If you are planning to work your way up the property ladder, then it pays to consider how any home improvements will add value to your property to ensure the best return when you come to sell up and move on.
Even if you are planning to stay in your home for the foreseeable future, understanding the improvements that will add value to your home will help you to establish which projects make viable economic sense.
1. Identify and Remedy Structural Problems
Make sure you fix any major structural problems before tackling any cosmetic improvements or repairs like redesigning the kitchen or bathroom, changing flooring and redecorating.
These structural defects are likely to be amongst the most expensive work required in a renovation project but, in terms of adding value, they are absolutely essential.
Examples of structural defects include:
- a sagging or leaking roof
- rising damp
- structural cracks to walls
- bowing walls
- rotten joists or roof timbers
- insect infestation
- missing or broken roof tiles
- an unstable chimney stack
- a collapsed floor/slab
If you are unsure about confusing structural defects with purely cosmetic faults, then consult a builder, surveyor or structural engineer.
2. Ensure Central Heating is in Working Order
Adding or updating the central heating system will always add more to the value of a property than it costs and needs to be done in conjunction with improving the general energy efficiency of the building.
Improving the efficiency will include:
- sealing any drafts around doors and windows (but not airbricks)
- replacing windows that are beyond repair with double glazing
- add insulation into the loft space
If the existing boiler is in reasonable working order and has adequate output for the heat requirement of the building, always try to make use of it with the exception of boilers that draw their air intake from inside the house.
If the boiler has sufficient capacity, you could add new radiators and a heated towel rail, or underfloor heating to the existing system.
3. Update Services
Updating services, such as wiring and plumbing, is a disruptive job and will involve lifting floors and chasing out plaster walls, so it’s essential to complete the work before making any cosmetic improvements.
- Updating the electrics may be essential if the house has not been rewired for some years. You should be able to tell by looking by the meter if there is an old fuse box, you probably need to rewire the house and install a modern consumer unit with a RCD (residual circuit device) for safety
- Adding extra sockets will also add value to your home and in some cases it might be worth opting for attractive face plates for sockets and switches
- If rewiring, use the opportunity to update lighting and to add extractor fans in the bathrooms
- Old pipework can be very furred up, leading to poor hot and cold flow, knocking or rattling sounds and other noises at worst, it can lead to burst pipes. Consider a pressurised plumbing system, rather than gravity fed, as it eliminates the need for a header tank, thus freeing up space, and ensures good pressure on both the hot and cold supplies
- If you have room for a cylinder, you can still have stored hot water for filling a bath quickly. If not, consider a combination boiler that provides hot water on demand but make sure you choose one with a good flow rate you need at least 10 litres a minute for a decent power shower
4. Convert Your Loft
A typical loft conversion costs around £500-600/m² compared to around twice this for an extension. In terms of adding value, it is likely to be a very good investment providing it adds more accommodation than it takes away (remember you need to make room for a full staircase and this will take up existing space).
Natural light can be brought in either via dormer windows or rooflights. A loft conversion does not normally require planning permission, as it uses existing volume however, creating dormer windows may need planning if they face a highway (typically the front of a property) and so it is always worth checking with the planners.
5. Tackle Superficial Defects
Small, superficial defects won’t directly affect the value of a property. But, cumulatively they will prevent it from selling at the optimum price.
These typical defects will put many buyers off, but are easily resolved by any competent DIYer:
- peeling paint
- squeaking or sticking doors and windows
- door latches that don’t work
- mouldy sealants in kitchen and bathroom
- dripping taps
- loose tiles
- sewer smells
- broken or damaged windows
- squeaky floors and stairs
- cracks to ceilings and plasterwork
- lifting flooring
6. Replace Windows
Double-glazing is considered an essential by most buyers and can add considerable value to a property.
Where windows need replacing, they should be replaced like-for-like although it will be necessary for them to be double glazed to meet the current building regulations, unless the building is listed or in a Conservation Area. For most listed buildings, plastic windows are not acceptable to English Heritage.
Make sure that replacement windows:
- are well balanced and have equal sight lines (the same frame lines on fixed as well as opening lights)
- avoid top hung air vents the little top lights that are not at all traditional
- has proportions that are taller than they are wide, ideally at a ratio of around 1:1.6 for each casement and each light
Timber windows can also be low maintenance, either stained hardwood (not a good look for a period style house though), or timber coated with an external layer of PVCu, vinyl or aluminium.
Replacing Windows in Period Homes
When it comes to higher value period properties, aesthetics start to become a more significant factor, to the extent that a premium can be placed on a property that still has its original period windows, providing they are intact and functioning well.
In such properties, it is often only worth replacing windows that are either beyond repair or inappropriate in terms of style, or where they could add more light.
7. Remodel Existing Space Before Adding More
Before thinking about adding new space, you should consider how you can improve the use of the existing space. Maximum value will be added by improving public space, such as the kitchen, dining and living areas.
- Draw up a simple floorplan of the existing layout. Play around adding and removing walls to achieve the optimum layout
- Think about making use of circulation space such as halls and corridors that may not be needed in a home suited to less formal lifestyles
- Think about combining dining room and kitchen to create a dining kitchen and other potential multi-functional living spaces
- Fewer but larger rooms with clear sight lines will make a house seem larger, especially if the flooring and wall finishes continue throughout
Before removing any walls, work out which are structural by checking the direction of the floor joists joists should always rest on structural walls. Structural walls can be removed, but will need to be replaced with steelwork and this will require calculations by a structural engineer or building surveyor. Adding new stud walls to divide existing space is relatively straightforward and inexpensive, but remember to add acoustic insulation.
8. Improve or Add to Existing Accommodation
A great deal of value is placed on the number of bedrooms in a property, and so adding bedrooms will usually add to the sale price, although be aware that there is a ceiling value for every street and so at some point the additional cost ceases to bring any return.
Extra bedrooms can be created by dividing up existing space by removing and adding walls, by converting the roof space, or by extending. Re-using existing space is most cost effective but only likely to be an option in old period houses with vast bedrooms.
Make sure you create a balance between bedrooms and the number of bathrooms a ratio of one to three is a minimum.
9. Give the Kitchen a Makeover
An attractive, hygienic-looking kitchen is essential both to buyers and valuation surveyors. Before replacing a kitchen, consider the fundamentals such as its shape and position and decide if you are going to make any structural changes to the space, or if you want to relocate it elsewhere.
Many existing kitchens can be given a new lease of life for a modest investment.
10. Makeover Existing Bathrooms
Bathrooms need to be fresh and hygienic looking, but are also a great place to add a touch of luxury for that value-adding wow-factor.
Make sure there is adequate light and paint the walls a nice neutral light shade. If there is not enough light, replace a single pendant with a triple halogen spotlight unit, available for as little as £10.
You should also:
- Make sure that at least one bathroom has a shower – it is an essential for most buyers
- Check your plumbing system first and buy the right unit depending on whether you have a mains pressure system (modern houses), a gravity fed system (consider a power shower) or a combi system (if the flow rate is low you may need to install an electric shower that heats its own water direct from the mains)
- Replace existing sanitaryware if it is chipped, badly stained, or an unfashionable colour such as pink, avocado, peach or chocolate brown. A basic white bathroom suite, complete with taps and waste, can be bought for around £300 and will have much broader appeal
- Make sure flooring is clean and hygienic. Go for a vinyl or tiled floor tiles
- Consider painting unfashionable tiles with white tile paint. If you need to replace tiles, you could tile over the old ones as removing tiles can be a difficult and very time-consuming job
- Make sure the bathroom has an extractor fan for ventilation
- Add a mirror or two to make the space seem larger and brighter and think about adding a heated towel rail
- Consider underfloor heating if you are laying new floor tiles, but bear in mind that an electric mat system will raise the floor level by 3–4mm
11. Don’t Forget the Garden
Making sure your garden is not only attractive and well designed, but also tidy, can not only add value but will also help to make the property more appealing to buyers.
Considering the following will help you to get started:
- Privacy is vital and improving the feeling of seclusion will add value
- Consider adding fences and even mature trees
- You can raise boundary fences and walls up to 2m without needing planning permission (0.6m on the highway)
- Structures within the garden, such as pergolas, can be up to 4m without needing planning even if they are right up to the boundary
- Create distinct areas for each function, seating, eating/barbecue, storage, lawn, work area
- A well-designed deck will extend a buyers perception of the amount of useable living space somewhere between the house and garden, and will add value
Even if you do not makeover your garden, make sure you carry out at least the basics:
- clean up and tidy litter and dead plants
- repair and feed the lawn
- cut back overgrown trees and shrubs
- create interesting shapes with beds and borders
- add colour and interest with planting
12. Optimise Kerb Appeal
First impressions count, and this is a crucial element if you are trying to sell your home. Most buyers will decide if they do or do not like a property before they even get out of the car and it can be hard to shake off negative first impressions created by a poor or unattractive exterior.
Improving your home’s exterior may involve any of the following:
- repointing brickwork
- repainting doors and windows
- replacing an old garage door
- changing/repairing windows
- repainting walls
- repairing cracked or broken cladding such as render or timber
- removing stone cladding
- adding a porch
- adding climbing plants/trellis
- replacing/adding a house sign or number
- or even renaming the property
Larger Scale Exterior Makeovers
A large scale makeover can totally transform the appearance of a property. This may involve changing roofs, wall cladding, windows, chimneys, and porches. Conversion of existing space such as garage or roof, or extending may also appeal.
13. Add a Conservatory
A conservatory can add far more to the value of a property than it costs, providing it is designed, built and integrated into the layout of the house well. Conversely, a poorly conceived conservatory can detract from the value of a property.
In most instances, it will not require planning permission, although it will have to comply with the Building Regulations. On valuable period properties, a basic kit conservatory is unlikely to be a good investment, depending on the ratio of cost to value; a bespoke conservatory is likely to make more sense, even if it costs £10,000s.
14. Add a Memorable Feature
One or two memorable features that add a real wow factor to your property and set it apart from others for sale in the area will add a significant premium to your sale price.
Many simple features can be added easily and cost effectively, providing they are planned and undertaken thoughtfully. Remember to work in sympathy with the building in terms of scale and period.
15. Renew Leases, Buy More Land and Apply for Planning
A property with a diminishing lease will begin to reduce in value once it gets to under 60 years. Once the lease on a property gets below 30 years it can be difficult to get a mortgage. If the landlord does not live on the premises you may be able to buy the freehold, or a share of the freehold, and grant yourself a new lease, restoring the value to the equivalent of a freehold property. Taking control of the freehold will also give you control of ground rent and service charges, plus management of repairs and common areas.
Usually you will have to pay your landlords legal costs, as well as your own, plus a share of the marriage value, the uplift in the value of the property created by joining the lease with the freehold. A solicitor will be able to work out if you qualify to buy your lease known as enfranchisement and a surveyor will be able to work out how much it will cost.
Buying adjoining land can also significantly increase the value of a property, especially if:
- it enhances amenity (allows the creation of a garden or off street parking where there was none, for example)
- creates potential for further enlargement of the property
- it adds the potential to keep horses to a rural property
Gaining planning consent for improvements, from an extension, to a new house in the garden, can enhance the value of a property, even if the work is not carried out.
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16. Restore or Enhance the Building’s Character
Inappropriate alterations or additions to a property can depress its value and so it follows that removing them can add value. Removing the following is likely to be a good investment:
- polystyrene ceiling tiles
- pine cladding
- internal stone cladding
- textured ceilings or walls
- plastic fake beams or beams that are inappropriate
- poorly laid laminate flooring
- mismatched period details such as mouldings or fireplaces
- flush doors
- windows that are out of keeping
- inappropriate porches
- conservatories with a flat polycarbonate roof
Restoring or replacing the following will add value:
- original or period style fireplaces
- decorative mouldings
- panelled doors
- polished floorboards
- appropriate style windows
- stair banisters and handrails
- knot-free panelled doors
- concealed timber beams or beams concealed behind masses of black paint
The key is to find out about the buildings origins and the way it is constructed and to work in sympathy with this, whilst avoiding being twee.
17. Create Off-Street Parking
Creating one or two parking spaces in front of, or alongside, a property can add significant value, even if it means sacrificing part of even all of a front garden.
For many buyers, a well-designed, low maintenance drive is more valuable and appealing than a garden they never use.
If a road is unclassified, i.e. neither an A- or B-road, then you will not usually need planning permission to create a new vehicular access onto your land. You must, however, comply with the local authority Highway regulations for the construction of the drop kerb, and details such as visibility splays.
You must also check that you have a right of way to cross over any land that you do not own e.g. a grass verge. You can check ownership via HM Land Registry at a nominal cost per search.
18. Add More Storage Space
Storage is a real selling point and lack of it can really put buyers off and depress your property’s value. Make use of every bit of spare space you can find, and either build shelves or fit doors to create cupboards. Look for:
- concealed nooks in corridors
- dead space either side of chimney breasts or at the end of corridors
- space in the eaves
- understairs space
- space in the cellar or attic that can be upgraded
- space beneath the bath tub or alongside cisterns
- space above sinks
- unused wallspace for wall mounted cupboards
Creating a measured plan of the layout of your home can sometimes reveal odd spaces concealed behind plasterboard that you did not know existed.
19. Add Bathrooms/Shower Rooms
This is often a good investment, especially if it creates an en suite to the master bedroom. Extra bathrooms can be added by remodelling existing space, or by extending. Ideally there should be WC facilities on every floor that has bedrooms, so if you are converting the attic, try to include at least a WC, if not a full bathroom.
In a traditional two-storey Victorian or Edwardian terraced house, moving the downstairs bathroom upstairs can add value, but beware of losing a bedroom.
20. Make Your Property the Pick of the Bunch
Just by decluttering, adding a lick of paint and careful styling, it is possible to add 5–10% to the value of a property.
Valuers may find it hard to place a figure on the increase in value made by only cosmetic improvements, but the market will always place a premium on an attractively decorated and styled property.
Simple ideas that will make a difference include:
- adding wooden floors
- repainting throughout in neutral shades
- reopening fireplaces
- upgrading lightbulbs
- cleaning windows
- a makeover to kitchen and bathrooms
- sanding floorboards
- creating storage
- stripping woodwork
- styling with furniture, lamps, accessories and flowers