Fluctuating fortunes for renovation tradies

Extended periods indoors have led to an upswing in home renovations, a trend likely to be bolstered even further by government incentives targeting major renovation projects.

Fluctuating fortunes for renovation tradies
With more time spent indoors, many Australians have turned their attention to home renovations. Photo: Shutterstock. (Image source: Shutterstock.com)

Extended periods indoors have led to an upswing in home renovations, a trend likely to be bolstered even further by government incentives targeting major renovation projects.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week confirmed the government would provide householders cash grants for home renovations worth $150,000 or more.

"We are more interested in the larger projects and new home builds and things like that," he told Sydney radio listeners.

Renovation projects have become a boom industry during coronavirus lockdowns. 

Overall spending on household goods through March was up 9 per cent, according to the recent retail figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Hardware and garden supply purchases grew 17.4 per cent through the month, while electrical and electronic spending increased by 11.3 per cent.

Research commissioned by Bunnings found 64 per cent of people surveyed were tackling DIY once a month and two in five were planning on overhauling their gardens in the coming months.

Draftsman and designer for Flat Packs WA, Scott Barton, said Western Australians were turning to renovations in unprecedented numbers.

“From April to now, we have seen a dramatic increase in demand for residential projects, with a 400 per cent increase in quotes and no sign of this trend slowing,” Mr Barton said. 

“Of course, not all quotes are won but this shows a definite increase and production is up from this time last year.”

The increase in demand from residential clients has offset the fall in commercial orders, as businesses struggle under the weight of forced closures, low consumer confidence and dwindling income.

“Commercial work has dropped approximately 30 per cent over the same period but we are starting to see more interest in projects as restrictions ease,” he said.

Mixed fortunes

For the nation’s tradies, the lockdown period has delivered wildly different prospects.

With more time on their hands, anything homeowners thought they could do themselves was being done at the expense of the small business owner.

In New South Wales, people were taking care of repairs themselves, with requests for home cleaning services through the hipages tradesperson directory down 61 per cent, followed by washing machine repairs (59 per cent) and handyman jobs (53 per cent).

Victorians were keeping busy painting and gardening, with requests for lawn mowing jobs and garden maintenance down 66 per cent and 60 per cent respectively, followed by interior painting which was down 56 per cent.

Roof repairs and air conditioning were clearly in the too hard basket, with requests for those services up 53 per cent and 18 per cent. In NSW, skip bin hire was up 27 per cent, along with concreting (11.5 per cent) and rubbish removal (9 per cent).

Brett Beaty, Director of Goolwa Kitchens and Wardrobes in South Australia, said business was up about 10 per cent, with kitchens in the medium price range and laundry renovations generating the most interest and not dwindling as people returned to their workplaces.

“We still have a lot on our books and through our lead tracking you can certainly see the demand still being there for work into the short to medium term, but we have noticed a drop in the bigger projects coming across our designers’ desks,” Mr Beaty said.

In SA, requests for roof and gutter repairs increased by 55 per cent and 20 per cent, along with skip bin hire which went up by 50 per cent.

State tools

The WA Government has brought forward its planning reform package that could allow home renovators to skip planning approvals for small projects such as patios, decks and extensions.

“A household who wants to put up a shed or a patio or some shade sails, to have to get planning approval from the local council is expensive and unnecessary,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said.

The Northern Territory in April introduced a home renovation scheme that made available $6,000 from the government if homeowners contributed $2,000.

The Federal Government is not ruling out a similar approach to that taken by Territorians, with home renovation grants speculated to form part of the federal government's infrastructure stimulus package.

The Master Builders Association of Tasmania and Civil Contractors Tasmania has also called for the state to adopt a home renovations grant program to generate jobs and improve resilience against natural disasters.

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