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Home ‘bling’ out of favour in austere climate

SPAB was particularly interested to see that when it came to the value of their homes, people rated "fun" household spending on desirable interior features like decor and sparkling new kitchens and bathrooms significantly lower than "boring" (but essential) maintenance – 26% vs 58%.

This cautious, good-sense approach was emphasised by the fact that half of the homeowners questioned (49%) disagreed with the statement: "I often buy or do things I probably shouldn’t, just to treat myself." In fact, over a quarter (26%) of all those questioned said that they have made a deposit into a regular savings account in the past month, and nearly a third of those who have done so (31%) say they are saving for "rainy day" expenses such as house repairs.

More than half of the homeowners surveyed (58%) believe that how well their property is maintained (eg the gutters, brickwork, roof, damp prevention etc) is one of the most important factors in determining the value of their property. More people cited good maintenance than factors including number of bedrooms, internal d├ęcor, up to date kitchen and bathroom fittings, the existence of a garden, garage or off-street parking. Only "area" scored more highly – but at 62%, only just!

Philip Venning, SPAB’s Secretary, said: "We were fascinated by the results. Not surprisingly, a new spirit of austerity is abroad. After years when many homeowners seemed to value style over substance it is apparent that the ‘bling’ days of spending on highly visible home ‘improvements’ like state-of-the-art kitchens and bathrooms are behind us with more of us making sober, serious decisions about where our money really counts. For SPAB the survey shows that people have woken up to the fact that a well-maintained property is a key asset."

Even more encouragingly, when homeowners were asked if the current economic climate put them off spending money on maintaining or repairing their property, 59 % disagreed, (it’s worth noting that 22% of them disagreed strongly). In effect, three in five respondents saw maintenance as an important investment.

And half of those questioned (exactly 50%) felt very or reasonably confident about carrying out basic repairs to their property themselves. (Male owner occupiers are more likely than female owner occupiers to feel happy about carrying out most of the simple repairs and maintenance – 67% vs 34%)

When it comes to keeping up appearances, the survey also suggests that in 2011 people are more likely to check the exterior of the properties than spend money on personal beauty and body treats. SPAB was interested to see that in the last month significantly more people surveyed (21%) had checked the outside condition of their home or made repairs to it, than bought or had a beauty treatment (11%) or visited the gym (17%).

In addition, the fine old tradition of "keeping up with the Joneses" – in terms of purchasing covetable premium items – seems to be on the back-burner. While a quarter (26%) of all those surveyed made a deposit into regular savings account in the last month, just one in 20 (6%) splashed their cash on new television and just one in ten (11%) had bought/upgraded a mobile phone.

Philip Venning said: "SPAB has organised National Maintenance Week for the last decade to encourage anyone who cares for a property – not just ancient ones – to take a few simple steps to ensure that it’s ready for winter. Many people can tackle straightforward things like checking and clearing blocked gutters and drains themselves, but equally, our annual campaign is a timely reminder that, sometimes, calling in a professional to fix roof tiles or broken guttering can save money in the long run.

"For us the survey shows that in this uncertain economic climate homeowners see their property as a key asset and they clearly view good maintenance as a way to help that asset keep its value. In fact we were amazed and very pleased to see that one fifth of all those surveyed had taken the trouble to check the exterior of their home for damage or made repairs to it in the last month. It’s gratifying that our simple maintenance message is striking home."

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