The renovation fascination

Last updated 05:00 11/11/2012

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A lack of houses at reasonable prices is driving a renovation revival, and with it a multimillion-dollar injury burden.

Latest Retail Watch figures show spending on home-building supply sales jumped by 16.7 per cent in September from the previous month and was up 8 per cent from the previous year.

Reality TV series such as The Block were doing their bit to inspire customers, particularly those in their 20s.

Bunnings marketing manager Valerie Staley said the show sparked a flurry of requests on how to make a wooden box which featured on the programme.

A Mitre 10 ladies' night in Hamilton recently attracted 700 people, and 400 attended one in Petone last month. Nearly 100 women were drawn to the latest Invercargill event.

Deck and fence building, interior wall painting and bathroom renovation are among the most popular projects that customers seek advice on, Mitre 10 general marketing manager Dave Elliott said.

"The sector's doing very well," Staley said. "People can't afford to move house so they're doing DIY projects."

It's a vendor's market, with real estate agents up and down the country saying there are not enough listings to satiate buyers.

It's a particular issue in Auckland, where sellers are increasingly turning to auctions or selling by negotiation.

"It's a struggle to find an advertised price," Barfoot and Thompson Glenfield residential sales manager Darren James said.

"Buyers are getting themselves in the position where they can buy unconditionally and pay premium prices. It's difficult for buyers."

House prices in the lower socio-economic suburbs of Beach Haven and Birkdale on Auckland's North Shore, are soaring.

Some three-bedroom homes in Beach Haven are going for more than $500,000. "That was unheard of a short time ago," James said.

The cheapest home listed by Barfoot and Thompson in the area is $380,000.

But with increased DIY projects come injuries and accidents. DIY projects cost the taxpayer more than $37 million last year, with injuries coming at a rate of about 1000 a week, the Accident and Compensation Corporation said.

And it's middle-aged men who are doing the most damage, with blokes aged 45 to 64 accounting for 80 per cent of DIY-related claims in 2010. "It's a male thing, we like to go down to the shed with the toys," Otago University occupational health associate professor David McBride said. But we don't like to call in builders for what we consider minor projects.

Market researcher Canstar Blue found Kiwi DIYers think a lot of themselves, but often fail to deliver. A quarter of respondents to the independent survey admitted to not finishing renovations. A third said they would rather pay a handyman to do the work.

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But men aren't always to blame. One in four male respondents said their partners constantly lined up projects for them.

And 45 per cent said they spent more at the hardware store than intended.

One Auckland homeowner was told to stick to the day job after he attempted to cut a doorway between his kitchen and hallway. Maintenance company Hire a Hubby was called to repair the damage.

"After two minutes into cutting through the wall there was a sudden rush of water as the skillsaw went through the waterpipe," operations manager Darren Hutchinson said.

In Christchurch, a man trying to clean his guttering slipped off his ladder and brought down the guttering with him. "He did make a comment to his wife that it's a lot easier to clean the gutters while they're on the ground," Hutchinson said.

North Shore's Cameron Hoyle, 27, said he would never renovate again after an attempt to do up his bathroom led to a leaking toilet, poor shower pressure and sinks which didn't sit against the wall.

While he got a builder in to do the work, he and his wife's attempt to save money by purchasing products themselves was not worth it, he said. "We had a $10,000 budget but the builder's quote was $16,000. We decided we would try to source the parts."

They spent $15,000 and six weeks repairing the damage. The toilet from Trade Me leaked, the sinks were the wrong fit and the shower nozzle was the wrong type.

"We tried to cut corners," he said. "It's the DIY, Kiwi ingenuity, gung-ho attitude."

It can be disappointing when people resort to DIY.

"Often owners do a lot of painting themselves to save money, which is fair enough," Auckland-based Selah Construction project manager Richard Solley said. "But they definitely don't get the quality finish, it's just a bit of a shame."

The worst DIY attempt he had to fix involved removing windows and repairing damage from unfinished cladding. The DIY-er's wife called the builders in, which upset her husband, Solley said. "Their relationship was really awkward, there was a lot of tension."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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