Dear Peter,

I have just sold a property (actually back through auction, but that’s a long story) and have come into some cash, which I now wish to plough into improving my other properties, to add value, ready for sale. My questions is: to add the most value, which is best, a garage or a swimming pool?

Best,

Val Warrington

Garage

Britain’s car crazy culture means that building a garage is now the best way to increase the value of your home. According to valuers, kitchen and bathroom refits no longer top the table for adding value to your property, because off-road parking and a garage are now far more desirable to Britain’s 23 million car owners. With recent research showing car parking as the biggest cause of rows between neighbours, a garage may be the key to a harmonious home as well as added monetary value. Adding a double garage (15% increase in value), rather than a single one (6% increase), more than doubles the contribution it makes to the value of a property. This will vary between different regions. For example, because of the shortage of space and the price of land, a garage will add more to a property in London than one in Scotland.

Outdoor Swimming Pool

People who are thinking of shelling out £20,000 for a swimming pool should think again. This is one home improvement that will not even begin to pay its way. Unless your house is worth more than £400,000 and has spacious grounds, a pool will actually make it more difficult to sell, particularly to families worried about the safety of young children. The same applies for other water features. Pools can often reduce the value of your property, particularly in city gardens where space is at a premium. A woman on Gardeners’ Question Time recently was asking for suggestions as to how to fill one in, hide it or convert it. They are unsightly for much of the year and expensive to maintain and fill. Pools in the Home Counties are seen as a definite perk, but do not install one as an investment

The cost of a large, deluxe, in-ground swimming pool can easily reach the £40,000 mark, although you can get a tailor- made concrete pool for a lot less (around £25,000) and a fibreglass in-ground pool for as little as £12,000. (Do-it-yourself kits come even cheaper.) But you may as well dig a hole and throw your money in it. Fewer than a third of house buyers want a pool; many think it’s unsafe for small children. Sales appeal of pools rises in relation to the price of the property. In Hampshire, for example, buyers of houses worth between £500,000 and £1m are wary. Concerns include heating costs and the worry that children may fall in and drown. But for houses worth more than £1m, pools are an important accessory, like a tennis court. Buyers expect them. When it comes to selling, it’s vital that a pool looks well-maintained. A glistening pool on a hot summer ’s day adds to the theatre of the occasion. A pool may not gain you more money when you come to sell but it will widen your market and make it easier to close a deal.

I was recently thinking of building a pool next to our home. Actually, my wife was thinking about building a pool next to our home and I was just going along with the idea, as you do. We had plans drawn up by a local architect and planning permission was granted even as we were arguing the pros and cons. But we’re not going ahead with it now. What tipped the scales in my favour was when we asked the builders how often the water needed to be changed: once a month, twice, every six weeks, maybe as infrequently as quarterly?

The answer was: never.  “Maybe every 5 years, if you really want.” In seems that you don’t change the water in swimming pools. Indeed, when was the last time you saw your local municipal pool empty, ready for refilling? The water is filtered continually taking out silt and grime and such but the water itself just stays there and is held in check with copious amounts of chlorine or similar. Considering the sweat, spit, tears and unmentionable other fluids that leach into a pool over the years – all those secret leaks from small children and old people – it’s not water you’re diving into; it just looks like water. It’s actually a bouillabaisse. I have come to the conclusion that a swimming pool is nothing more nor less than a primordial soup of other people’s cast-off bodily juices, a giant Petri-dish where potentially disastrous biological organisms are just about held in abeyance by the kind of lethal chemicals we sent over the trenches in World War I. Knowing all this, as now I do, you’d be very lucky to catch me swimming in anything other than the seas and oceans of this world ever again.

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