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Interview with Cathie Schnitzerling, ABC Radio


Event: Alex Waldren interview with Cathie Schnitzerling, ABC Radio
Date: Wednesday, 4 January 2023
Speakers: Cathie Schnitzerling, host ABC Radio; Alex Waldren, National Director Industry Policy, Master Builders Australia
Topics: building and construction; home renovation; supply chain

Cathie Schnitzerling, host ABC Radio: Now Alex Waldren is the National Director of Industry Policy at Master Builders Australia. Alex, welcome.

Alex Waldren, National Director Industry Policy, Master Builders Australia: Thank you.

Cathie: Are builders seeing an increase home renos over the past six months? There was a lot during COVID, so post-COVID it’s still continuing?

Alex: Yeah it’s still continuing post-COVID and it’s been steadily increasing renovation since the 70s which is when we were tracking data at the ABS. We’re nearly at levels as high as COVID.

Cathie: Wow. Okay.

Alex: We’re still tracking pretty well in terms of the level of renovation activity.

Cathie: What’s the average cost of renovations that people undertake?

Alex: The average cost, and we sort of watch ABS data on this is around $200,000. That was the latest cost estimate this compares with the average cost of new detached homes being $440,000. So it’s pretty substantial.

Cathie: It’s very substantial. It’s almost half the price. Yeah. So if you are trying to renovate or build right now and apart from having your finances in place, what’s your advice on how to go about it? Because we’ve got a huge tradie shortage, supply chain issues, so what frame or mind or plan do you have to make if you’re to renovate.

Alex: Well just to back in what Sherie said. She said some really good points there. You know, do as much planning up front as you can do. Look to professionals where you need to get skilled work done. Be aware of cost pressures and delay and be sure to work this through. Engage with building contractors or builder if you have a pretty substantial project that you are working on. Work with your builder, have a good conversation with them about what you need done, shop around, know the rules and regulations, and just do your research.

Cathie: That seems to be, as Sherie said, a lot of people don’t consider that they need to do the research so they have all the approvals in place, they’ve got the insurances in place so that it’s not going to come back to bite them when they go to sell a house.

Alex: Exactly and they’re just managing unexpected risks that always surface in building projects.

Cathie: So Domain has reported a boom in backyard pools being installed. So that’s a lot of money to have a little bit of paradise at home. Is that something that you have observed as well at Master Builders?

Alex: Look they haven’t stood out. I have to say as a factor in this sort of pandemic push for renovation activities and people spending more time living and working at home off the back of the COVID pandemic. I would say it’s a factor in that. I can’t sort of say we’re seeing that data specifically or hearing that but I’d say it’s a big factor in that.

Cathie: Now supply chain issues were a big factor during the pandemic and we’re anticipating that it could be as well with China going through a current COVID wave and that may slow things down. How are supply issues going in Australia? Have we moved from the…to a just in case type of arrangement now?

Alex: Look there’s still cost pressures in supply chain. Whether they’re workforce or related to material cost pressures. We’re also seeing the regulatory changes coming into the new construction code in 2022/23 that will add to that as well. Well the pressures have eased a little bit, have settled a little bit. You had an average spike in material costs of around 20 per cent at the peak of the pandemic. It’s now down to 16 per cent cost increase.

Cathie: That’s a little bit better.

Alex: It’s a little bit better. We see it settling but we don’t see it settled. And with the gas price pressures currently impacting this as well it’s likely to have cost impacts on cement, concrete and ceramic products in particular. So it will be interesting to see how the government interventions in this space play out in the next year or two.

Cathie: So, we have to go to the news very soon but would patience be a necessary thing to have if you’re considering a renovation?

Alex: Look, patience and talk to the right people. And that’s why we always suggest if a builder is a good person to engage in the process. They’ve been dealing with these issues for the past two years. They’re getting better at managing these pressures. They need good lead times to actually be able to get the right price and guarantee that they can get the products on time for you. So just be patient, talk to people, be flexible and be…

Cathie: Polite.

Alex: Polite, yep.

Cathie: Thank you very much. Thanks Alex.

Alex: Thanks very much. Bye.

Cathie: Alex Waldren from Master Builders with some good advice on what to consider if you are about to start a renovation. And patience and manners seem to be right up there.

Media contact:
Dee Zegarac
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071

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