There are two main reasons why people undertake significant home improvements, such as loft conversions – to accommodate growing needs in terms of space and to increase a property’s sale price.
Timing will be a key issue in terms of turning a profit. If you have owned the house for some time, then all you may need to do is spruce up the finishes. However, if you’ve had the property for a relatively short period or are looking to maximise its worth then you should consider extending your usable floor area.
“Creating extra space will add a degree of value and saleability to most properties. But this will depend on other dwellings of a similar style that are either for sale or have sold in the area,” says Jason Hooper, regional director at Countrywide. “The true fiscal benefit of an extension will depend on the quality of workmanship, staying within the stock profile of the area and considering the design in relation to the existing structure.”
These days, more bedrooms, a better kitchen and decent en suites or bathrooms will all add value to your home. Whilst you may have your own tastes, remember that if you are looking to sell, what you like may not be what a potential buyer may want. Aim to provide a canvas of an appropriate size onto which someone else can create their masterpiece.
Your requirements will vary drastically depending on if you are looking to re-sell in the next one to five years, the next 10 to 20, or not at all.
“Consider spending £50,000 to make improvements to your property. If you then sold it within a few months or years, you may not recoup your investment but will have enjoyed the brief time you had with the new improvements,” says architect Opinder Liddar. “Although the property market has been battered recently, no doubt property prices will still continue to rise. Therefore, over the long term you’re more likely to recoup the investment.”
Be careful when you are close to the stamp duty threshold, as this is a difficult barrier to break. For instance, if your property is valued at £240,000 and you’re planning £15,000-£30,000 worth of improvements, it’s unlikely to sell beyond £250,000 because this will incur more costs for the potential buyer in tax. In this case, you will need to wait for the whole street to comfortably break the stamp duty threshold before recouping your investment.
When deciding upon what type of addition is best – for example a loft conversion or rear extension – consider what is important to you.
List your ideals, such as a bigger kitchen, larger dining room or another bedroom, and also what your budget is. “Once you have defined these items your designer will listen to your needs and should also question which of these is most important,” says Opinder.
Before starting work on a new space, consider how you can best use what you’ve already got. Look at your house as a whole and decide what you need in order to maintain a balance. In other words, don’t add extra bedrooms if the living room or kitchen is very small.
According to HSBC’s recent home improvement survey, a loft conversion is the best way to improve a property’s value (an average increase of £16,152). In fact, it is often one of the cheapest and easiest ways to boost space and market price. In most cases you won’t need planning permission for this type of expansion, but it’s best to check with your local authority before commissioning any work.
Depending on how complex the conversion is, it could take from four to 10 weeks to complete. “Make sure the project is designed well using the services of an architect,” says Jason. “Loft conversions cost less than other types of extensions, as they are utilising the existing fabric of the property without the need for extra foundations, for example. Loft conversions can provide a very quick solution to gaining extra accommodation for expanding families.”
A rear or side addition can make a real difference to a house. It can provide the perfect opportunity to extend kitchen and living areas to make the most of the garden views. However, when planning this type of project, by necessity, you’ll have to account for reducing your property’s outdoor space.
But how much can you realistically afford to lose without it having a negative impact? “Many local planning authorities set minimum amenity space standards for house types, ie. the amount of garden required for the size of property,” says Opinder. “For example, many authorities want at least 100m2 of garden for a three-bedroom house. When you are extending, do consider what useful garden space will remain so that when the sun does shine, you can make the most of your outdoor zone.”
If you are creating a rear or side extension, one way to really maximise space is to consider a double storey add on. While doubling up on space won’t cost twice as much, there is still a significant cost in realising an additional floor.
“Foundations will be laid sufficient to take an additional storey and a roof will still be required whether single or two floors,” says Opinder. “Therefore these costs will be the same despite the number of levels. However, you still need to build walls and a floor, plaster, decorate, plumb and wire-up an additional storey if you choose to build up.”
Land is at a premium and in high density areas it’s difficult to extend outwards. Once you’ve explored maximising space elsewhere on the property you may only have the option to go down by adding a basement level. However, this is a costly solution and possibly one that is best suited to those planning on living in a property for a long time.
Start by getting a specialist company to assess your home’s feasibility for a usable lower level.
The ideal house is one with an existing cellar or basement. If you’re lowering an existing floor to create more headroom, or building a new subterranean level, you’ll need to underpin the foundations. This means extending them downwards for additional support – which can amount to a huge expense.
Photo (top): Nigel Rigden – Farmhouse extension
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