Moving In: Adding Value To Your Home
Hello homeowner! The chances are that, as the process of finding, buying and moving into a new house might be pretty exhausting, right now you just want to take a deep breath and get used to your new living arrangements.
But it’s also probable that, sooner or later, you’ll want to start improving your house in one way or another. In this final section of our Home Buyers’ Guide, we’ve once again sought the recommendations of Ian Henderson, our trusted and award-winning builder. Having undertaken hundreds of extensions, conversions & refurbishments he is a man in the know when it comes to home improvements.
In this section, we’ll cover:
Adding value to your property
Forget finding a builder, the first thing you’ll need to know is whether or not it’s worth making improvements. Therefore, we’ll also give you a lowdown on:
- Which improvements add most value?
- Value-adding changes you could make
- Low-cost ways to impress
- Paying for your home improvements
Having work done
Planning the work is one thing – getting it done is quite another. You’ll want to know who to ask, how to find them and what rates to expect. Therefore, this section introduces you to:
- How to find a builder
- Individual tradespeople vs. a contractor
After that, you’ll be the most briefed-up homeowner this side of the English Channel.
50% of estate agents ranked adding a bedroom (usually by converting loft space) as the best home modification.
Source: National Association of Estate Agents 
A note from our expert:
“Keep it simple and start with the general upkeep as first impressions count to the value of a property. There is no point adding an extension to a house if it is in a poor stare of repair. Once the basics are sorted, the best way to increase the value of a property is to add to it. The main additions are opening up and enlarging the kitchen/dining/family space, adding a bedroom, en-suite, downstairs toilet, utility room, outside landscaping and gates. Remember to keep your house in keeping with the other houses nearby; otherwise it can look out of place.”
Which improvements add most value?
Home improvements could add real value to your property – some more than others. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Estate Agents, 50% said an extra bedroom might add the most significant value, followed by a kitchen upgrade and extra bathroom.  Meanwhile, Nationwide have gone a step further, quantifying the added value modifications could make. 
They calculate a home extension or loft conversion might add as much as 22%:
- Extra bathroom – 5%
- 10% increase in floor area – 5%
- Extra bedroom – 11%
- Extension / loft conversion – 22%
How much will home improvements save you?
|Home improvement||Average cost||Added value|
|Loft coversion||£15,000 - £40,000||10%|
|Extra bathroom||£2,500 - £6,000||6.10%|
|Conservatory||£4,000 - £10,000||5%|
Source: This Is Money, NAEA, Movewithus and TradeAdvisor
These figures shouldn’t be taken too literally – they are dependent on the cost of land, quality of the work undertaken and location. But studies such as this do show the potential home improvements have in terms of value.
Here’s Ian Henderson’s lowdown on the value-adding changes you could make:
A loft conversion:
This is often the easiest way to create an extra bedroom (or even an extra bathroom). As you may need to make some structural changes, such as strengthening floor joists or raising the roof (so you’ll be able to stand up), it’s sensible to get an expert opinion (an architect, structural engineer or builder) to assess the viability of whatever you have in mind.
Adding an extension:
Extensions vary widely, depending on space and size. However, a well thought-out extension that adds space to your home, or enhances its character could be a major attraction to potential buyers – and you’ll be able to enjoy it for many years as an owner. One of the great advantages of an extension is you could use it to add a bedroom – as the NAEA’s study proves is actually the most popular addition with estate agents. Don’t forget that you’ll almost certainly need planning permission.
Installing an en-suite:
Adding an en-suite might be a very smart move – especially if you add it to the master bedroom. If the room is big enough, you could use some of it for the en-suite, or use any extra space you may have on the landing. This way, you’re less likely to reduce the appeal of the other bedrooms.
Opening up spaces:
Knocking one or more rooms through could make a big difference at a relatively low cost. You don’t need to worry that reducing your room count reduces the value of your house, as most people care more about the total living space than simply how many rooms you have. Obviously, though, you need to avoid load-bearing walls.
Bringing the outside in:
This is a great way to add value, without spending a king’s ransom. You could, for example, add natural light to a room with glass doors, or add a garden room to create extra living and entertaining space in the garden.
Refurbishing the kitchen:
Today, the kitchen is one of the most important parts of a home, and is often the first thing a new owner wants to replace. So if your home features a ready-made, stylish kitchen, buyers might be prepared to pay more to save the time and expense of a re-fit. Movewithus suggest it could add around 5% to the value of your property .
Applying for planning permission: average cost £300
…plus payments to Building Control which vary depending on the work carried out. The amount you’ll have to pay for this depends on your local authority, but it could be as little as a few hundred pounds, and it could add a significant amount to the value of your home. It’s important to be reasonable in what you apply for, otherwise your plans could be rejected, which means you’ll have spent money for nothing.
* Find out how much planning permission costs for your own house improvements using the Government’s Planning Portal Fee Calculator.
If you’re nervous about paying for planning permission in case it might be rejected, it’s worth having a dig around the local area. For example, skylights on the roofs of other houses on your street are a good indication that other people have had planning permission accepted. There’s also no harm in knocking on a few doors and asking if they’ve had work done – and helps you make friends with the neighbours in the process!
Of course, you don’t have to make large-scale changes to your home to make it more appealing to buyers. You could just redecorate.
While the average costs in the table above may seem quite high for things such as flooring or outdoor renovations, these are based on professional ‘best-in-class’ jobs throughout a house. For smaller properties such as flats or to carry out works one room at a time, the following are generally a lot less expensive and could make a real difference to your home’s sale-value:
Increase ‘kerb appeal’
First impressions count, and they start outside. So do an external makeover by freshening up masonry and woodwork. Remember, though, that if you intend to do anything more radical than a tidy-up of old or worn surfaces (such as changing windows or porches) you may need planning permission.
Do a garden overhaul
A great-looking garden works wonders. And if you’re in a crowded urban area where parking is at a premium, you could add an off-street parking space to your property by paving over your front garden, if you have one. This could add to your house value.
Ensuring that your house is well lit is a cheap and simple, but often effective, way to add value to your home. Replace outdated shades with simple fittings that give lots of light, and think about upgrading your bulbs to LEDs – another way to make a big difference at a small cost.
Revive your internal paintwork
Fresh, contemporary paintwork sends a strong message to buyers, and could really affect your house value.
Refresh your flooring
Making sure your flooring and carpets are clean and well-kept might pay dividends. Hiring a carpet cleaner or a professional cleaner could be worth every penny.
Low-cost ways to impress
There are some easy (and almost cost-free) things you could do that may not actually add value to your home, but might help you sell it at optimum price. You could:
- Hang mirrors in tight areas to give the impression of space
- Fix squeaking or sticking doors
- Replace dirty or mouldy bathroom sealant
- Tighten dripping taps
- Make sure curtains and upholstery coverings are fresh and clean
- Fill cracks and holes in walls
- Fix any cracked or broken windows
- Replace cracked or loose tiles
“…just by decluttering, adding a lick of paint and careful styling, it is possible to add 5–10% to the value of a property.”
Paying for your home improvements
Although some improvements could be made very cheaply, the ones that add most value are likely to require significant amounts of money. If you don’t have enough savings, or don’t want to use them, you’ll need to look at financing your improvements another way. The most common options are a personal loan or adding to your mortgage.
- Adding to your mortgage
This is usually done over the remaining lifetime of your existing mortgage. The advantage over a personal loan is that you could usually borrow a larger amount and pay a lower interest rate, as the loan is secured on your home. The downside is that today’s affordability rules are quite tough, so the application process might be long-winded.
- Personal loans
These are usually over a much shorter period than the mortgage option (typically one, three or five years) and have higher interest rates. However, as you pay a personal loan off more quickly, the total interest paid may be less. Another advantage of a personal loan is that the application process is simpler and so you’ll get a quicker decision. Also, a personal loan is unsecured, so your home is not at risk if anything goes wrong.
- 0% Purchase Credit Cards
If you are able to pay for works with a card, you could consider getting a 0% purchase credit card. A number of lenders now allow you to take these out, where you pay no interest on purchases for a fixed period of time – often more than 2 years. While the rate of interest goes up significantly after this period, it could be worth looking into this if it’s a case of spreading payments or you envisage getting the money together at a later date.
Getting the work done
After reading this, you may think the time is right to get some works underway. Unless you’re a skilled DIYer, you’ll need to contract it out to someone suitably skilled. The key here is to strike the right balance between service, price and quality. One of the first things to address, then, is whether it’s better to hire an established building contractor, or ‘go independent’ – that is, hire individual local tradespeople with a good reputation:
Hiring an individual tradesperson may be a cheaper and quicker approach to a project than employing a building contractor. However, finding someone who inspires confidence isn’t always easy. Personal recommendation is a good way to find reliable tradespeople who could do a good job – but if no-one you know is able to recommend someone, you could try finding vetted tradespeople at websites such as:
Doing the proper checks
Remember that it could be dangerous to employ someone who’s not properly qualified in their trade – especially if it’s for anything involving gas, electrics or structural work. One way of confirming that a potential supplier is qualified to do the work you want is to check that they’re a registered gas engineer or registered electrician.
Your insurance – what to check
If you have buildings and/or contents insurance, check with your insurance provider that you’ll be covered during the work. If you’re not covered, you could investigate the possibility of adding it to your policy. You could also ask the contractor concerned if they have insurance to cover you and them in case someone’s hurt or property is damaged.
Finding a building contractor
For some projects you may want to consider an established building or home improvements company. Again, it’s worth heading to The Federation of Master Builders or Which? Trusted Traders for this just as with individual tradespeople.
Being clear on what’s expected
It could be a good idea to not only discuss in full what you want, but to ask for a contract in writing before you give the go-ahead. This way, if the contractor doesn’t do what you agreed, you might have a better chance of getting your money back. Most professional contracts could also include start and finish dates, and what the contractor might do in the event of a delay.
Quote versus estimate
Remember that a quote is a fixed price – it tells you exactly what you’re getting and how much it could cost. An estimate is just a guess, so you could end up paying more.
- If you’ve read all sections of our Home Buyers’ Guide, you’ll know all the important steps in the house buying process, as well as many of the potential pitfalls.
- Also remember that, now you own your own home, it’s a good time to think about Life Insurance. After all, could your loved ones cope financially if you weren’t around anymore? Could they afford the mortgage payments as well as living expenses? It’s not an upbeat thought, we know, but it’s something we all have to think about.
- If you think our guide could help friends and family you know, please share it using the simple sharing buttons below.
- In the meantime – happy home buying!