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Material prices to lift from current low base

A PREDICTED boost in the housing sector will be welcomed by the building materials industry, which has been forced to cut prices to remain competitive in the wake of the GST.

Prices for standard bricks and tiles, which are now at their lowest levels in three years, are set to rise again as homebuyers are lured back to the market by interest rate cuts and first homebuyer grants.

Housing Industry Forecasting Group chairman Warwick Hemsley said projections indicated 18,500 new houses would be built during 2001/2002 after a post-GST slump which saw dwelling commence-ments drop by 37 per cent.

Mr Hemsley said the boost was likely to begin to show in the June quarter and would not tail off until after the March 2002 quarter.

Master Builders Association building council chairman Bill Marcolina said building material prices would begin to rise as people came back to the market.

“Last year there were two lines of thought, one was to get in before the GST hit and the other was to adopt and wait-and-see attitude,” Mr Marcolina said.

“Those who chose not to build last year are still very wary and cautious, the buyer confidence is not quite there yet.

“Now building materials suppliers are just waiting for a slight turn in the market.”

Bricks and tiles were still the most popular building materials despite a range of different products now available to home builders.

Mr Marcolina said double clay bricks were used in the majority of new homes, as other building products tended to be expensive and faddish.

But WA limestone processing company Meteor Stone director Tony Randazzo said it was now possible to build an average 160sqm external wall out of limestone for just $2000 more than the cost of standard bricks.

Mr Randazzo said many people were unaware of the affordibility of the product, assuming it was a luxury building material.

“The vast majority of people building homes are automatically using clay bricks without even considering natural limestone,” Mr Randazzo said.

“The irony is that the style and rich character of limestone has created the misconception that it is a luxury product beyond the budget of the average homebuyer or renovator… this is simply no longer the case.”

Mr Randazzo said using Meteor Stone’s system, it costs just $70 a square metre to supply and lay natural limestone in home building.

He estimated it currently costs approximately $55 per square metre to supply and lay standard clay bricks.

Parent company of Metrobrick, Bristile general marketing manager Peter Scott said there had been an increase in the demand for rendered products that could be made to look like limestone.

He noted that apart from the initial building material expense there was sometimes a maintenance cost involved in alternative building products such as timber, rammed earth and limestone.

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