Top Ten Home Improvements

Which home improvements should I try?

Is it time to have a bash at that triple-storey extension? Will buyers go for a lime-green paint job? Well thought out, quality home improvements can boost the value of a property, but botched work and bad judgement can do more harm than good. When navigating your way up the property ladder it pays to do your homework…

Building an extension

Extending your property is an ambitious and expensive move. Any significant building work will cause disruption and reduce outdoor space. On the other hand, extra square footage can be a real advantage.

Make sure your plans are in line with the style of your property (especially in period homes) and that the extension will add functional living space. It’s not wise, for example, to add bedrooms when you have a living room the size of a postage stamp.

Another common mistake is tacking on a half-hearted conservatory without choosing the most suitable design or making efforts to define usage.

Converting the loft

Most home improvements will add some value, but the cleverest will reap rewards in relation to outlay. According to many valuers, loft conversions represent the best value for money. Prices start at around £20,000 and most lofts with a roof height of at least 2.4 metres are suitable for conversion. Loft conversions are normally used to add another bedroom, and there’s often space for a value-boosting en-suite.

Keep in mind that extensions and loft conversions involve major building work and require expert help. Unless you are a qualified professional, please don't attempt to make structural changes to your property.

Adding extra bedrooms

Whether you extend or convert existing space, it’s tempting to add an extra bedroom. This has a satisfyingly visible effect on estate agents’ statistics. Studies over the years show that the adding a bedroom, costing between £15,000-£40,000, could increase the property value by more than 10%.

It’s wise to consider the proportions of your home and avoid cramming in additional bedrooms unnecessarily. Think about your potential market. Families may want to give children small rooms of their own, but couples or single-occupiers often prefer one or two spacious bedrooms.

Opening up space

There’s no sign that the trend for open-plan living is going away. Any why should it? Natural light, sociable cooking space and luxurious living areas appeal to all sorts of buyers. Just don’t get carried away. Practical family homes often need rooms to shut away white goods, household waste, children and pets. It’s also essential to get the professionals in to make sure you’re not bashing down load-bearing walls.

Kitchen-diners are a popular use of space, but the sitting room was ranked the most important room in the house by respondents in the Halifax survey. The most successful open-plan rooms tend to be ‘zoned’ to define space.

Fitting central heating

Fitting central heating is not the most inspiring project, but it’s a must-do for anyone renovating a property without it. While other improvements have the potential to go wrong, central heating and a modern boiler are a safe bet. Figures from Nationwide suggest this can add 13% to the value of a property.

Even if your property is already kitted out, investment in a new high-efficiency boiler is worth considering. These can cost £100-£200 more than conventional boilers, but will reduce your heating bills and attract ‘green’ buyers.

Creating parking space

For many buyers, space for a car is a must-have. Off road parking or a garage can be especially advantageous in areas where parked cars line both sides on the street. Again, you need to think about your market. If you’re selling a five-bed suburban home, it’s likely your buyers will need to store one or two vehicles. A flat in the middle of the city is a different matter.

Putting in a new bathroom

Bathrooms can quickly look shabby and dated. A new one could set you back thousands, but it’s possible to get a decent 5 piece suite for £500! Don’t feel you have to stick to the tried and tested combination of toilet, bath and shower. En-suite shower rooms and wet rooms are increasingly popular.

If you’re competing with newer properties then consider adding or re-arranging rooms to increase the bathroom-to-bedroom ratio. These days, even small properties tend to be built with an en-suite leading from the master bedroom in addition to a main bathroom.

Making over the garden

Don’t neglect outdoor space during a property spruce-up. Gardens can be a room, or several rooms, in themselves. Remember, first impressions count, so cast a critical eye over the approach to your home. A mere £50 will cover a few pots or hanging baskets and a tin of paint for the front door.

In the back garden, consider your potential buyers. Busy professionals might be tempted by low-maintenance paving, but families benefit from a patch of grass to frolic on. Barbeques, outdoor furniture and subtle lighting suggest a laid-back al-fresco lifestyle. Simple but attractive planting won’t scare off amateurs and will give expert gardeners room to make their mark.

Painting and decorating

Even without dramatic structural changes, good presentation can have a real impact on the amount buyers are prepared to pay. Painting and decorating was ranked an equal second (alongside a new kitchen) in the Halifax valuers list of improvements likely to add value.

It may be tricky, but getting your property ready for sale means depersonalising it. Clutter can distract viewers and kitchens and bathrooms should be spotlessly clean. A splash of paint can do wonders; neutral tones are the safest bet. Keep it simple, fresh and inviting. Wafting around the aroma of baking bread every time someone steps in the door might give the impression you’re trying a bit too hard.

Re-fitting the kitchen

Kitchens suffer serious wear and tear during their lifetime, and a new one can add real wow factor to a property. Valuers in the Halifax survey placed a modern fitted kitchen second (after a loft conversion) in their list of home improvements most likely to add value.

Again it’s important to think things through and weigh up the cost of improvement against the overall value of your home. You can easily spend tens of thousands on a top-of-the-range kitchen, but somewhere between £10,000 and £20,000 is more usual. In saying that, you can buy kitchen fittings for as little as £800 and built in cookers for £250, you'll then just to either fit it yourself or get quotes for the labour.

Things to consider

From sweeping the front path to building a major extension, there are buyer-friendly home improvements to suit every pocket. It can be difficult to let go of personal tastes and reign in eagerness to get started, but careful planning is an essential ingredient for success. Even if you’re not looking to sell straight away, it makes sense to consider future occupants and avoid doing anything you’ll regret.

Get that calculator out. Are you simply looking to recoup what you spend? Or are you after big bucks? Remember that the value of property in your area tends to dictate the maximum value your home can achieve, and therefore affects your potential profit.

When it comes to any structural changes, expert advice from an architect or planner is vital. Check that your plans are safe and legal, and that you have the necessary planning permission (the need for this depends on the age, location and dimensions of your property). Make sure any professionals you bring in have a good reputation for completing work to a high standard. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.

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