‘Improve Not Move’ Trend Gathering Pace

North London property Belying the raft of relocation and home buying shows on TV on a daily basis, recently released statistics suggest that British homeowners are rapidly starting to favour home improvement over dipping their toes into the property market. This is true in North London, Barnet and Enfield where we ourselves have seen this happening.

The ‘Home Improvers of Great Britain 2017’ report, compiled in conjunction by construction industry analysts Barbour ABI and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), in fact, provides stark evidence that the ‘improve not move’ trend is rapidly gathering pace.

The Overall Trend

The 2017 report shows the number of home improvement planning applications made per 100 privately owned homes nationwide, and reveals that in all countries and regions other than Scotland the number of applications has increased in the past two years.

In Great Britain as a whole, the average number of home improvement planning applications submitted in 2016 was 2.0 for every 100 private homes. That represents a significant 6% rise in applications when compared with an average of the figures for 2014 and 2015. When you look more closely at the regional data, too, the trend toward improvement rather than relocation becomes even easier to identify.

It makes sense when seeking additional space, especially if you live in more highly populated areas such as North London, space is at a premium and so more expensive to move.

Breaking Down the Statistics

As has been the case for each of the last two years, the region with the highest number of applications per 100 homes was once again London. In 2017 the number of applications reached 3.8 per 100, which represents a growth of 4%. The region in which applications grew in number most rapidly, meanwhile, was the East of England where applications were up a full 14% on the average of 2014 and 2015’s figures.

Examining the report even more closely, in London the district of Kensington & Chelsea boasted the highest number of applications per 100 homes with 6.8. What all of the aforementioned regions and districts have in common is that they are in the South of England and this is indeed indicative of a wider trend.

North/South Divide

18 of the 25 districts identified by the report as having the highest level of planning applications per 100 homes, are to be found in the South of England. What’s more, the three districts with the highest ratio of home improvement applications to house sales (Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster and Cambridge) also fall within a similar geographical area.

All of that is no coincidence, and serves to accurately and definitively support the idea that British homeowners are turning toward improvement rather than relocation. It is in the South of England, after all, that house prices are highest and still continue to rise. It makes sense, therefore, that it would be here that homeowners begin to turn more swiftly toward improving their current abodes rather than seeking out new ones.

Portents for the Future

It’s fair to say that Britain’s overall economic future is something of an unknown quantity as things stand. Many people, after all, have predicted that the upcoming exit from the European Union could have profound effects on all kinds of areas of the economy.

These figures, however, suggest that the predicted negative impact on the building trade and home improvement industry might just have been overstated. That is at least according to the Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), Brian Berry:

‘Demand for home improvement work is particularly vulnerable to dips in consumer confidence but at present, there’s no sign of a negative “Brexit effect”…Despite gloomy predictions from many economists in the run up to the EU referendum last summer, construction SME workloads have not only held up, they are in rude health.’

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