.

"Millennials have been brought up in a digital age, and [do-it-yourself projects are] just not an interest for them," Mr. Switzeny observes. "Some of them will learn [home repair] out of necessity, but there isn't that desire from a lot of young people to get that knowledge from their parents and learn how to do it themselves."

As millennials continue their mass migration away from home and into their own properties, whether rented or owned, they're running into age-old residential challenges — namely, that homes need to be maintained.

And it's no surprise that the budgetary expectations of this cash-strapped demographic can sometimes be unrealistic. "A lot of them buy entry-level homes, which today means a major fixer-upper, and they call us in to get a quote because they have all these great ideas as to how to make it a wonderful space," Mr. Switzeny says. "But then you give them a quote for a new bathroom and they say, 'Well, I only have $100 to renovate my bathroom.' Unfortunately, that's nowhere near the budget required. They often want to hire people, but they can't."

Those that can often want simple repairs. "We've had calls for leaking roofs that are 40 years old and need to be replaced, but they'll ask us to patch specific spots. They're looking for generally essential services."

As for those millennials who do have the funds to repair or improve their homes, they bring to the table the preferences for value, smart design and customization typical of their generation, such as personalizing their pricey new downtown condos in Vancouver or Victorian-era fixer-uppers in Toronto.

"It's all about what you can do with confined space," says Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University's Schulich School of Business. Mr. Middleton is referring to the opportunity for home-improvement companies to serve millennials living in typically cramped urban quarters. "There's an opportunity to package small stuff like minor repairs, or building furniture, really identifying small areas of improvement or repair," he says. "They're not big jobs."

Peter Lam has been serving the not-handy residents of Vancouver for more than a decade. In his experience, millennials tend to approach an interior design firm if they have the funds for a major renovation; otherwise they want small fixes to make their homes more livable, saving their hard-earned dollars for other lifestyle pursuits.

"A lot of them are into technology and they're not interested in doing [home repairs]," Mr. Lam says. "They just want something done fast and properly."

Mr. Lam's work involves some of Vancouver's newest condos, where millennial  homeowners often call on him to make small upgrades to personalize their space. So, surely companies such as his must invest heavily on search engines and other digital marketing strategies to attract this digitally obsessed generation? Not so fast.

"I don't spend any money on advertising," Mr. Lam reports, noting too that all of his business comes from organic web searches or client referrals.

The same is true for The Handy Force. Mr. Switzeny says he has invested heavily on Google Adwords campaigns in the past, only to gain a meagre return on investment. The reason: Tech-savvy and advertising-weary millennials are well versed in using ad-blocking technology.

"Millennials are more about organic searches," he notes. "The younger generations find us that way...and most people find us because they simply live around the corner. Because we're so present in [the Toronto neighbourhood of] East York, our vehicles are almost ubiquitous."

Indeed, The Handy Force's distinctive yellow-and-white vans and vehicles are instantly recognizable to local residents. The company's vehicle branding was specifically designed to be professional, yet approachable and friendly, in part to defuse the negative perceptions of contractors perpetuated by home-improvement-disaster TV programs such as Holmes on Homes, where the trusted celebrity contractor is featured, fixing other contractors' mistakes.

Building confidence and trust is critical when marketing to millennials, stresses Mr. Middleton. "All the studies I read agree that millennials don't trust traditional authorities. They all go to friends and acquaintances [for referrals]."

As such, Mr. Middleton still points to the benefits of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, for handyman companies hoping to attract millennials with client testimonials and photos of completed projects.

Sometimes the best marketing tools are found in the fine print. To reassure its clients, The Handy Force uses fixed-price contracts to guarantee cost certainty on projects. The company also maintains a storefront in East York, affirming that having a brick-and-mortar presence can still matter, even when marketing to digitally savvy clients.

"The market is primed for clients to know which contractors are good or bad," Mr. Switzeny says. "Having a brick-and-mortar operation builds a lot of trust because clients can come and knock on our door. That's worked really well for us."


This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Edge Content Studio, in consultation with an advertiser. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.