Cost of skilled building work can be prohibitive
BUILDING costs have increased by 55% in three years and the sooner those contemplating improvements to their homes or investment properties get them started, the better, says Bill Rawson, chairman of the Rawson Properties group.
“Building costs are likely to level off, but are showing no signs of returning to previous levels. The boom is still benefiting the big construction groups like WBHO, Group Five and M&R, but has now ended for the ‘bakkie builders’ who rely largely on residential contracts that have been cut off by the lack of development and consumer finance. Their availability is another good reason to get going on improvement now.”
Rawson says he has done exactly that this year on several properties.
“The challenge facing landlords who want to upgrade is that many artisans now in the building industry are not in any real sense qualified or fit for skilled, sophisticated work. It is increasingly necessary to pay for specialist teams to handle skilled work which, 20 years ago, might have been done by most apprentices and tradesmen teams. The demise of the apprenticeship system has left a gap only partly filled by an increase in off-site manufacture and clever substitute materials.”
As a result, says Rawson, quality custom-designed building with good finishes is now costing up to R15 000/m² and is taking far longer to complete, whereas simpler repetitive work can be had for R6 000/m².
Certain contractors and developers, said Rawson, were far-seeing and built up core teams of good, trained artisans whom they have kept in work year round. They have also sustained relationships with reliable subcontractors whom they pay timeously and, again, keep supplied with a steady flow of work.
“This has resulted in reasonably good standards being maintained, but the fact remains that you have to pay high prices for design and contractors to get custom-designed work.”