Throwing money at property may seem like a surefire way of increasing value and making a quick sale.
But before you splash out, learn where your money can make a real difference.
Estate agents and surveyors will have their own opinions on what adds value, but it is generally accepted that the best investments are those which raise the property up to a higher price level. None of these are difficult to achieve and include adding central heating, a garage or an extra room.
Extensions: Turning a loft into a second bedroom in a £200,000 top floor London flat will cost £15,000 and add around £50,000 to the value. Extensions can often add 25%. A poorly thought-out, awkward extension, however, will reduce a property’s value considerably. There is no point adding a fifth bedroom to a house with a tiny sitting room, as there won’t be sufficient space for five people to live. The National Home Improvement Council (www. nhic.org.uk) has details of trade organisations that can help. A £10,000 conservatory added to a house will raise its value by about £25,000 while a £15,000 new bedroom in the loft could add £45,000.
Bedroom Antics - Obviously, the number of bedrooms is a key issue for property value. However, when increasing the number of bedrooms the value added is limited by the floor space available. To further increase the value, more floor area must be added. For instance, simply increasing the number of bedrooms may in some cases actually reduce the value of a property, since some people may value fewer larger bedrooms.
For the country as a whole, if a 2-bedroom property has a third bedroom added, the value of the house may only increase by about 3%. In contrast, if this bedroom was added as an extension, approximately 100 square feet in size, the value of the house would rise more dramatically, by around 8% in total. A well-executed loft conversion can add 25% to a property price, but a monstrous design, out of keeping with the house and street, will have the opposite effect.
The Convenience Of A Second Bathroom - For two identical properties in the same street, an extra bathroom could add as much as 9% to the price. However, the more bedrooms a property has, the greater the value that is contributed by a second bathroom. For example, in a two-bedroomed house a second bathroom would be less desirable than in a five-bedroomed house, the former being unlikely to boost value significantly.
Bathroom: Replace ghastly 70’s avocado suites with a stylish white suite. Keep it bright, clean and simple, and consider installing a wet room (a tiled bathroom that acts like a large shower space) in small, one-bedroom flats - it will make your property stand out from the crowd. The number of bathrooms is important. While you will reduce the value of your property if you lose a bedroom to create a bathroom that isn’t actually needed, a five-bedroom house with just one bathroom really needs a second, so you should go ahead.
You can ‘shave’ off part of a large back bedroom to create a new, small shower room without affecting the living space. Smart, clean bathrooms will help sell your property and you are likely to recoup your investment. If you have no taste, pay for the services of someone who does. Transforming your bathroom can seem a daunting prospect, but there are a few websites to help make the process easier. diy.co.uk is a great place to begin. This site features a step-by-step planner which allows you to choose a bathroom suite and plan your layout before ordering online. Also try Bathroom Express which sells whirlpool baths, power showers, and bathroom accessories at very reasonable prices. Visit Victorian Plumbing where you can find restored period fittings such as taps, baths and showers. Search sites that specialise in limestone, marble and other floor tiles with prices from £30 a metre.
Kitchen: People spend more time in their kitchens than any other room in the house. Putting the kitchen in the centre of the home, making it the ‘heart’, will increase the property’s appeal and ultimately its value. In parts of London, spending £75,000 on expanding your kitchen could add £150,000 to the property price. But you must keep redevelop costs relative to the worth of the property. Spending £20,000 creating a heart-warming country kitchen in an old farmhouse would be money well spent, but don’t splash out the same on a one-bedroom flat. Cheap shortcuts also make a real difference: as a rule, you can expect to add 10%-15% to the value of your house if you spend £7,000 on repainting and updating the kitchen.
Central Heating - Adding partial central heating will cause a rise in value of 7%, whereas you may as well go the whole hog with full central heating and benefit from a 15% increase.
Wooden floors - These definitely add value, but only when properly installed. Choose well-priced, well-fitted floorboards that run in the same direction as your eye when you enter a room - they make it seem larger. You can expect a return of up to 50% on such an investment. Avoid plastic and ‘wood-effect’ laminates, as real wood finishes are widely available now (visit Wickes), are not much more expensive and ten times more appealing.
Tennis Courts - similar to above, unless you have a lot of space. If you do then they’re a boon, and relatively cheap to install, too. Look to spend between £10,000 to £20,000 and although this may only add the same amount to the value of the property, it will add appeal and, thus, make the property easier to sell. The basic cost is around £3,000 for a grass court, if there is a suitable lawn. A tarmac court costs around £20,000, which includes net, posts, perimeter fencing and drainage. Extra costs may include lorry loads of top soil which is usually removed from a flat site. Do consider the logistics: if you can’t get machinery to the site, materials have to be brought in by hand, which pushes the price up and causes delays. However, with plenty of space, and a house worth £400,000 plus, a court will add value.
Gardens – Whilst you’re either actively of passively engaged in a refurb job of, perhaps, the interior and exterior of a building, do not overlook the grounds. A recent survey found that 87% of buyers said a flourishing garden influenced their decision to buy; it is the first thing that a prospective purchaser sees, after all. The British love their gardens. A tidy front garden goes a long way to making a good first impression, and patios (which cost up to £5,000) are an instant selling point. Garden gnomes, wheelbarrows and leylandii, on the other hand, are an instant turn-off. Messy gardens and peeling exterior paintwork are also off-putting. Keep the outside area neat, and if you are renovating to sell, stock the garden first so the plants have time to mature. Pot plants and tasteful garden ornaments are an excellent idea, as, similar to rugs within the property, they look good on viewing but you can take them with you when you leave (see gardenadvice.co.uk).
You’ll find many landscape gardeners listed in your area’s Yellow Pages , if you can’t obtain a personal recommendation. The cost of their services ranges from the ever-so reasonable to the frankly outrageous. You may be better off employing a local gardener who may do just as good a job, if not better, who will work to your instructions to a prior-agreed budget, as opposed to an expensively-drawn-up and impressive-looking plan, or use their own experience, and will most probably not charge you VAT. A well-manicured lawn is important and make sure to plant evergreens, just in case the sale drags on into winter. Avoid outlandish schemes and features for the same reasons you would be wise to choose bland rather than vividly-coloured paints inside. Tend towards low-maintenance arrangements; lawns are easy to cut whereas borders are time-consuming to weed.
Decoration: On exterior walls, outdated practices like pebble- dashing or stone cladding can knock thousands off the selling price. Inside, keep it simple: aim for clean lines, good lighting, no clutter and neutral decor. This does not mean you should destroy the character of your property. Leave old features like stained glass, picture rails and sash windows. Double glazing, however, will add value – but not to a period property, where it subtracts value. Replace tatty carpets with rugs, that you can take with you.
House Doctoring: There is a growing number of ‘house doctors’ in Britain and, more importantly, there is evidence that they do work. One man, for example, called on the services of The Final Touch. They spent two days and £6,000 on his house, which had been valued at £450,000 and he subsequently sold it for £512,000. They concentrated on the kitchen and bathroom, the rooms that add most value, and replaced tiles, re-hung curtains and repaired wear and tear. They source all materials and equipment, and arrange craftsmen to work on larger jobs. Rival service Homestagers offers online consultations if you e-mail photos of your rooms. They will also visit and do from a one-day re-style at £80 a room to a package of improvements, which can include the marketing of your house at £480 a day. If you want to spruce up your house yourself, fix loose skirting boards, clean bathroom grouting and paintwork and tidy up - inside and out.
This means your savings are effectively earning the interest rate on your m ortgage (as this is what you are saving). The best part is that you aren’t liable to any tax - so once you’ve maxed out your Isa allowance, this is a great form of tax-efficient savings. Moreover, an offset can save you a lot of money. For example, if you had a £200,000 mortgage with a rate of 2.49% and you offset £50,000 against the loan, you would clear your mortgage three years and two months early and save £10,112 in interest, according to Largemortgage- loans.com.
But you don’t need to have a huge sum to make an offset mortgage work. If you can afford to save just a little each month, this can still make a big difference. If you have a £200,000 mortgage at a rate of 3.5% and you put aside £100 each month, you’d knock £15,123 off your interest bill, pay off the mortgage three and a half years early, and have a healthy savings balance at the end of the mortgage. The one drawback to offsets used to be that the interest rate was slightly higher than on standard mortgages, as lenders considered it a premium product.