Now is a good time to undertake building upgrades, but the cost of truly skilled work can be prohibitively high, says Rawson

In a recent statement Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Properties group, went on record as saying that, with building costs up 55% in three years and, although likely to level off, showing absolutely no signs of returning to previous levels, the sooner those contemplating improvements to their homes or investment properties get them started, the better.

Recently, however, Rawson has also pointed out that the boom which is still benefiting the big construction groups – WBHO, Group Five, M&R and others – has now ended for the “bakkie builders” who rely largely on residential contracts which have been cut off by the lack of development and consumer finance.

“Their availability,” said Rawson, “is another good reason to get going on improvement now. He, himself, has this year done exactly that on several properties.”

“The challenge facing the landlord looking to upgrade is, however, that many of the so called artisans now in the building industry are not in any real sense qualified or fit for skilled, sophisticated work.”

It is increasingly necessary, said Rawson, to pay for specialist teams to handled 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, said Rawson, quality custom-designed building with good finishes is now costing up to R15 000 per m² and taking far longer to complete whereas simpler repetitive work can be had for R6 000 per 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 ongoing relationships with reliable subcontractors whom they pay timeously and, again, keep supplied with a steady flow of work.

“This, of course, has been the tactic at Rawson Developers and others like them – and it has resulted in reasonably good standards being maintained – but the fact remains that one has today to pay high for both design and contractors to get custom designed work.”

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