Home improvement boom sparks nationwide shortage of building supplies 


Emma Jones was looking forward to moving into her newly renovated home in good time for the birth of her baby. But her family’s refurbishment project is among thousands to be stung by the nationwide shortage of building supplies and tradesmen.

As a result Emma, 33, and partner Kayvan Khanmorady-Gargary, 38, have had to find an extra £70,000 and welcome their baby Marcus into the world while living in an Airbnb.

Even now, four months after the project was due to be completed, the family are living on a building site.

Emma Jones and partner Kayvan Khanmorady-Gargary, 38, have had to find an extra £70,000 and welcome their baby Marcus into the world while living in an Airbnb

Emma Jones and partner Kayvan Khanmorady-Gargary, 38, have had to find an extra £70,000 and welcome their baby Marcus into the world while living in an Airbnb

The pandemic, coupled with record low mortgage interest rates and a surge in household savings, kick-started a boom in home improvements and renovations.

But the unprecedented demand for extensions, loft conversions and landscape gardening has exacerbated the shortage of building supplies and tradesmen caused by the pandemic, Brexit and 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 rises since the late 1990s.

Emma and Kayvan’s renovation of their new four-bedroom bungalow in Frodsham, Cheshire, was thwarted by wood shortages, a lack of tradesmen and delivery drivers to transport goods.

It meant they were not able to move in by the time they had agreed to sell their current property at the end of June — forcing them to move into temporary accommodation for two-and-a-half months at a further cost of £7,500.

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Emma, who runs mortgage advice firm Alder Rose, says she booked her builder in July last year but the earliest date he could start was February. 

She was told her bungalow renovation, which included a loft conversion to add extra bedrooms, would be finished in May. But materials and labour shortages added months to the timescale.

She says: ‘The doors we ordered got stuck in the Suez Canal, then a shortage of lorry drivers meant we had trouble getting them delivered to us.

‘Getting MDF wood loft boards was a real problem for our joiner and the shortage of most materials we needed meant almost all prices have doubled. 

We’re now waiting for gravel resin for our back garden but there’s a massive shortage and the suppliers have run out.’

Sub-contractors delayed on other jobs have also held up the couple’s plans. Emma, engineer Kayvan and Marcus finally moved into their half-finished home this month but still have lots of work left to complete. 

In all, the mayhem drove up the cost of the couple’s home makeover from £100,000 to £170,000. ‘It’s been awful,’ says Emma. ‘This project has left a sour taste in my mouth.’

Supply crisis: High demand for extensions and loft conversions has exacerbated the shortage of building supplies and tradesmen caused by the pandemic, Brexit and shipping chaos

Supply crisis: High demand for extensions and loft conversions has exacerbated the shortage of building supplies and tradesmen caused by the pandemic, Brexit and shipping chaos

Websites specialising in introducing homeowners to tradesmen say home improvements ‘are now more popular than ever’. Trades portal Rated People says 52 pc more jobs have been posted this year compared to 2019.

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Mybuilder.com is receiving more than 150,000 job requests from families a month, a rate it says is ‘significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels’.

As a result of the demand, experts say busy builders are demanding fees of up to £2,000 to reserve their services six months in advance. 

Meanwhile, mortgage broker Mojo Mortgages says compared to 2019, remortgage applications for home improvements are up 174 per cent so far this year.

And with sub-1 pc mortgage rates available for some homeowners, raising an extra £50,000 over a 25-year term could cost as little as £188 a month.

Adrienne Minster, chief executive of Rated People, says: ‘We’re seeing a continued desire for homeowners to keep reinventing their spaces. The home improvement boom has been fantastic for ambitious tradespeople who want to grow their businesses, but has contributed to the materials shortage.’

Rising improvement costs have caused some homeowners to pare back plans or seek financial help.

Jamie Megson, director of Avail Mortgage Brokers, says: ‘Homeowners who don’t have the extra funds are going to family members for help or back to the banks. Or they’re trying different builders and suppliers, cheaper materials or design options and even doing some of the work themselves.’

He added one family arranging a remortgage saw their quote for a single-storey 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’ in skilled tradesmen and supplies is adding 20 per cent on to their clients’ design and build costs.

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Families who do not need to make urgent repairs to their homes are being advised to wait until the construction industry restores its depleted stocks of materials and the home improvement boom has cooled.

Mat Maddocks, founder of consumer advice service Developsafe, says: ‘Because builders are in such high demand they are now in a much stronger position to make what previously might have seemed like unreasonable demands on price or the terms and conditions of the contract.

‘There is some consumer protection against highly unreasonable terms, but upping their prices isn’t one. If you can wait then wait, the situation won’t last for ever.’

Brian Berry, chief executive of trade body Federation of Master Builders, says: ‘Over half of small, local builders can’t find skilled tradespeople and 98 per cent have seen material prices soar due to lack of availability. These pressures will continue later into this year and likely beyond.’

moneymail@dailymail.co.uk

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