OPINION: New wave of DIY expected as property values stall
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Steady increases in property values over the past few years have been regularly boosted by often spectacular spurts of market activity – the combined impact of which has propelled average UK house prices close towards the £270,000 mark this week.
A succession of industries and closely associated sectors benefit from rising property values, not least the DIY and home retail sectors. When moving property, people traditionally spend more money on household items such as soft furnishings and new furniture, as well as home improvements. It’s no surprise, then, to learn that Kingfisher, owners of B&Q and Screwfix, reported a UK retail profit of £794 million in their last full year accounts, an increase of more than 16pc on the previous 12 months.
Even when the property market becomes moribund, as it does roughly every seven years, people tend to undertake home improvements, or simply apply a ‘refresh’ to make their homes more comfortable.
Almost right on cue, a DIY trend that gathered pace throughout lockdown may have eased slightly during Spring 2022, but a marked change in the nation’s economic circumstances looks likely to see a reboot.
Today, inflation and steadily rising interest rates appear to be exerting an increasingly significant influence on the property market and as bricks-and-mortar values stall, or perhaps plateau for a while.
Our local DIY retailer has no doubts that people will be tackling everything from simple to over-ambitious jobs during the coming months. Bill, a short, squat man in his seventies, has occupied the same shop for donkey’s years and understands that his firm’s success is closely aligned to the property market’s fortunes. Family-owned, the business is a meandering Aladdin’s cave where you can buy anything from half a dozen screws to a sufficient volume and selection of materials with which to build a new house, let alone improve an existing one.
One of its most attractive characteristics is the helpful advice dispensed by the owner and his two sons. Posing a DIY-related question to any member of this trio invariably draws a comprehensive answer, coupled with some suggestions you haven’t yet considered. Furthermore, Bill is always keen to emphasise the need for safety when DIY-ers plan to tackle something with which they’re not necessarily familiar: “We often see the consequences of blokes who go at a job like a bull at a gate.”
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The rising cost of building and home improvement materials has not passed this friendly, knowledgeable business by. Plywood has risen by 15pc over the past 12 months; loft insulation has soared by 20pc; concrete blocks are up by 18pc. DIY-ers appear undeterred: Bill’s shop is as busy as ever.
The causes underpinning these price increases have been well documented: the pandemic’s sustained impact; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; soaring global energy prices; labour and shipping costs that are almost nine times higher than they were pre-pandemic. It makes you wonder what happened to the ‘workshop of the world’ moniker Britain once proudly displayed.
The result, according to the online directory Checkatrade, is that in the year ending January 2022, the average cost of carrying out home improvements rose by £1,342. No wonder people are increasingly prepared to tackle the work themselves.
Online personal finance website Moneymapp suggests that before assembling the necessary materials, preparing and sticking to a DIY budget makes enormous sense.
Ken Carter, head of insurance services at Moneymapp, recommends DIY-ers use standard fittings wherever possible and buy off-the-shelf materials to keep costs down.
“Unless you’re completely transforming your property to accommodate unusual or bespoke fittings, using standard-sized ones will ultimately make your DIY project more affordable,” advises Mr Carter.
But even the most accomplished DIY-er has limited expertise in some areas. Most larger DIY jobs require professional assistance from, say, a plumber or an electrician. It follows that shopping around when selecting tradesmen and being specific about the work requirements can save significant amounts of money. Using a trade professional also reduces the likelihood of DIY-ers sustaining an injury or causing damage to their property.
“Accidental damage to the home is surprisingly inexpensive and is covered by most insurance policies,” adds Mr Carter, who reveals he is a keen DIY-er. “Yes, I am, “ he says. “But I know the limits of my ability – and always ensure my home insurance covers accidental damage.”
For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey’s regular blog, The Week In Numbers.