How to improve your home and add value
The upheaval and expense that goes with moving house has prompted millions of homeowners to adopt the mantra “improve value rather than move”.
Staying in the family home is also important to many people who have grown attached to every nook and cranny of the walls in which they raised their children.
But if you’re hoping to stay put for a while, there’s nothing to stop you planning home improvements that add value to property, so long as you go about it the right way.
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So what adds value to a house?
Necessity might dictate the work carried out at home, like an extra bedroom downstairs.
In the garden you might be looking to have some landscaping done to make it less high maintenance, if pushing a lawn mower or spending hours on your knees weeding the vegetable patch simply isn’t how you’d like to spend your day.
You can spend endless cash on anything from redecorating to extending and even redesigning the entire floor plan of the house, but it’s important that whatever you do, you add value to your home so any improvement is an investment, rather than simply an indulgence.
Make sure you’re not throwing good money after bad when it comes to modernising property. Whatever house improvement you consider, always ask yourself whether it will add value to your home, so that if you do decide to sell, you get back what you put in – and hopefully a bit extra on top!
Here are seven of the best ways to add value to your home:
1. Upgrade the kitchen
If you already had a perfectly useable kitchen, then installing a swanky new kitchen may not add much more value than it costs, so you may want to hold back on ordering marble work tops and expensive taps.
Luckily, these days, you don’t have to go quite so overboard on price if you are on a budget. The likes of Ikea and Homebase offer some purse-friendly units.
You can also dramatically change your kitchen - and add value - without ripping it out, if it’s looking a little tired and dated. By having cupboards painted instead of replaced, you can save a fortune, and still add value to your home.
You could also consider having essential kitchen gadgets fitted – installing a dishwasher shouldn’t break the bank, but it might help sway a potential buyer if they’re on the fence, plus it will add value to your day-to-day life in the meantime!
Underfloor heating doesn't always cost the earth, but is a very attractive prospect to a potential buyer - and if you sell in the winter, it might encourage them to spend more time examining the kitchen rather than quickly moving on to the next room!
A 2016 study by Zoopla predicted that a kitchen refit could add up to 5% on to your house sale price.
How to choose the right kitchen style
2. Update your bathroom
One of the simplest ways to upgrade a family bathroom to make it feel more luxurious is to install a separate shower cubicle to the bath, but if you’re just looking to update slightly, then shiny new taps with an interesting design feature can help your house stand out to prospective buyers, for very little outlay.
Older houses can often have a separate toilet and bathroom, which can put buyers off, so if this is the case in your home, you might consider installing a toilet inside the bathroom, if you have the space.
If your house has had extra bedrooms added in the past but still only has one toilet, adding another toilet could help you in the short term – especially if you have older children returning to the nest after university - and add value to your home in the long term!
If you have the space, adding an en suite to the master or guest bedrooms is also a good idea to increase value.
Zoopla believe a new bathroom could add 3% on to the value of your home.
Big ideas for a small bathroom
3. Loft conversions
Converting your loft can add huge value to your home as it utilises dead space that’s otherwise housing what is essentially stuff you don’t need or use anymore.
Adding another bedroom to a home will add value to a property across the board, especially if you can manage to add an en-suite up there as well.
Loft conversions could add up to 12% of value to your home, but it won’t be cheap to do – and shouldn’t be done on the cheap either, as there will be lots of rules and regulations to follow to ensure everything is done safely.
4. Converting a garage
This is probably the most cost-effective way of adding extra space to your home.
And if you’re not changing the look of the exterior, you may be able to bypass planning permission, but you will need to abide by the building control regulations.
How to make your home more accessible
A sun room or conservatory can be easily added to a property, or built as a separate room in the garden - though you need to weigh up the value of the extra house space vs the loss of garden space.
You might need planning permission, so check this before you start earmarking dates for the work to be done. Usually it is considered to be permitted development, not needing an application for planning permission – but do check at the outset as there are some exceptions.
However, building control is essential and you need to check whether you are building over any drains because these now belong to the water companies, so you will need to get their approval to build over them.
A conservatory could add up to 7-15% to the value of your home.
John Conlin answers: Can we replace our conservatory roof?
A third of people who have extended their homes opted for a side or rear extension, according to research from Sainsbury's.
Until 30 May, 2019, homeowners can build larger, single-storey extensions under permitted development concessions – which makes it much easier. However, this is definitely time to get advice on planning permission from your local planning officer.
If you do go single storey, it might be worth considering adding a small ‘attic’ to the extension, especially if you’ve converted the loft, as it might buy back some lost storage space.
7. Floor plan redesign
If having an extension is not an option, architects can redesign an existing home.
Sometimes by moving walls and doorways or making some of the living space open plan, you can completely revamp a property and perhaps make better use of the space.
A combined kitchen/diner is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, as people like the idea of being able to interact with guests as they prepare a meal; or large French doors that lead from the dining room to the patio can blur the lines between inside and outside and give you even more room to make the most of.
Adding space will typically always be a wise investment.
Don’t forget these easy home improvements that will add value to your property
Easy home improvement tip 1: Tidy the garden
Tidying the garden and making it low maintenance will cost money but is worth it in the long run.
Overgrown shrubs can make the available space seem smaller, and weeds in the cracks of the patio will give an impression of grubbiness and neglect. Simply clearing the weeds and pruning over-enthusiastic shrubs will give your home a welcoming and modern feel.
A few bright and cheery flowers in clean tubs will add to the well-looked after vibe, and help potential buyers view your home more positively.
Garden jobs before going on holiday
Easy home improvement tip 2: Replace the carpet
Tired carpet throughout the house might be driving you crazy. But by buying new carpets at an average cost of £4,000 you are likely to get a 50% return.
Make sure you replace yours during seasonal sales to boost savings, and if you have smaller rooms, make sure you check the offcut section of your local carpet shop, as you might pick up something that’s worth much more than you could otherwise afford.
Easy home improvement tip 3: Add mirrors
If you have a small, darker room, add a large mirror to one of the walls, as it will double the perceived space and throw light back into the room.
How to fund home improvements
Working out how to fund your new project is an important consideration. Make sure you do it in the most cost efficient manner possible if you don’t have sufficient savings to dip into and need to borrow the cash.
You might be able to take out additional borrowing against your home with your mortgage lender as long as you have enough equity stored up and it is open to lending to older borrowers. While any work you do is going to add value to your property and your house should have gone up in value since you last remortgaged, you will still need to be assessed for affordability.
Alternatively you can opt for a personal loan which will cost you slightly more in interest, but could be a much quicker and simpler route. Overall it might even be cheaper because you will pay it off quicker. Personal loans last up to five years, and you can usually borrow up to £25,000 on an unsecured loan, which will cover most smaller projects.
Many over-55s take out an equity release plan to access cash locked up in their homes. The interest accrues and the loan is paid back when the house is sold, either when the owners move into care or pass away.
Find out more on how to fund your home improvements
Set a budget
Don’t forget to allow for going over-budget.
Kate Faulkner at Propertychecklists.co.uk says: “Under-budgeting is by far the single most common mistake people make when they embark on home improvements.
"It’s common for obstacles to appear that create more work, so it’s best to factor in a contingency fund to pay for unforeseen problems.
"Allow for an extra 10% for work on a relatively new property and up to 30% on older ones, on top of existing estimates.”
Don't forget insurance
It’s important to tell your home insurer about any renovations to ensure the additional value of your property and contents are covered by your policy.
Make sure you’re also covered for any mishaps by notifying an insurer before the work is carried out.
If you’re making substantial renovations where you have to move out of your home, check how long your policy will cover you while it’s unoccupied, as some providers will specify a limit on this.
Find a trustworthy professional
A recommendation is the best way to find a good builder or architect. Use a building firm belonging to a trade body, such as the Federation of Master Builders. When looking for an architect, check the database at the Royal Institute of British Architects or Architects’ Republic.
Don’t be shy about asking anyone for references, check that they have personal and public liability insurance, and ask to see their certificates.
And no matter how much you trust your tradesman, never pay off the whole bill before the work is finished!
On that note, make sure you have any quotes for work in writing, so if there are any discrepancies further down the line, you have something to refer back to.
For those eager to save money on repairs, it’s a tempting proposition to pay a tradesman cash-in-hand, in exchange for money knocked off the bill. The discount could be because the tradesman is planning to keep these earnings from the taxman – thus avoiding VAT.
Don’t outprice your area
It’s easy to get carried away with adding value to your property, but always keep the sale price of your neighbours’ houses in mind – don’t spend £25,000 on converting the loft if your house is already worth a substantial amount more than your neighbours, as it’ll be harder to get the sale price you need to make a profit.
Next article: If you're thinking of renovating, check our guide to Building Control and Regulations >>>
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