Winter home improvements

Brits deck the hall (and more) with festive frenzy

1 December 2018

New research from AA Financial Services dispels the myth that Britons wait until the summer to improve their homes. While they're expected to spend £4.5 billion shopping by the first Saturday of December,1 £29.6 billion is set to be lavished on home improvements over the festive season.2

Concluding a year-long study of the house moving and home improving habits of UK adults, AA Financial Services asked homeowners what, if any, home improvement projects they planned before the end of the year – and where the money would come from.3

Overall, almost half of homeowners (49%) are planning a home improvement project before Santa comes to town, ready for family visits and entertaining. They'll draw an average of £2,339.46 from their savings to fund it, most raiding their nest eggs rather than borrowing money to fund their projects.

Most popular festive improvements

Paint brushes and dust sheets will be out in force in the weeks before the tree goes up, with 41% of homeowners planning some last-minute decorating. For 12% of respondents a kitchen upgrade was the top priority, even if it added to the domestic chaos during the Christmas countdown.

Looking ahead, 18% of respondents said they'll be commissioning landscape projects to get their garden and drive in shape for 2019.

The table below shows the projects and expenditure planned for the final 3 months of 2018.

Projects attracting the biggest spend

The average planned spend on work relating to an extension was £12,902, with some 15% of respondents spending more than £20,000. Plumbing and insulation works are also attracting significant outlay before the winter chill sets in.

The research gave an indication of how electric cars will affect home improvements in the future. While only 3% of respondents said they planned to install a charging point in their property, the scale of spend was second only to major building projects (£3,479).

Where's the money is coming from?

When asked how they plan to fund their home improvements, people were more likely to draw on their savings (49%) than to rely on finance (17%). Interestingly, those looking for unsecured finance were three times more likely to say they would max out their credit card rather than apply for a personal loan at a much more competitive annual percentage rate (APR).

Families – with greater pressure on their disposable income – were more likely to borrow to fund home improvements. But parents of bigger families (households with 3 or more children) were more likely to rely on store finance.

David Searle, AA Director of Personal Finance, comments: "The nation's obsession with home improvements is no longer a seasonal pastime for the summer. The upward trend for retail sales before Christmas could have an enduring impact on DIY stores too."

"And home improvement projects make sound financial sense, as they can improve the value of a property.

"For those seeking finance, we highly recommend they shop around and consider the benefits of a competitively priced loan over a credit card. This will help mitigate against financial pain when January's credit card bill hits the doormat, and be less of a strain on monthly disposable income.

"However, our research also suggests many don't want to turn to their bank for a loan. The good news here is that there are many other lenders in the market. AA Financial Services offers a range of lending, savings and insurance products that can help people to lower the cost of running a home.

"As one of the UK's most trusted brands, we encourage homeowners to challenge us to see how we can help them save money – or make it go further."

Challenge the AA to help you reduce the cost of your mortgage.

1 In 2018 £4.5 billion was spent between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November, with the following Saturday in December being the busiest day on the high street for small businesses.

2 There are 27 million households in the UK. The average home improvement spend (including households doing no improvements and spending nothing on various forms of DIY) was £2,339.46 over the 3-month period.

3 Consumer poll conducted by YouGov for The AA among a UK representative sample of 2,038 adults in October 2018.

Home improvement project
Average planned spend per project Q4 2018
Variance +/- on Q3 2018 spend
% doing this project
The big spenders
Who is likely to do it



+ £1,798


15% spending more than £20K

Young families (10%)



+ £91


2% spending more than £5K

Young families (23%)



+ £72


3% spending more than £3K

Students (12%)



- £95


9% spending more than £5K

East Midlands (25%)

Upgrading tech


- £123


2% spending more than £2.5K

Under 25s (23%)



- £129


5% spending more than £2.5K

Families with children under 5 (55%)



- £280


8% spending more than £5K

Families with 3+ children (18%)



- £613


7% spending more than £10K

Planning to move (19%)

Green projects


- £870


3% spending more than £5K

Under 25s (11%)

Electric car charger




1% more than £1K

Under 25s (8%)





3% spending more than 5K

Students (13%)

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