Refurb Renovation News sits down with Sian Astley to discuss her views on how Brexit will affect the renovation industry

Ah Brexit. The topic sucking the life out of all of us in these first few months of 2019. Deal or No Deal headlines aside however homeowners planning renovation works to their homes for 2019 and 2020 should to be aware of the need to plan ahead for their transformations. As the political landscape changes, so too will our ability to tap into readily available builders.

The statistics we have access to through the Federation of Master Builders speak volumes about how skills shortages in the building industry will hamper housing delivery. This is getting in the way of small or medium sized house builders creating more properties. The struggle is further increased by the fact that the sector has been utilising high numbers of EU workers which will likely be impacted negatively by Brexit. We need to actively encourage more people to join the workforce and we also need to train more apprentices.

I’m currently travelling across the UK project managing 15 ambitious home renovations for a new BBC2 property show called ‘Your Home, Made Perfect’ and have noticed that it’s becoming more than challenging to book good & reputable builders anything less than 4-6 months in advance. Homeowners often fall into the misguided trap of thinking their new bathroom or kitchen extension will be such an attractive job that builders will be falling over themselves to start works. Not so. And increasingly it’s taking several weeks if not months for builders to even get full quotes together, something to be factored in if you expect a builder to turn a price around over a weekend. The Uk has failed over the last 30yrs as an educating nation to give trades and training the respect they deserve, and our reliance on comparatively cheap European labour to fill the gap, has come back to bite us on our renovating bottoms. In the last decade those once super competitive Eastern European builders have raised their prices. They now have families here, bills to pay, and can’t, or won’t work for £60 a day. Quite right too. But unfortunately we as a nation allowed those same incoming workers to drive down prices and put long standing local builders out of business. Couple that with the dearth of any fresh faced apprentices coming through and the likelihood of Brexit meaning no more EU travelling trades in search of cash work…

My advice? Let’s face it, no-one’s moving house at the moment and everyone is renovating. Local builders have their pick of the jobs so if you’re planning a fabulous renovation, think about the following. Plan carefully and know exactly what you want to do. Draw a plan or appoint an architect to draw one for you. Make a list of all the items which you see as part of the job. Be clear on specifications, the items you want, such as which shower, what flooring or the heating system. Have these things written down, or on a spreadsheet, so a builder knows you are serious about what you expect. Appoint an interior designer to help pull all this together with you if you’re struggling to make choices. Research local trades through contacts, family and friends, mentioning what works you want doing. Above all, be friendly and polite – remember that builders can pick and choose their jobs at the moment 😉

And maybe let’s all pressure our politicians to listen to the FMB and other organisations loudly banging the apprenticeship drum. Great jobs, with great prospects, in a great industry – what’s not to support?!

Credit: the National Homebuilding & Renovating Show