Good news, if you know where to look for it

Fools build houses and wise men buy them

I’m starting to feel a little like Private Fraser from Dads’ Army every time I write a story for the web at the moment – “We’re doomed, Cap’n Mainwaring. Doomed’.

I mean the journalist’s old cliché is that bad news makes good copy but really, this is getting ridiculous.

The headlines are making for rather uncomfortable reading – just this morning Bovis and Redrow became the latest housebuilders to shed over one-third of their workforce. That’s nearly 4,000 building jobs lost in the last week. And quite what all this has been doing to merchants and building material manufacturers’ share prices is quite scary. Happily, as I write this, both Wolseley and TP share prices have risen slightly from their slump, though there is still much media discussion about whether or not e are heading into a recession. The trouble is, we won’t know we’re in recession until we’ve been through it: the economists definition being two consecutive quarters of negative growth. So if we have to have six months’ misery before we’re even allowed to use the R word, it’s a bit daunting.

However, I’m rather chuffed that I’ve found some good news, a little glimmer of light in the tunnel. Self builders can still get mortgages it seems. Banks aren’t so worried about investing in self-builders (for that is essentially what a mortgage is) because the value is already built into the build costs. The minute a self-builder moves in, he’s in positive equity since he has paid much less than he would have had to on the open market.

It’s probably going to be easier to get the things built too, thanks to the number of lay-offs. Suitable plots, too, are likely to become more available with developers having to off load land. – Buildstore’s land database is something like 20% ahead this year. And with so much skilled building labour being laid off, there’s likely to be the people around to do the work too.

So any builders merchant with a serious self-build offer – I’m thinking the CBA members and Buildbase in particular but of course there are plenty of others – should be able to scoop up the extra business. See, it’s not all doom and gloom.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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