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Does the housing market slowdown spell doom for home improvement?

21st September 2017

Growth in the UK housing market has slowed. What’s caused it and what does it mean for the home improvement sector. 

Growth for the home improvement sector has historically mirrored that of the housing market. It’s growth trajectory is, however, currently far from clear with new figures from the Office for National Statistics suggesting the UK housing market suffered a major slump in March this year with sales dropping by 41% compared to the same time in 2016.

The same figures released by the ONS in July, however, suggested that this had done little to dampen house price inflation, which remains close to 5%. According to ONS, this puts the average house price at £220,713 – and far higher in many regions.

So are we heading for a housing slump and how concerned should the industry be by the slowdown in the housing market?

“Despite the doom mongering, there is very little to suggest UK house prices are about to tumble. What we’re seeing is the adjustment, which was to be expected after changes in Stamp Duty and the tax regime last year.

“This has done what it was meant to do – in short make residential property a less attractive proposition for investors”, says Ryan Johnson, Managing Director. He continues: “House prices, are however, still high and that has meant that transactions overall have slowed because people don’t have the cash to move up the property ladder. Is that bad for the home improvement sector – well not necessarily.”

The reason that sales of homes has been important to retail is that historically most home owners make home improvements within a year of moving home. Johnson, however, argues that given the changes in the housing market and most notably the availability of properties to buy, means that thisanalysis is no longer as relevant.

“House price affordability has changed things significantly. House prices and the costs associated with moving home make home improvements more appealing. Product innovation, particularly within our own sector, also extends the reach of glazing within that market”, he says.

According to a recent poll by YouGov, homeowners are putting off a house moves because of high prices and the cost of stamp duty opting instead to improve their homes. Of those polled 63% said that they believed that home improvements represented better value than moving home.

“If you’re moving you’re looking at higher house prices and as a consequence, estate agency and conveyancing fees, and stamp duty. The primary reason to move is to get more space so if you can add more square footage to you home without the dead money spent on tax, lawyers and estate agents then why wouldn’t you?” says Johnson.

He adds that with housebuilders still under-delivering on new homes, plus the recent ground rents scandal, new build is also unlikely to provide a solution anytime soon.

“The winner in this is the home improvement sector”, says Johnson, “solid-roof and hybrid conservatory solutions mean that we can go out to space-squeezed home owners with a cost-effective solution but one which also delivers more space.”

And its price point which for Johnson is key. In 2017, an estimate for the cost of a single storey extension outside of London - where it’s significantly higher - is anywhere between £1,200 and £1,500 per m 2 . “That means for a 5m x 5m extension the cost of the build alone is going to be around around £30,000 – that’s before professional fees, for example architects and then VAT”, says Johnson.

“If everything goes to plan you’re looking at around £39,000 - that’s for a single storey extension at the lower end!

“Compare that to a solid roof or hybrid conservatory and you can have as much and importantly as flexible space, for as little as two-thirds of the cost. That’s going to chime with consumers.”

Emplas launched the new tiled UltraRoof380 light-weight and high performance solid roof system earlier this year, opening-up access to this rapidly growing market. Manufactured by Ultraframe, the UltraRoof380 is a modular and easy to install system, providing a lower cost but rapid fit alternative to traditional roofing systems.

It’s supplied by Emplas pre-fabricated ready for onsite construction taking as little as a day to install. Accommodating roof pitch ranges of 12.5° to 41° the lightweight system also achieves impressive ‘U’ values of as low as 0.16W/m2°C.

Based on Ultraframe’s classic roofing system, the modular UltraRoof system, is built around a patented box eaves beam. It forms a highly-insulated soffit structure which is combined with a hidden structural aluminium framework forming hips, ridge and starter bars.

Kingspan Unidek Aero Structural Insulated Roof Panels are then attached to the box eaves and structural framework. The roof comes with the counter battens already fixed.

Tongue and grooved 12mm OSB is then fixed before a self-adhesive, high performance water proofing layer is laid. UltraTile engineered copolymer interlocking tiles are then laid across the roof slope to complete the roof. These emulate the appearance of traditional slate tiles and are supplied by Emplas as standard in a carbon grey slate finish.

The lightweight modular system can also be designed to accommodate Velux-style roof-lights or far lower cost roof windows. Inside an internal pelmet, and plastered roof replicates a traditional vaulted ceiling, a stepped detail, also providing an ideal location for spot lights.

“It’s a very cost-effective, advanced and highly insulated modular system”, says Johnson. “It’s also great to fit and uses a ‘conservatory skills set’ .

“Fitting teams are used to putting in foundations, concreting floors. Most installers will also have ‘brickies’ on board anyway. In taking the brickwork up to the wall-plate and combining it with the UltraRoof, installers can go head to head with builders.”

He adds: “Its lightweight construct means that the UltraRoof is also suitable for use as a replacement roofing system – a sector tipped for massive growth.

According to The Window, Door and Conservatory Markets in Housing in Great Britain, (October 2016) the market for replacement conservatory roofs was up 62% in 2015 to 11,200 installations and is forecast for continuing growth through to 2020.

Weighing in at only a little more than a traditional glass roof at 38KG/m 2 , its lightweight construction means that the UltraRoof can also sit directly on existing window frames, without requirement for reinforcement, where fitted as a replacement roof.

“This for me is one of the major pluses of the UltraRoof. It allows us to go back to customers who perhaps had conservatories fitted 15 or 20 years ago and offer them a far more solution for year-round space.

“There’s also scope depending on the type of conservatory that they have, to deliver what is in effect a whole new extension at a fraction of the cost, by exploiting original footings and simply bringing the walls higher. This approach, would for example, work with any gable, Georgian, lean-to or T-shape conservatory.”

He concludes: “If you look at the number of conservatories that were installed up to 2008, it’s clear that the market for replacement conservatory roofs is huge. This is especially so where installers can offer homeowners a solution, which addresses negative associations with solar gain and heat loss and which, also delivers far more flexible living space.”

For more information on Emplas visit www.emplas.co.uk , email info@emplas.co.uk or call 01933 674880.

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