How to add value to your home

Our guide to improving rather than moving

Moving home can be complex due to all the moving parts, from those first tentative glances in estate agent’s windows, up to that moment six months after you get the keys and you finally unpack the last box, the whole process is fraught with potential anxiety.

Add to that the fact that the average cost of moving currently stands at a record £12,000 and it's clear why many families are finding it makes sense for their sanity as well as their finances to stay put and improve, rather than move.

Maybe you’re the sort of person who’d struggle to put a shelf up, but don’t let that put you off. Paying other people to do improvements can add tens of thousands to your house price, making your home a more enjoyable place to live – bonus – but also making it easier for you to move up the housing ladder in the future, as your home’s increased value will help bridge the funding gap to your next home.

With all home improvements, planning is key, as one in four projects ends up going over budget. We’ve all seen those TV home improvement shows where the hapless homeowner ends up bemoaning their overspend – so it’s worth doing a little extra planning work upfront to avoid this.

Beware of the 'ceiling price'

Before you spend large sums on adapting your home to suit your current needs, it’s wise to make the changes having carefully considered your chances of recouping the value of your improvements in your home’s potential future sale price.

Every home has a ‘ceiling price’ – the maximum price you can expect to achieve based on similar properties in your area. Even if you turn your terraced house into the Buckingham Palace, there’s a limit to how much people will pay for it.

There is likely to come a point where improvements will fail to add any extra value to your property, so it’s worth talking the options through with an estate agent to understand your home’s particular threshold. If you live in a house worth £250,000 and spend £25,000 on a new kitchen you may not be able to recoup the full value when you sell up if you’re already near the ceiling.

Funding improvements

If you use savings to fund the improvements you could find that the increase in value you achieve could be more than the interest you would have earned in a savings account, particularly while interest rates are low.

If you don’t have savings you could consider taking out a loan – or, for bigger improvements, increasing your mortgage borrowing with your current lender or re-mortgaging your property to a new lender will free up some equity. Before you consider these steps, though, you will need to check whether you can afford the monthly payments and whether an early repayment charge would be imposed by your existing lender.

Things to bear in mind

The suggestions below will potentially add value to your home if carried out well. Bear in mind though that the costs and potential impact on your home’s sale value indicated here are only intended as guides – the actual figures could vary significantly. And of course, for any home improvements you should take necessary precautions to help ensure the work is completed to satisfactory quality and to time and budget:

  • Take the time to plan exactly what you want to achieve – consulting structural engineers and architects if necessary, and obtaining a minimum of three quotes from builders
  • Agree the cost beforehand – set aside a strict budget but allow a contingency in case of overspend
  • Agree on a realistic time frame upfront, but remember there may be unavoidable delays, caused by bad weather for example
  • Keep up regular communication with the builders
  • Have a contract in place to cover both parties and never hand over payment upfront
  • Check your builder has the right insurance in place before any work begins

1. Convert your garage - add up to 20 percent

Around 90 percent of all garages in the UK are left empty (or full of boxes of miscellaneous junk). If you have off-road parking and depending on where you live, you may find converting a garage can significantly increase your home's value.

If your garage is attached to your house, you should be able to convert it into another room for between £10,000 and £20,000. Estimates suggest conversion into an en-suite bedroom could increase your home's value by around £40,000 (around 20 percent of the value of an average £218,000 home) – but if that doesn't suit your home or your needs, by turning it into a playroom or study you could still increase the value by about £20,000 (approximately 10 percent).

2. Knock down walls

If you have lots of smaller reception rooms divided by walls that aren't load-bearing, knocking one or more of them through could transform the 'flow' of your living space at a relatively low cost.

Nowadays most people's lifestyles suit a large kitchen/diner better than a smaller kitchen and separate dining room. Equally, if you have two small living rooms, knocking them together could create a more attractive space.

If these changes suit you and your lifestyle, they are likely to appeal to potential buyers too, so you are likely to be adding value to your home.

It's difficult to calculate the potential increase in value this may bring to your home, but the cost is minimal compared to many other home improvements: knocking down a non load-bearing wall costs around £2,000, including any repositioning of radiators and light switches.

3. Update your kitchen - add up to 6 percent

The popularity of open-plan kitchen and dining spaces means kitchens are increasingly the focal point of a home, providing everything from the dinner table to the place where kids do their homework.

A basic makeover, focusing on changing fixtures and fittings such as door and drawer handles and adding energy-efficient appliances, can make a surprising difference at minimal cost.

If you're wanting to fit a completely new kitchen, including appliances, research shows you can expect to pay £8,000 on average and in doing so could add around 6 percent to the value of your home (around £13,000 on an average-priced property).

4. Convert your loft - add up to 15 percent

If the only way is up, extending skywards is one of the easiest ways to gain an extra bedroom and bathroom – a loft conversion can increase floor space in your house by up to 30 percent.

The most successful loft conversions are those that appear to be an integral part of the existing property, both inside and out, and in which the home retains a balanced ratio of living space to sleeping space.

You'll need to ensure the pitch of your roof is steep enough to allow the necessary headroom, and remember that you will have to sacrifice space on the floor below in order to install access.

You'll need to consult a structural engineer to make sure your floor joists can support the extra weight. You may also want to hire an architect to bring your ideas to life and act as an agent to guide you through the required planning permissions and building regulations. If certain conditions are met, you may not need planning permission.

A basic loft conversion costs around £16,000-£20,000 and can add up to 15 percent to your property's market value (just over £30,000 on an average priced home).

5. Build a conservatory - add up to 5 percent

A conservatory is a relatively simple, mess-free way of adding living space to your home, and a rather agreeable place to sit for tea and biscuits on a sunny morning.

Make sure it's in proportion to your house, though, as a badly designed and poorly fitted conservatory could actually reduce your home's value.

If a conservatory is under a certain size, you may not need planning permission.

Expect to pay between £4,000 and £10,000 for a conservatory and have your home increase in value by around 5 percent – around £11,000 on an average-priced home.

6. Add another bathroom - add up to 6 percent

Adding an extra bathroom, or an en suite, can make life with a growing family easier in the mornings (no more queues of grumpy, sleepy people in pyjamas) as well as being a selling point in the future.

Bear in mind, though, that if you are converting an existing bedroom into a bathroom it could end up devaluing your home. In a street made up of three-bedroom properties, downsizing to two bedrooms would be a mistake. A better choice may be to carve out an en-suite in a large master bedroom.

Typically a new bathroom can cost £2,500 to £6,000 – depending on the types of fixtures and fittings you want – and could add about 6 percent to your home's value (around £13,000 on an average priced property).

7. Create a driveway - add up to 10 percent

In some areas of the country, the ability to park close to your front door comes at a huge premium. So if you have the room to add parking tastefully, you are sure to increase value.

For maximum added value, make sure your driveway materials complement existing paths and patios.

Perhaps surprisingly, planning permission could be a consideration if you plan to build or replace an existing driveway. To avoid the need for it, use porous substances such as gravel, block paving and certain types of asphalt. It is also helpful to consider areas of natural drainage.

It's estimated that an attractive driveway can add between 5 percent and 10 percent to the value of your home – in other words, up to around £22,000 based on the price of an average home.

Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought: before you step inside that estate agent’s and embark on the mad whirl of a move, maybe you’ll stop and consider whether some highly targeted home improvements might make more sense.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.