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Why renovating is more expensive right now

A shortage of supplies and skilled tradespeople is driving up costs in the home improvements world. Find out what you can expect to pay for works this year.

Guest Author
Words by: Annabel Dixon


The pandemic triggered a once-in-a-lifetime reassessment of what we want in our homes. And for those of us who didn't move, renovating became the thing.

With nowhere to go and play, the nation got busy focusing on interiors.

And for those who have kids, those interiors might have endured more than their fair share of the usual wear and tear.

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Nearly half (49%) of us improved our homes in 2021 - and demand for tradespeople climbed by 32%, according to Rated People’s Home Improvement Trends Report 2022.

In fact, demand for home improvements has jumped 50% since the spring of 2020, as people re-evaluated their homes and lifestyles.

If you’re planning to spruce up your home, it’s worth thinking about when’s the right moment to give the green light. Let’s look at the details.

Is now a good time to do a house renovation?

Brace yourself because you may well find that prices are steeper than you first thought. 

To give you an idea, the cost of a bathroom renovation, including labour and materials, is now 40% higher than it was in 2020. 

Meanwhile, the prices of both a loft conversion and a kitchen renovation are expected to be 25% more than two years ago, according to Rated People.

This doesn’t bode well if you’re keen to renovate, particularly if you’re on a tight budget. 

That said, don’t let these headwinds put you off. Good research and preparation will both help with making an informed decision.

Why is renovating a house so expensive?

Tradespeople are facing various challenges, including labour shortages and material supply issues. And these are having a knock-on effect on the bottom line. 

Chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), Brian Berry says: “Small builders have been hit by a shortage of materials, as well as a continued spike in material costs, with 90% of members reporting this as an issue in the past quarter. 

“Additional challenges around general skills shortages and the recruitment of labourers, carpenters, joiners and bricklayers, continue.”

An FMB member adds in the latest State of Trade Survey: “We are dealing with ridiculously sky-high material prices, skilled labour shortages and inflation.”

Nine out of 10 tradespeople say the costs for their materials and workforce went up in 2021. 

And 91% of tradespeople expected their costs to climb further throughout this year. 

Unsurprisingly, a large proportion plan to pass those costs onto homeowners and some 82% of tradespeople are set to put up their prices this year.

As a rough guide, the average cost of renovating a three-bedroom house could range between £76,900 (+VAT) and £138,800 (+VAT), according to Checkatrade.

But obviously the cost of renovating a property varies hugely. It depends on factors, such as:

  • the type, size and age of your home

  • the type and size of your project 

  • your fixtures, fittings and finishes 

  • the tradespeople you hire 

  • where and when you carry out the work

What's the most expensive job when renovating a house?

While costs will vary wildly for various projects, Checkatrade provides handy ballpark figures for renovation costs for a three-bedroom house.

And plastering and kitchen renovations come in top of the expensive renovations charts.

Here's what you can expect to pay for both in 2023:

  • Complete replastering of walls and ceilings - £24,000 (+VAT).

  • Kitchen extension - £19,500 (+VAT)

  • New kitchen installation £17,500 (+VAT)

  • Re-doing existing plasterwork on walls and ceilings - £12,000 (+VAT)

You may want to factor in which parts of the renovation industry are expected to put up their prices. 

Some 97% of builders, 91% of gas and heating engineers, and 89% of plasterers and carpenters were set to increase theirs this year, says Rated People

Handypeople, plumbers, roofers, gardeners, painters, and electricians are also among the top 10 trades upping their charges.

Costs aside, bear in mind which tradespeople could be hit by material shortages. 

In 2021, they included plasterers, builders, landscape gardeners, carpenters, and painters.

Which improvements add the most value to your home?

The type of renovation that will add the most value depends on a range of factors. 

They include the type of property being renovated, the local housing market and the potential pool of buyers. 

So it’s a good idea to speak with your local estate agent to get advice on what would add value in your particular area.

Find the best local estate agents near you

Generally-speaking, boosting your home’s footprint can be a good way to increase its value. 

This could include transforming an unused loft, converting a garage or adding an extension to a property. 

Which improvements add the most value to your home?

Enhancing your home’s energy efficiency could be a smart move too, particularly with the rising cost of living. 

Improving your home’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating could increase the property value by up to 20%, reveals Knight Frank

Not sure what an EPC is? It shows how energy efficient a property is.  

Find out more in our guide, 7 ways to improve your home's EPC rating

It’s also a good idea to think about what will make your home more attractive to buyers. 

A kitchen or bathroom makeover to freshen up the interior, or even a lick of paint, can work wonders.

Don’t forget the outside of your property too. Outdoor space has become increasingly sought-after since the start of the pandemic.

Tips for managing costs

  • Get at least three quotes for your renovation work - they could vary considerably 

  • Factor in a contingency of at least 10-15% of the total estimate

  • Check how long the tradesperson’s estimate or quote is ‘held’ for

  • Think about which tradesperson is likely to complete the work on time and on budget 

  • And remember, the more informed you are, the more realistic your expectations are likely to be.

How to pay a fair price for home improvements in a rising costs market

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.