Our home is often our greatest asset, and for many of us it makes sense to capitalise on that investment.
According to a recent Halifax home improvement survey, 58 per cent of homeowners have undertaken some form of work on their property in the past 12 months, with one in four stating that this was carried out specifically to add value to their home.
What’s more, the survey predicts that these figures are set to steadily rise year on year.
Planning your home improvement
Before you bring in the builders, bear in mind that the path to home improvement can be a rocky one and you aren’t guaranteed massive returns.
It is always a good idea to check with local agents as to whether a major home improvement will add value to your property. Every home has its ceiling price, so make sure that the cost does not outweigh the profit.
It is also vital that you get in the professionals, to ensure the work is properly thought out, well executed and finished to the highest standard, as poor workmanship and design can end up reducing the value of your home.
Ideally, traders should come from personal recommendations. If this is not an option, look to contractors affiliated to recognised organisations, such as The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) or The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Always get at least three quotes and ask to see examples of their work, along with references.
You must ensure that all works adhere to any planning and building legislation that may apply. Homeowners who cannot produce approved documentation will again be damaging the saleability of their property. So avoid the pitfalls and make sure that you‘re maximising the value of your home.
1. Extend your home
Increasing the square footage of your property is nearly always a money spinner and, according to the Nationwide Building Society, a well thought out extension can add anything up to 12 per cent to the market value of your home.
Costs for a single storey extension start at £30,000 with a double height extension costing from £40,000 – so it pays to consider doubling up as the major outlay tends to be the foundations and the roof.
Whatever you choose, pay careful attention to the design and layout, as a poorly designed, oversized, ugly or badly placed extension could devalue your property.
The golden rule is to ensure that the extension is in keeping and proportion with the existing property and that the new space works well both inside and out.
You should also ensure that the ratio of upper to ground floor rooms remains balanced and that outside space is not significantly reduced.
2. Add a basement
Although there are no official figures as to just how much value a habitable basement will add to your home, there is no doubt that conversions can be a cost-effective way of increasing square footage, especially in urban areas where land is restricted.
Bear in mind that digging out a new basement will cost at least £80,000 and in many cases a lot more, making it much harder to recoup your investment.
Converting an existing cellar or basement, on the other hand, can cost as little as £20,000, although again costs can quickly rise due to the need to create adequate head height, the expense of tanking (waterproofing) and the need to dig out light wells.
A well planned and constructed basement will not only give you an extra floor but could recoup your expenditure and earn you half as much again in added value.
3. Convert your loft
According to the Halifax survey, loft conversions offer the best value for money when it comes to home improvements, adding up to 15 per cent to your property’s market value. They can also increase available floor space by anything up to 30 per cent according to the FMB.
The average, basic conversion costs from £16,000 to £20,000, but this figure can soon rise if you are planning a dormer or more complicated works.
The most successful loft conversions are those that appear to be an integral part of the existing property, both inside and out.
Spend some time planning your space and think through problems such as restricted headroom, sacrificing space below in favour of access or simply providing inadequate access to avoid seeing your profits plummet.
Adding to the number of bedrooms is the most popular reason for converting but remember that an en suite and sufficient storage are now seen as ‘must-haves’ for bedrooms in loft conversions.
4. Update your bathroom
A second bathroom can add between five and nine per cent to the value of your home, according to Nationwide.
Renewing an existing suite may add saleability, but will only recoup 25 per cent of the cost. In terms of numbers, houses with four bedrooms or more should have a minimum of two bathrooms, while those with bedrooms on different floors should have at least one bathroom per floor.
For those with a downstairs bathroom it is well worth considering a move upstairs. A new bathroom can cost around £4,000 to £5,000, but upgrades can easily see this figure triple.
Adding an en suite to a larger room often proves cost effective, but do ensure that the space is not compromised. When it comes to conversions, think carefully before sacrificing a bedroom.
Converting a tiny boxroom into a bathroom in a home with at least three good rooms is fine, but beware of reducing a three-bedroom property to two.
5. Revamp your kitchen
Second in Halifax’s list of home improvements most likely to add value is a modern fitted kitchen. This can add anywhere between four and 10 per cent to the price of your home.
While it’s possible to buy a new kitchen for £4,000, according to the FMB, the average spend tends to be £10,000 to £14,000 – and costs can rise to more than £50,000.
The trick is to ensure that the amount you spend is in proportion to the value of your home. Spending £20,000 on a £150,000 house, for example, is simply a wasted investment.
Open-plan layouts are now very much in vogue and knocking through to an adjoining room to create a large family room or kitchen-diner can prove more cost effective than extending, as long as it is not at the expense of the only reception room.
You should also ensure the various zones are clearly defined, so that the new space works effectively.
6. Add a conservatory or garden rooms
A conservatory is a relatively simple way of adding extra living space to a house and, according to a 2007 survey by GE Money Home Lending, as long as it can be used all year round, it will increase the value of your home.
A good conservatory that enhances your home both externally and internally will increase your home’s value by around four or five per cent, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
But beware: a poorly thought out and constructed one could actually devalue your property so the RICS recommend paying extra attention to the design and layout of your conservatory. Prices range from a few thousand for off-the-peg designs to around £15,000 to £20,000 for a quality bespoke build.
Alternatively, you could opt for an independent garden structure complete with electricity, heating and even drainage.
Ideal as a home office or teenage space, installation causes minimal disruption and a good garden room can, according to property expert Sarah Beeney, add up to five per cent to the value of your home.
7. Restore or repair period features
There is no doubt that reinstating or restoring period features can add value to your home, but by exactly how much is difficult to calculate.
According to Nationwide, today’s buyers are prepared to pay a premium of up to 30 per cent for a several hundred-year-old character property with original features and around eight per cent for a Victorian home.
Exactly how much of this premium you can benefit from will be dependent on the features you reinstate.
Quality reclaimed items do not come cheap and reproduction pieces will not have the same effect unless they utilise traditional materials and construction methods, and are indistinguishable from the genuine article.
Attempting DIY restoration can do more harm than good, so it’s worth spending a bit extra and calling in the professionals.
Features must also be in keeping with the style, era and proportion of your property, so take the time to research the history of your home to ensure an authentic finish.
8. Spruce up your home's exterior
Buyers often decide whether they like a property even before they reach the front door, so paying attention to the exterior (“kerb appeal”) of your home can reap rewards in terms of saleability.
A smart front door is a must, while regular maintenance – including clearing drains, replacing rotten wood, ensuring rendering or paintwork is in tip top condition and repairing walls, fencing and gates – will save you money in the long run.
If you are considering paving a front garden to create off-street parking, then ensure that it is sympathetic to your home by using co-ordinating materials and soften the effect with planting.
When it comes to the back garden, Halifax found that 45 per cent of buyers regarded garden improvements as highly desirable.
A tidy garden will always appear larger than a messy one and homeowners should avoid making their garden spaces too personal. Instead, look to creating a simple, stylish, welcoming space and consider adding a patio or decking area for dining alfresco
9. Go green and save money
New legislation, rising energy bills and concerns about the planet have seen many of us look to alternative ways of running our homes and conserving energy.
A Halifax report from 2007 revealed that almost two thirds of homeowners were eager to improve their properties using environmentally friendly features in order to increase their value, and BeatThatQuote.com predicts that an eco-friendly house will soon be worth six per cent more than a standard home.
If you are looking for a cheap and easy way to reduce bills then something as simple as upgrading the insulation in your roof (around £100) could reduce heating bills by £210-250 per year according to Nationwide. Great for both you and your potential buyers.
10. Add garages or off-street parking
With parking spaces at a premium, Nationwide estimates that building a garage can add as much as 11 per cent to the value of your property. This value will be dependent on where you live and could be even more in busy towns and cities.
A basic brick garage will cost around £8,000, but if you really want to cash in and have a large enough home, consider a double garage and use the space above for an extra room.
If a garage is not an option, off-street parking could be the solution. But bear in mind that prospective buyers are looking for a space that is both practical and attractive – not an ugly expanse of tarmac in front of the house.
In all cases, you need to apply to the local council to have the kerb dropped or you could find that parking your car leaves you on the wrong side of the law.
Main image: Cabrio skylight and balcony system from Velux
First published: May 2008