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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 2 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
iJobs Money & Business
£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
Day In a Page
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green