Follow these guidelines to minimise risk and help you get the results you'll love.
If you love where you live, but your needs are changing, or you’d like to get more out of your property, then improvements could be the answer. Extensions or structural changes can bring you some of the major benefits of moving house, but at a lower cost and without the huge upheaval. Get them right, and you’ll end up with a home that’s more comfortable, more enjoyable - and potentially more valuable too.
To get best-value, however, you’ll need to avoid the pitfalls. Here are four simple guidelines to help you minimise risk and ensure that your money is well spent.
1. Get clear on what you want - before work begins
Changing your mind once work is in progress could cost you dear. To make work on your house as cost-effective as possible, it’s crucial to take time before you begin to get clear on what you want.
Ask yourself what needs to change, and what your priorities are. Are you hankering after more light? Better access to your garden? Perhaps eco-friendly design and build is the thing that matters most. You may not be aware of all the design solutions out there, but as long as you’re clear on your priorities, a construction expert or architect will be able to help you plug the gaps.
Know your maximum budget, and factor this in. A rule of thumb when budgeting for house extensions is to allow between £1,250 and £1,750 per square metre of created space - but be sure to add 20% to the final figure so you don’t get caught out by unforeseen costs.
2. Involve the right professionals
Unless you’re a DIY-enthusiast planning small-scale improvements, you’re going to need expert help. The right team for the job depends on what you’ve got planned, but you should always take steps to ensure those you’re hiring are trustworthy and competent.
Start by asking for recommendations from family and friends. Local Facebook groups are also great for this ; you'll get lots of recommendations as well as companies to avoid. Mybuilder.com allows you find and review feedback on local tradespeople, and trustmark.org.uk lets you to search by postcode from a list of Government-approved firms.
Always get quotes from at least three or four builders, and choose one that inspires you with confidence rather than the cheapest. Opting for low-cost services can be a false economy, so rather than risking botched jobs, cut-corners and mistakes you’re better off paying a bit more for a quality job that will give you a high-value result.
You may not need an architect for small or straightforward extensions, but consider using one for larger-scale work. As well providing design expertise, a good architect can increase your chance of getting planning permission, and manage your project to lower the risk of issues and overruns - all of which could save you money.
3. Improve the odds of a higher selling price
Making a ‘profit’ on improvements by increasing the value of your home by more than you spend on it can be tricky. The truth is that you can’t control market forces, changing fashions, or the preferences of the prospective buyers who happen to turn up. For this reason, you’re better off making the changes that will most benefit you and your family, rather than the ones you think will add financial value.
Having said that, it’s worth bearing in mind that adding bedrooms will almost certainly boost the selling price of your home. Buyers also look for a good ratio of bathrooms to bedrooms, so consider adding an extra bathroom or making one or more of the bedrooms ensuite.
4. Go green the smart way
If you’re aiming for a greener home that cuts your carbon footprint while saving you money on bills, insulation should be your first port of call.
“People who are trying to make their homes greener often think of solar panels” says Salvador Clariana, a local architect specialising in eco-friendly home design. “However, rather than focusing on generating energy, it makes much more sense to reduce the amount you need first. Solar panels can be a good long-term investment, but it can take over a decade for you to recoup the initial expense via the money you save on bills.”
“Insulation is relatively cheap in comparison, and should pay for itself within a few years. Most of the heat lost from your home leaves via the roof, so look at getting your roof or loft insulated first, and then think about the walls and floor.”
For free, impartial advice about ways to improve the energy-efficiency of your home, you can call the Home Energy Team at the Centre for Sustainable Energy on 0800 082 2234.