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Five home improvements to add value to your property

By Rebecca Milligan

We spend nearly £30bn a year on home improvements in the UK, but are we getting value for our money? We look at which home improvements will add value to your home.
Little red model houses on pound coins rising upwards

Once we’re settled, for many of us it makes sense to improve our current home rather than have the stress and cost of moving house. The Office of National Statistics Family Spending Survey 2016 found that we spend around £43m a week on home improvements. But not every pound spent will return its value. While you might want an avocado hot-tub in a lizard-print room, highly individual additions to your property are not likely to increase its long-term value.

If you want to renovate your home, Which? Trusted Traders has endorsed builders in your area.

Top home improvements

Home improvements are all about making the most of your space, so here are our five suggestions on how to add value:

1. Extend your property 

Increasing the square footage of your home means increasing its value, as long as the extension conforms to local planning and building regulations. You will not usually need planning permission if your extension fulfils the following criteria:

  • a single-storey extension to the side or rear of the property
  • your property is not located within a conservation area or a site of special scientific interest
  • you are not increasing the original footprint of the house by more than 50%
  • your side extension is not more than 4 metres high (or 3 metres high if it’s within 2 metres of a boundary)
  • your rear extension is not more than 3 metres high
  • your rear extension does not extend more than 3 metres from the original boundary in a semi-detached or terraced house, and 4 metres from the original boundary in a detached house.

More floor space can create room for a bigger open-plan living area, a downstairs bathroom, a utility room or a larger kitchen. All these options will increase the appeal of your property to future buyers.

Beware: Don’t make your property ‘out of proportion’. Extending outwards often comes at the expense of a garden, which could put off future buyers. Equally, you need to balance your living space with the number of bedrooms – there is little point having four bedrooms with a tiny lounge. Bear in mind there is a big difference in value between a two, three and four-bedroom house but, once you have five bedrooms or more, adding another does not result in such a huge increase. Find a home-improvement specialist who can help with Which? Trusted Traders.

2. Convert your loft

A loft conversion is an excellent way to increase the square footage of your property, and doesn’t usually require planning permission. A 2014 Nationwide survey found that adding an extra bedroom could increase your property value by 10%, meaning you could cover a good proportion of your costs when you come to sell.

The basic price of a loft conversion will vary, depending on:

  • the floor size of the space you’re converting
  • the age and design of the house
  • whether you include a bathroom
  • whether you are going to install a dormer (a structure extending above your existing roof space to increase head height in the conversion)
  • how many windows you’re planning to install.

Of course, your decisions around design features and fixtures and fittings can also have an impact on the final cost.

Beware: You may need to lower the ceiling height in the rooms below your loft if your loft roof height is less than 2.2 metres from the ridge (the highest point in the middle) to the existing joists.  Adding a new staircase to your loft may also mean losing valuable space.  Ensure your loft conversion is planned properly to make the most of the space and is fully compliant with building regulations. If your conversion involves a shared wall with a neighbour, you will need a party wall agreement. For more information on specific costs and advice on planning, see the Which? guide to loft conversions.

3. Replace your kitchen

A new designer kitchen came top of a wishlist for prospective homeowners in a 2015 Barclays’ Mortgage survey, with 42% of respondents seeing it as the most desirable home improvement.

A new fitted kitchen costs around £15,000 on average in a regular terraced house, according to Which? research. If you want bespoke items and high-end appliances, the costs can quickly increase.  You can keep costs down by replacing elements of your existing kitchen rather than the whole thing – if the carcasses of your cupboards are in good condition, why not replace only the doors for a whole new look?

Which? has lots of useful advice on design ideas, layouts and costs, as well as reviews of kitchen appliances to help you plan your dream kitchen.

Beware: New homeowners often look to replace kitchens if they don’t match their personal style so, if you’re looking to sell soon, keep it neutral and make it easy to change elements of the design without it requiring a complete overhaul. You can find endorsed kitchen fitters in your area with Which? Trusted Traders.

4. Create an extra bathroom 

Research shows that an extra bathroom can add a further 5% or more to the value of your home. This is particularly the case in family homes that have only a single bathroom to start with. You don’t need to have a large space – an en suite with just a basin and toilet can still decrease the pressure on the family bathroom in the mornings.

You can save money by working with your current plumbing set-up. Locating a new bathroom above or below an existing one can mean a simpler plumbing job. If that’s not possible, it can help if your new bathroom has at least one outside wall where soil stacks and other pipework can be located.

If you’re thinking about buying a new bathroom, find out more about the best and worst bathroom brands according to research from Which?.

Beware: Replacing a bedroom with a bathroom can actually decrease the value of your property. It’s often a better bet to carve out an en suite from a large master bedroom, or fit a new bathroom in an extension or loft conversion. You also need to plan for future maintenance – check our article on making sure your bathroom is plumber friendly for more details.

5. Open up your living space

Compared to major renovations, knocking down a wall or two is a relatively low-cost way to increase your home’s value. Removing a non load-bearing wall and moving light switches, radiators and so on is likely to cost in the region of £2,000. Lots of UK houses are Victorian or Edwardian, and were built to reflect a different lifestyle. Opening up your property, particularly combining kitchen and dining rooms, can make the most of your space and the available light, and improve the flow of a building.

Beware: Before you get the sledgehammer out, you need to engage a suitably qualified builder or surveyor. It’s essential to understand the structural impact of removing a wall – whether it’s load-bearing or not, and whether removing it could potentially breach building regulations. A professional will also be able to deal with any ensuing issues such as floors that aren’t quite level because they weren’t designed to meet, making good masonry and plasterwork, or replacing skirting boards.

Ultimately, when it comes to home improvement, it’s up to you – the idea is to improve the space for your own enjoyment, so focus on what’s going to make you happy. But if you are looking to sell in the near future, just bear in mind that while you might love your avocado hot-tub, not everyone is going to share your unique taste.

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