Are you on the wrong side of the 'latte line'? Why tradies may be charging you more

There are definite discrepancies in what you pay depending on where you live and tradies don't even try to hide it, writes Adam Lucius.

One morning, a few years ago, my wife turned to me in bed and asked why I wasn’t any good with my hands.

Just as I was about to mount a strong and passionate defence blaming my Catholic school upbringing and excess alcohol, I realised she wasn't talking about what I thought she was talking about.

Instead, her eyes were fixed on a number of framed family photos nestled up against a wall.

They’d been there that long the young kids in the photos now had adult teeth, one had grown a goatee and the other was off to uni.

Back when the pics first arrived from the professional photographer - and I'd sold a small parcel of land to pay for them - I promised my wife I’d get some hooks, drill some holes and have those precious pieces of art hung by the end of the weekend.

How hard could it be?

Tradesperson drills into a wall.
Drilling into a wall shouldn't be that challenging, right? Source: Getty

So, I gave it a shot – and left a cavity the size of the Grand Canyon in the space where a perfectly formed wall once stood. No one told me about studs. I thought they went under football boots or patrolled the sides of dance floors in shirts two sizes too small.

I tell you this story to not only underline my uselessness with tools but to salute those who know how to wield a hammer or do whatever an angle grinder does.

I sit back and marvel at those who make a living from it, many of whom I've come to rely on over the years for fixing anything from a collapsed roof to a tap that dripped to the beat of Ice Ice Baby.

Tradies charging some more and 'it's no secret'

I pay homage in advance as a way of apologising for the words to follow (and softening up the good tradies out there so they continue to take my desperate calls for help).

Did you know some tradies deliberately increase their price based on your location? It's euphemistically called a "postcode tax"?

I sorta knew it was a thing but thought it could also be an urban myth, like swingers' parties and quality cleanskin wine.

So, I fact-checked it with a tiler mate of mine. "It's definitely a thing. There is no fixed price and it's not regulated so tradies can pretty much charge what they want," he told me.

"And if you're quoting on a job at Avalon (on Sydney's northern beaches) you're probably going to charge more than you would for a job at Ashcroft (in Sydney's south-west).

"Tradies don't really keep it a secret. If you agree to pay the price then that's on the client."

An Australian tradesman holds cash in his hands.
If you're in a richer suburb, the asking price is probably going up. Source: Getty

Prices in Sydney vary greatly based on your location – a site allowing Australian homeowners to compare quotes and prices from local businesses - has provided a guide to what tradies are charging per hour, on average, across NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

Plumbers top the list as the most expensive ($117 an hour), with electricians ($107) next followed by carpenters ($85).

In Sydney, in particular, those prices can vary dramatically depending on your location. They call it the "latte line" – a divide between the wealthy and those living in less affluent areas.

"There are some pockets in Sydney where customers will pay significantly more for an hour of a tradies' time," CEO Jeremy Levitt said.

"Tradies working in suburbs considered to be more affluent often increase their charge-out rates because they perceive their customers to be more capable of paying higher prices."

I'm scared to ask, but here we go.

How much to hang a few photos - and plaster a wall while you're at it?

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