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Building works: Price estimates are a day-to-day thing now

Unsplash/Annie Gray

Do you have some building or renovation works in mind this summer? Don’t expect an accurate price estimate from your contractor.

The reason is the shortage on the market of building materials, described as a crisis by the building industry federation Confederatie Bouw.

At the root of the problem is the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic. At the worst of the crisis, building works in Belgium and elsewhere lay still. When conditions improved, however, there was a sudden relaunch, and the worldwide market for materials found itself over-subscribed and flooded with orders.

Demand has soared worldwide. That means scarcity, delivery delays and rising prices,” said Véronique Vanderbruggen of the federation.

“A lot of contractors are told that materials are not available or that they do not know when they can be delivered. And the prices have doubled or tripled. Then the only way to cover your own damages is to build in a review clause in the contract (an agreement that the price in the quotation can be adjusted later) or that you work with daily prices,” she said.

That means in effect that clients on a tight budget might be advised to delay renovations until such a time as the situation becomes more predictable.

At present, price swings for steel or insulation can vary between 30% and 90”. Take the example of a brand of cavity wall insulation, which a year ago cost €15.12, and now costs around €26.50 per square metre.

As a result, around 40% of contractors are working on the basis of day-prices, and can give no dependable price estimate. Another 35% have the review clause written into the estimate, allowing them to adjust the price later.

Neither is good news for the client, for whom estimates often seem like a wet finger in the air at the best of times.