Shortage of builders fuelling rising domestic refurb costs

Building surveyor anticipates a “mini bubble” in tender prices


We know steadily rising property prices, Central Bank lending rules and soaring rental costs are stymieing would-be housebuyers looking to acquire their first home or even trade up. The only affordable hope for some is to either buy a wreck and embark on a refurbishment, or to stay put and adapt and extend. But now builders’ costs appear to have taken off.

Take the example of one renovation in Dublin 6 that was brought to the Block’s attention this week. The builder’s quote for an extension and refurb to a period redbrick almost identical to one it is currently carrying out a few doors up came in 20 per cent higher than the one currently under way, reflecting a 20 per cent increase in the cost of a refurb in just 12 months. And it was the same or higher with four other tenders sought for the same job. Another builder advises securing a builder now if you’re planning a domestic build as it is going to get more difficult to find one.

Kevin Hollingsworth, a building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, anticipates a “mini bubble” in tender prices. “Prices are rising and quite drastically. It’s evidence of the mass skills exodus we saw when the downturn hit. Now as people seek to do normal domestic upgrades and extensions there aren’t enough builders to meet demand. In the same way there aren’t enough houses to meet normal market requirements.”

The only way the shortage will be tackled is through the reintroduction of formal education and apprenticeship programmes for school leavers. It could also be an opportune time for some of our economic exiles to plan a return – if the hard landing of the crash hasn’t deterred them indefinitely from returning to these shores, that is.