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  • Analysis of local authority planning data commissioned by Santander shows UK homeowners applied for over 60,000 extensions and conversions to improve their homes in the 13 weeks of lockdown in 2020 1
  • New research by Santander also reveals that Covid-19 and lockdown prompted two in five (40%) homeowners to bring forward their home improvement plans 2
  • Three in five (61%) homeowners carried out a DIY or renovation project during lockdown
  • The bank’s research suggests that lockdown will also trigger a boom in home improvements, as four in five (81%) homeowners plan to make changes to their homes in the next 12 months

While post-lockdown has seen a boom in property sales, new analysis by Santander UK has revealed that UK homeowners are also looking to improve their homes, as they submitted 61,682 planning applications in the 13 weeks of lockdown. If completed, this work would add more than 1.5 million square metres of space to Britain’s existing housing stock, the equivalent of 214 football pitches 3 or larger than Hyde Park in London.

According to Santander’s analysis of local authority planning applications, compiled by construction industry analysts Barbour ABI, homeowners submitted plans this year to extend their homes by an average of 24.875 sq metres each4. The combined total cost of this work is an estimated £1.9 billion pounds5.

Despite the uncertainty brought by Covid-19, and a lot of people now looking to move property, it seems Britain remains home to a community of improvers, who have ploughed ahead with working on their property. Research by Santander, among more than 2,000 UK homeowners, suggests that for two in five (40%), the pandemic accelerated home improvement plans and inspired future projects both small and large.

Prior to Covid-19, one in five (18%) homeowners had planned to complete larger scale home improvement or renovation works on their property in the next 12 months6, however, this has now increased to one in three (32%) according to new figures.

While social distancing measures impacted plans for some, just a tiny 4% of larger scale home renovation plans were cancelled altogether.

The figures show that three fifths (61%) of homeowners carried out a DIY or renovation project during the March to May period, with two in five (39%) saying that spending more time at home during lockdown made them aware of the changes they wanted to make. The most popular changes in lockdown took place outside, with over half (53%) of homeowners having done some work on their garden. Meanwhile, projects inside homes included decorating a room (25%), repurposing a room (8%) and creating a home office space (7%).

Graham Sellar, Head of Mortgage Development, Santander UK commented: “The entire nation spent increased time in their homes during the pandemic, and some may have found they have savings accumulated thanks to lockdown forcing a significant change in spending habits. So it’s no surprise homeowners picked up paint brushes and got to work on their homes. Whether it was finally getting around to neglected DIY projects to ready their home for selling, or planning a bigger extension or conversion to give them more space, our research shows that few homes have emerged from the pandemic as they were.”

With new UK Government planning rules set to come into effect from next month7, and the strong property market, the home renovation boom looks set to continue as people create more living space in their current home or start to move into and carry out work on their new homes. This is shown in the research as over half (54%) of homeowners said they thought the pandemic would result in more people making plans to change their homes both inside and out, and indeed four in five (81%) admit they now plan to make some kind of change to their home in the next 12 months.

Lisa Dawson, award-winning home and interiors writer and blogger, commented: “For many of us, lockdown has provided the time and motivation to complete DIY jobs around the house, or rethink how our space works for us. If you’re thinking of changing your home, there are some really easy ways to get started:

Top Three Tips
1. Find Your Style.  Look online to nail down what your core style. Save images that you like and you’ll start to see a theme coming through – it might be natural materials, bright colours or a minimalist vibe.

2. Plan Well.  Look at the bones of your room – does it have any lovely features?  Big windows, a fireplace or a beautiful wooden floor should be your starting point.  Make the most of what you already have.

3. Don’t Rush.  Rome wasn’t built in a day – Add pieces slowly and carefully and source exactly what you are looking for instead of rushing to fill a space. If you love all of your possessions, then your home will make you happy which is the ultimate aim.”

Large scale development 

Santander’s analysis also reveals the most popular planning applications made so far this year, with single story applications (67,176) coming up top.

Rank Planning application type Total
1. Single storey extension 67,176
2. Two storey extension 15,301
3. Lofts 15,039
4. Porch 8,298
5. Annexes 1,926

Fig: The top 5 applications for extensions and renovations Jan-May 2020, sourced from Barbour ABI.

For those that have completed conversions and extensions, past research shows one in five (20%) homeowners did so because it was cheaper than moving, while over a tenth (14%) said they wanted to stay in their current home as it is sentimental to them. Other reasons cited were that renovating was perceived to be “less hassle” than moving, while a small percentage pointed to the lack of suitable or affordable housing in the area they wanted to buy (4%).
Meanwhile, the average budget for planned home improvement projects in the next 12 months sits at £5,600, with one in ten having increased the sum during Covid-19. The majority of people have historically funded these improvement works with savings, however, one in ten used additional borrowing on their mortgage to complete the works.

Regional hotspots

When looking at the figures on a regional level, homeowners in East Midlands completed the most home improvements in lockdown, followed by London and the South West, with two thirds of those in the region making changes to their homes.

Rank Region % of homeowners who made changes to their home
1. East Midlands 68%
2. London 65%
3. South West 64%
4. Yorkshire 63%
5. Wales 63%
6. North East 62%
7. East England 60%
8. Scotland 60%
9. South East 59%
10. North West 56%
11. West Midlands 52%

Fig: Number of homeowners that completed home improvements per region in lockdown

Over half of the top 10 local authorities for extension and renovation applications in 2020 were in London. Leeds took first place as the most popular local authority for applications in the UK, with Cornwall coming in at third.

Rank Local Authority Region Total applications
1. Leeds Yorkshire 1,357
2. Barnet London 1,330
3. Cornwall (Unitary) South West 1,130
4. Birmingham West Midlands 1,124
5. Bromley London 1,094
6. Hillingdon London 1,039
7. Ealing London 1,004
8. Harrow London 986
9. Redbridge London 981
10. Wiltshire (Unitary) South West 892

Fig: The top ten hotspots for extensions and renovations Jan-May 2020, sourced from Barbour ABI.

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The information contained in our press releases is intended solely for journalists and should not be used by consumers to make financial decisions.

Notes to Editors
1. Planning application data was compiled by Barbour ABI and includes all available applications from postcodes and local authorities in the UK.
2. Research is drawn from a survey conducted by Opinium research between the 9th – 11th June 2020. The base size was 2,002 UK homeowners.
3. Each football pitch measure 7,140 sq metres.
4. The actual figure is likely to be higher as Santander’s analysis does not include projects completed under permitted development.
5. Santander also sourced average size and costs of various extension projects sourced from MyBuild.co.uk, multiplied by the number recorded in the Barbour ABI data.
6. Research is drawn from a survey conducted by Opinium research between the 7th – 13th February 2020. The base size was 2,082 UK homeowners.
7. The new rules will allow homeowners to add up to two storeys, up to a height of 18 metres, to their home through a fast-track approval process. Homeowners will also be able to demolish and rebuild unused buildings without needing full planning permission to do so.

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. At 30 June 2020, the bank had around 23,000 employees and serves around 14 million active customers, via a nationwide branch network, telephone, mobile and online banking. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers’ eligible deposits are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading retail and commercial bank, founded in 1857 and headquartered in Spain. It has a meaningful presence in 10 core markets in Europe and the Americas, and is one of the largest banks in the world by market capitalization. Its purpose is to help people and businesses prosper in a simple, personal and fair way.

[Source] Santander is building a more responsible bank and has made a number of commitments to support this objective, including raising over €120 billion in green financing between 2019 and 2025, as well as financially empowering more than 10 million people over the same period. At the end of the first half of 2020, Banco Santander had more than a trillion euros in total funds, 146 million customers, of which 21.5 million are loyal and 40 million are digital, 11,800 branches and 194,000 employees.