Emma Jones was looking forward to moving into her newly renovated home in time for her baby to be born. But her family’s renovation project is one of thousands stung by the nationwide shortage of building materials and merchants.
As a result, Emma, 33, and partner Kayvan Khanmorady-Gagary, 38, had to find an extra £70,000 to welcome their baby Marcus into the world while living in an Airbnb.
Even now, four months after the project was supposed to be finished, the family lives on a construction site.
Emma Jones and partner Kayvan Khanmorady-Gagary, 38, had to find an extra £70,000 to welcome their baby Marcus into the world while living in an Airbnb
The pandemic, coupled with record low mortgage rates and a surge in household savings, fueled a boom in home improvements and renovations.
But unprecedented demand for extensions, attic conversions and landscaping has exacerbated the shortage of building materials and skilled workers due to the pandemic, Brexit and the shipping chaos in the Suez Canal.
Last week, the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply said competition for builders and materials had led to the fastest price increases since the late 1990s.
Emma and Kayvan’s renovation of their new four-bedroom bungalow in Frodsham, Cheshire, was thwarted by timber shortages, a lack of merchants and deliverymen to transport goods.
It meant they couldn’t move in by the time they agreed to sell their current property at the end of June – forcing them to find temporary shelter for two and a half months at an additional cost of £7,500.
Emma, who runs mortgage consulting firm Alder Rose, says she booked her contractor last July, but the earliest date he could start was February.
She was told the renovation of her bungalow, including a conversion of the attic to add additional bedrooms, would be completed in May. But material and labor shortages added months to the timetable.
She says: ‘The doors we ordered got stuck in the Suez Canal, then a shortage of truck drivers made it difficult for us to get them to us.
‘Getting MDF wood loft panels was a big problem for our joiner and the shortage of most of the materials we needed has almost doubled all prices.
We are now waiting for gravel resin for our backyard, but there is a huge shortage and we have run out of suppliers.’
Subcontractors who have been delayed in other jobs have also held back the couple’s plans. Emma, engineer Kayvan and Marcus finally moved into their half-finished home this month, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
In all, the chaos pushed the cost of the couple’s makeover from £100,000 to £170,000. “It’s been terrible,” Emma says. “This project has left a sour taste in my mouth.”
Supply crisis: High demand for attic extensions and refurbishments has exacerbated shortages of building materials and merchants due to the pandemic, Brexit and shipping chaos
Websites that specialize in introducing homeowners to dealers say home improvements are “more popular than ever.” Trade portal Rated People says 52 pc more vacancies have been posted this year than in 2019.
Mybuilder.com receives more than 150,000 job applications from families each month, a rate it says is “significantly above pre-pandemic levels.”
As a result of demand, experts say busy builders are charging fees of up to £2,000 to reserve their services six months in advance.
Meanwhile, mortgage broker Mojo Mortgages says that compared to 2019, the number of home improvement refinancing applications has increased by 174 percent so far this year.
And with a mortgage interest rate of less than 1 pc. available to some homeowners, raising an extra £50,000 over a 25-year term can cost as little as £188 a month.
Adrienne Minster, chief executive of Rated People, said: “We see a continued desire among homeowners to reinvent their spaces. The home improvement boom has been fantastic for ambitious entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, but has contributed to the material shortage.”
Rising improvement costs have led some homeowners to scale back plans or seek financial help.
Jamie Megson, director of Avail Mortgage Brokers, says: ‘Homeowners who don’t have the extra cash turn to relatives for help or back to the banks. Or they try different builders and suppliers, cheaper materials or design options and even do some of the work themselves.’
He added that a family arranging a remortgage saw their quote for a ground floor extension and garage conversion rise from £50,000 to £70,000 in just two months.
Guy Meacock, director of London buying agent Prime Purchase, says the ‘extraordinary shortages’ of skilled merchants and supplies contribute 20 percent to their customers’ design and construction costs.
Families who do not need to make urgent repairs to their homes are advised to wait until the construction industry recovers its depleted supplies of materials and the home improvement boom has cooled down.
Mat Maddocks, founder of consumer advisory service Developsafe, says: “With builders in such high demand, they are now in a much stronger position to make what previously seemed unreasonable demands on the price or terms of the contract.
“There is some consumer protection on very unreasonable terms, but raising their prices is not. If you can wait and then wait, the situation won’t last forever.’
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders trade organization, said: “More than half of small, local builders cannot find skilled craftsmen and 98 percent have seen material prices rise due to lack of availability. This pressure will continue later this year and probably beyond.’
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we can earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and use it for free. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.