Can't sell? Make the most of what you've got
A stagnant housing market means more people are doing home improvements. But which ones add value? Chiara Cavaglieri investigates
Sunday 24 May 2009
Tantalising rumours of a recovery in the housing market have circulated in recent months, but a convincing upward shift has yet to materialise. A quarter of British homeowners are now planning to build themselves out of trouble, according to financial advice website Unbiased.co.uk. But what changes will add value to your property?
Any changes should be about adding lifestyle value. "Looking at the immediate value of a property can be misleading unless you are a developer or want to sell your property in the short term," says Hugo Tugman, founder of Architect Your Home. "If you are planning to stay in your home for the medium to longer term and your quality of life would be much improved by having an additional bedroom for your growing family, for example, it is important to look at that bigger picture, especially if there is limited opportunity to move house."
However, if your plan is to "improve to move", any changes must be thought of as an investment and personal taste should be set aside to maximise the chance of appealing to a wide range of buyers. Homeowners should also steer clear of anything that could be considered high maintenance. Saunas and swimming pools are very unlikely to add value and the running costs may even put off potential buyers.
The average price of properties in the local area will have a sizeable impact on the maximum price achievable, whether successful improvements are made or not. Researching the selling price of similar properties nearby will give you a good idea of the maximum price your property is likely to achieve, Mr Tugman suggests.
Any long-term improvements should focus on creating more space. "If you do need to add space, the next best option is to extend upwards – converting a loft is one of the most cost-effective ways to add space," says Mr Tugman. "The next option is to extend outwards with a single or double-storey extension." Once you have exhausted these possibilities, he suggests expanding downwards, with a basement conversion, although this is generally the most expensive way to add space.
For more extensive improvements, the difficulty lies in trying to add more value to your property than you paid out – a tall order in a subdued market. Extensive upgrade work is unlikely to add to your sale price if you're looking for an imminent move.
If your plans are longer-term, loft conversions can add both space and value, but homeowners must check with the planning office before making a start. They will also have to get building regulations approval and conform to fire regulations and there is no guarantee that owners will recoup all of their costs. A recent survey of property valuation experts by HSBC found that some of the more traditional home improvements fail to affect the property's value at all. Recarpeting came in top of the list, followed by redecorating, with about half the polled experts saying they made no difference to the overall price of the property.
Instead, valuation experts stressed the importance of simple, but effective ways to create additional space.
Decluttering was considered to be the best way to increase a property's chance of selling at a good price, with 61 per cent of the valuation experts making it their top choice. Simple, inexpensive measures such as reorganising the layout of existing rooms and adding extra storage will appeal to buyers. The research also highlighted the importance of keeping the garden in shape.
The message seems clear: home improvements don't have to be expensive to add value to your property. In fact, some small, relatively inexpensive changes can offer better returns than more ambitious projects. Basic improvement work such as replacing old countertops, repairing broken fixtures and other minor repairs will make a difference. "Kitchens and bathrooms are good rooms to spend a little money on, but don't go mad and spend thousands on fixtures and fittings," says Martin Roberts, property expert from website Makingmoneyfromproperty.tv. There is no need to rip out old fittings and fork out for new units, he suggests.
Instead, simply replacing doors and work surfaces is an inexpensive way to update an old kitchen or bathroom and a lick of paint will freshen up tired walls. As labour is usually the most expensive part of any renovation project, taking on some of the work yourself would reduce costs.
Installing double glazing and other energy-efficient forms of insulation is another way to entice prospective buyers. Many people will be on the lookout for homes that are cheaper to run. There are even energy grants up for grabs for loft and cavity wall insulation, which together could save about £365 per year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Elsewhere, any changes that reduce space should be avoided. Resist the temptation to knock through walls upstairs, as reducing the number of bedrooms often has a direct impact on the value of a property. Equally, turning a garage into a workshop can have a negative impact if it compromises the parking facility.
As for financing home improvements, there are several options but the starting point should be your existing mortgage lender. "There's no great appetite among lenders to accommodate added borrowing although your existing mortgage provider may be slightly more receptive to such requests," says Mr Roberts.
"Remortgaging elsewhere is potentially another option," says David Black, principal consultant from financial research company Defaqto. "Or a second charge secured loan may be worth exploring if that doesn't work." However, for smaller borrowing amounts it may be cheaper to use a credit card. The Barclaycard Simplicity Visa charges a typical APR of 6.8 per cent and Marks & Spencer's Money MasterCard, offers 0 per cent on purchases for 10 months.
It is also vital that homeowners planning to make substantial improvements contact their home and buildings insurance provider to check that they are covered by the policy if there are any DIY disasters. There may be a need to amend the level of cover temporarily and the policy may become void if the insurers are not informed that work is being carried out.
Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk
The best deals on personal loans: Peer-to-peer providers are more competitive for smaller sums
China stock market: My portfolio's in pain, but it was never for the financially faint-hearted
China stock collapse: Five things you need to know about 'Black Monday'
Questions of Cash: 'Our dividends seem to have disappeared when TSB was bought and then born again'
Bargain Hunter: Groupon has a great deal at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
- 4 Jozef Wesołowski: Former Catholic archbishop found dead ahead of child sexual abuse trial
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
iJobs Money & Business
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Day In a Page
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.