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Housing market trend to 'improve not move'

Homeowners unable to move because of the static housing market have been warned to be careful before rushing into home improvements as they could be wasting money.

Nearly half of estate agents surveyed by chartered surveyor trade body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said people were considering house improvements rather than moving due to slow sales in the housing market.

The trend is strongest in areas worst hit by the slowdown in the housing market with more than 75% of agents in Northern Ireland and 71% in the West Midlands reporting people were considering an upgrade.

The mortgage drought since the credit crunch has led to an "improve not move" trend, as many homeowners are unable to move up the property ladder.

But even in areas where the market is still strong, such as London, home improvement work is rising, but in these places it is because people considering a move are being priced out of the market, RICS said.

But RICS cautioned that improvement work did not always increase the value of a property as most areas had a ceiling price and bigger did not always mean better.

David Dalby, professional groups director at RICS, said: "Many properties provide some potential for expansion and improvement, but we would advise people to think about how much they are investing and their key motivator before undertaking major projects."

An extra bedroom was considered the best way to increase house value, with a new kitchen or bathroom the next best upgrade, RICS said.

But the work has to be of the right quality, it said, while style and location were also important with the proximity to a road or railway likely to be more relevant.

Elsewhere, a survey published by Sainsbury's Finance found 21% of loans taken by customers were to renovate their homes, up from 14.1% in 2007.

The figures, which are a slight increase on last year, show people were continuing to invest in doing up their homes despite the challenging economic conditions, Sainsbury's Finance added.