Half the UK investing in extensions and decoration instead of changing home
March 2009 – The worsening economy has forced British homeowners to stay put in their properties, and instead they are doing up or extending their home’s size to cope with changes in their family life.
The majority [85%] of those questioned for a survey by online trades and services portal, MyHammer, said because of the current economic climate, they would rather make improvements to their home than sell up.
It comes despite reassurances that the credit crunch squeeze on mortgage lending could start to ease with the reduction in interest rates and shows the severity of the recession has left UK homeowners contemplating staying in the same place for years.
More than half (58%) of those spoken to said they were undertaking or planning home improvements like extra rooms and extensions, and two thirds (69%) acknowledged it was because they have to stay in their existing home for longer than originally thought.
But almost a quarter of savvy Brits (23%) are turning the situation to their advantage. When asked what will add value when they finally come to sell, they are hitting the nail on the head by getting extensions  built; this tops the National Association of Estate Agent’s list of jobs that add the most value to a home.
Countrywide, Londoners are the least knowledgeable when it comes to understanding what adds value, with the city scoring zero points in a poll asking which jobs were the most productive. But those in the East Midlands picked five correct answers out of the seven examples.
The MyHammer study has also found the true losers on the property ladder. Those over 56 years old appear to have been hit the hardest, with 92 per cent of that age group claiming they must improve instead of move.
Following a dramatic fall in house prices, these so-called ‘empty nesters’ and ‘newly retired’ are now stuck in their existing property. Previously they would have had the opportunity to downsize and squirrel away the resulting profit towards their retirement.
Bob Swift, MyHammer’s UK Director, comments: “There are endless rumours and opinions speculating on the current financial climate and what will happen next, but this research shows that for Britain’s homeowners there is no doubt as to the situation – they’re not going anywhere.
“Instead, people are turning to home improvements to maintain and increase the value of their home. MyHammer saves consumers time and money meaning you can plan your home improvement projects according to your budget, no matter how many hours you work.”
For all those homeowners planning to make some changes around the home, MyHammer has compiled top tips to find a good tradesman for those who’d rather sit back and relax:
1. Be clear about the job that you want done and make sure it’s all in writing so it’s obvious what needs to be done. When posting on MyHammer it’s advisable to include images of the job that needs doing where possible.
2. Always shop around. On MyHammer you’ll be able to get lots of quotes all at your leisure. Also make sure you know whether you’re getting an ‘estimate’ or a ‘quotation’. An estimate means that the price you’re provided with is subject to change, whilst a quotation is a fixed price for a specific job which is binding.
3. Look out for relevant trade body membership. With MyHammer, tradesmen have the opportunity to post their qualifications and trade body memberships in their profile and get them independently verified so you can quickly and easily see if they’re registered with the relevant bodies.
4. Check the tradesman’s feedback. The customer feedback mechanic is a great way of seeing references for each tradesman on MyHammer, each customer leaves feedback so you can get a feel for the work that tradesman has done. If you’re thinking about a major project, such as a loft conversion, then it’s worth visiting one or two of the reference sites to see the prospective builder’s handy-work.
5. Only used insured contractors. All good contractors will have insurance which covers them for any damage to your property and your neighbours.
6. Account for your materials. Always make sure you specify what materials are needed and who’s buying them – it’s advised to get receipts for any purchases made by the tradesman as well.
7. Take your time booking someone for the job. Be slightly wary of company’s who are available the next day to work with you as a sign of a good tradesman is usually that they’re relatively busy.
8. Manage your team. If you’re managing a fairly large project and take it seriously then your workmen will too. Turn up early in the mornings and then go there at the end of the day for tidy-up, then your workmen will realise that there’s no slacking off on your job!
9. Stage your payments. Never pay for the whole job up front and agree a timetable of payments in writing. MyHammer allows you to specify the payment option that you are most comfortable with and again offers you third party documentation, should there be any later confusion on this issue.
10. Get a warranty. Once the work has been completed, try to work up some kind of warranty or guarantee and get it in writing.
Go to www.myhammer.co.uk for more information.