Last week a report on the finance website This Is Money claimed that “naff” conservatories can knock off £15,000 from the value of a home. The report talks about the fears of buyers having to either knock down the old conservatory or spend thousands to make it useable.

As a result, the number of homes coming onto the market with a conservatory has dropped by 52%.

I am sure many of you have read this article, given the sector we’re working in, and it probably stung a bit. But there are some home truths in that piece and nuggets we can take which we can use positively moving forwards.

Naff conservatories

In the report, which you can read here, there are a couple of claims that I would slightly disagree with. First, there is the statement that around 500,000 were built at the height of the boom in 2006. That’s about two years later than our sector believes it to be, with 2004 the year that we generally refer to as the peak of the conservatory market. And even then, some of our own estimates put it more conservatively at 300,000 installations rather than half a million. Still, they were popular enough for long enough to see about three million installed on homes across the UK.

The second is the cost to take a conservatory down. The report claims it can cost £2000 to take an old one down. I’m not sure where those figures are from but that seems pretty steep, even taking into account disposal if the old materials cannot be recycled.

Other than those numerical disagreements, there’s some truth-telling in parts of the article. I don’t think even the industry itself could argue that first-generation conservatories are indeed a bit naff.

Context is important here. When the conservatory boom took off in the late nineties and early 2000s, the conservatories being currently called naff were at the top of what was available at the time. Most roofs were polycarbonate because glass roofs were too expensive. Window and door frames were used as the main construction, with some having basic PVCu panels to the ground or small dwarf walls. The technology of the products was limited in their time compared to the range of options there are today and the end results were rooms fixed to the sides and rears of homes that were not able to be used all year round.

Indeed, I tore down my own at my previous property. It was far too hot and far too cold to be useful to us. Although it did become a very handy storage room for my beer at Christmas as it was colder than the fridge! And there was more room. I took it down myself in the end as part of a wider garden revamp and I replaced it with a Veranda. That is one of the best products we installed on that house and at some point I will get another and install it in the home we’re in today.

Although the conservatory boom made many companies successful, they did date quickly and there can be little argument that we are left with a lot of conservatories in homes that require some significant modernisation.

Sales barrier or opportunity?

The report in This Is Money goes on to elaborate further on the pitfalls of the humble conservatory and their disdain by buyers. Many will not look at houses now that have a conservatory attached to them, for fear of having to heat it or spend money to make it useful.

If this is indeed the case, that presents a problem for many households that chose to have one installed at the height of their fashion. But rather than dwell on the problem, I perhaps see an opportunity.

Yes, existing conservatories aren’t that great. But we are blessed with a range of solid roof options which can genuinely transform a tired old conservatory into something that looks and performs much better. Our industry believes that there are about three million conservatories in existence in the UK right now. It may be a tad higher than that if you factor in a few that were put up on the quiet without planning permission. But to me, I see this as a chance for our industry to go back out to the public off the back of the This Is Money article and explain how naff conservatories can actually be upgraded into genuinely useful rooms.

There has been a lot of change and evolution in the extension and glazed extension market, and the term “conservatory” isn’t all that accurate anymore for what many of us install these days. I believe there is a genuine opportunity still for the solid roof market to start eating away at the existing conservatory market and argue the case for investing in upgrading an existing structure.

Remember that the cost of a new solid roof, even with new frames included, is still cheaper than a brick-built extension. At a time when spending and investing money is a bigger decision than it has been in the past, it is a persuasive argument to make to save money and buy a solid roof rather than go down the full-blown extension route.

I don’t think the industry should take to heart what was said in the This Is Money piece. Much of it is true, and it does give us insights into what homebuyers are thinking right now. But it does give us a chance to hit back in a positive way and generate new energy behind the solid roof sector.

Read the This Is Money article here:

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