Advice and Opinion

Improvements to your home can add many times their cost to its value but beware the unskilled workmen

“You really cannot be too careful choosing the team when it comes to upgrading your home” says Bill Rawson, Chairman of The Rawson Property Group.

Carrying out worthwhile improvements to one’s home has time and again been recommended by spokesmen for the South African property sector on the grounds that not only will these increase the owner’s enjoyment of his property but they will in most cases add far more to the value of the home than the sum outlaid.

Furthermore, on an owner’s primary house, such improvements are deductible against Capital Gains Tax and in the case of enthusiastic improvers this has been known to reduce the tax to negligible amounts.

Nevertheless, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, in undertaking upgrade programmes, great care must be taken to employ truly qualified work teams.

“One would like to say look for fully qualified artisans, but these are few and far to be found these days,” said Rawson. “In most cases one is dealing with a handyman, who initially appears to be able to carry out almost any type of upgrade on a building, but can turn out to be a real liability.”

These remarks by Rawson were made following an incident in one of Rawson Developers’ most successful, relatively new multi-storey residential developments. The owner of a unit contracted with an organization to supply and install custom designed shelving and cupboards. In carrying out this task the installer drilled into a water pipe, which then flowed strongly for several hours, flooding not only the unit but also adjacent units and several of those on the floors below it.

The water for the whole block was eventually turned off, making it impossible for a large number of the occupants to lead their lives in a normal way. Washing, cooking and other such activities simply had to be put on hold.

“When flooding occurs in a multi-storey building, the damage costs can easily run into six figures,” said Rawson, “and although the owner’s insurance may cover it, in many cases it will not and the person responsible may well be sued by the body corporate for the full cost of the damage.”

In the case described, said Rawson, it was clear that the contractors did not have the water pipe detection instrument which should be part of any install team’s kit. If this instrument is run over the surface of the wall, it immediately reveals if there is a water pipe beneath the part tested.

In another case, the installer of a new hot water geyser adjusted the thermostat so inefficiently that the water in it was constantly boiling. It took almost a month for the owner to detect and rectify the problem, his attention having been drawn to it by the extremely high electricity bills.

“You really cannot be too careful in choosing the team when it comes to upgrading your home,” said Rawson.