Homeowners build their own future

Homeowners build their own future

A new study from the Federation of Master Builders highlights a distinct rise in people undertaking improvement projects on their own homes, with a third of UK homeowners currently looking to adjust their living space (est. 1,050,000 people.) The FMB study estimates that a tidy sum of £6 billion will be spent by the British public on their houses over the next 3 years. Joe Bradbury from buildingspecifier.com addresses the results of the study, in a bid to understand just what it is that is encouraging the Great British public to invest their hard-earned cash in pricey DIY projects over the previously favoured alternative; new cars and expensive holidays abroad.

According to the study, 40% of these home improvements are classed as “major refurbishments,” consisting predominantly of new kitchens, new bathrooms and home extensions. The study also shows that many are choosing to undertake smaller, less disruptive projects too – such as loft conversions and conservatories, in an effort to achieve optimum living space and add value to their homes.

A fifth of those involved in the study claimed that they are choosing to improve their homes because they feel that they cannot afford to buy a new house, opting instead to develop the space they are in to better suit their requirements.

A larger portion are planning ahead it seems, taking steps to make sure that there is adequate accommodation space for when they choose to start a family.

This may seem a fairly obvious reason for the recent spike in DIY projects; after all the rising property prices are no secret and leave people with no choice but to come up with clever alternatives in order to provide for themselves and their families.

It is the remaining 33% planning developments detected by the study, however, that prove a higher cause for concern. With the average age for first time buyers currently in flux between the ages of 30 and 40, many older people are building extensions and annexes to house grown-up children who simply cannot afford to leave home and get on the property ladder. There also seems to be an increasing number of people who have no choice but to make posthumous plans regarding the financial interest of their children, stating that the motives for such developments serve only to add value to their estate. This suggests that many Brits are becoming more reliant on their inheritance if they are to stand any chance of achieving a secure and comfortable retirement themselves.

As well as DIY projects currently in planning/progress, Home Improvement TV shows are also reporting record ratings – making celebrities out of Nick Knowles, Sarah Beeny, Kevin McCloud and Kirsty Allsopp. This steady rise in the popularity of such shows over the past few years illustrates clearly the interest and intention of people improving their own houses, particularly in the ways in which homeowners can enhance the quality and value of their homes through investing in them.

Leading safety organisation Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have famously chastised DIY and home improvement shows, blaming them for the rise in figures of people causing themselves injury or even death by taking on a job of which they lack the required skill or experience to do so.

BMET college tutor Jade and her engineer partner Alex are nearing completion on their mammoth project; a sizeable extension on their kitchen. They too have joined the increasing number of people who choose to carry out all of the labour themselves.

Jade discusses the motives that caused them to undertake such a large project:

Q) What made you decide to build an extension on your house?
A) We wanted to make our kitchen a more useable space, as we felt it was no longer practical for our needs.

Q) What were the contributing factors that led you to undertake the work yourselves?
A) We weighed up the pros and cons of us doing the project ourselves and finally decided that we wanted a personal challenge. We already had experience renovating a previous house and we felt that we had the capability to learn the necessary skills to do the work ourselves. The budget was also a key factor in the decision; in order to complete all construction work and install the kitchen of our dreams we simply couldn’t afford to get the builders in.

Q) How long has it taken?
A) From planning being granted to applying the final touches it has taken 18 months. We are ecstatic with the results but 18 months is a long time to live in every conceivable strain of dust! From brick dust to plaster dust to concrete dust to sawdust; we’ve intensively and repeatedly vacuumed them all!

Q) Would you recommend extensions to those looking at innovative ways to add value to their assets?
A) Now we are nearing the end of the project I would definitely recommend it to others who want to develop their living spaces. There were many times throughout where I may have said different. Although we are delighted with our new kitchen it has been an enormous personal, emotional and physical upheaval so if you are considering a similar project I cannot stress the importance of being realistically aware of both the logistics and the timeframe.

Q) Do you think that with rising house prices and the increased cost of living, people are being forced make these improvements in order to ensure their houses remain competitive on the market?
A) Definitely. Moving house in an increasingly volatile market is becoming more expensive and less lucrative. People are turning the ‘make do and mend attitude,’ currently popular in fashion and deco, towards their houses. Extending also ensures a safety net for the future if moving becomes financially unviable.

The FMB study raises a host of interesting topics for debate regarding the state of British economy, but it should also prove to be of great interest and concern in particular to the housing sector of the construction industry. The harsh reality is that people are less frequently requiring the services of builders and decorators to help them in their quest for the perfect house; instead stepping tentatively into the minefield of DIY home improvement. They are also picking up many valuable skills along the way.

The condition of UK economy may be too great an issue to implement any immediate change but perhaps in a developing culture where everybody is a builder, the housing sector need to come up with innovative ways to remain competitive and support people throughout their projects – decreasing the risk of being bypassed, securing future trade and sensibly nursing the industry on its phoenix-style rise from the ashes of a recent recession.

Jade’s blog The Mud, the Bad and the Ugly: Home Extensions for Beginners is a witty, hilarious and brilliant account that documents the thrills and spills of undergoing your own personal project. Read it here.

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