The best and worst home improvements

When it comes to selling your home and climbing up the property ladder, naturally, you want to get the best possible return on your initial investment. With fluctuations in the housing market and areas coming in and out of ‘fashion’, however, homeowners don’t always have the good fortune of being able to simply list their property and wait for the bidding war to commence.

A common method used to add value to a property ahead of sale is to renovate or upgrade elements in hope that it will inflate the recommended asking price. Not all home improvement jobs are made equal though, and while some offer a fantastic return on investment, others aren’t worth the initial expense based on the low level of added value – or in some cases reduced value – they can offer. Sometimes it takes money to make money, but it’s important to make educated decisions about what’s going to make a worthwhile investment, rather than just a desirable asset.

With insights from Jason Orme, Content Director for My HomebuildingReal Homes and Period Living Magazine, HomeProtect have curated a list of the best and worst home improvements, based on which ones will boost the value of your property the most and which could leave you out of pocket.

Interior improvements

While the interior design of your property may feel like a superficial consideration, run down or dated fixtures can put buyers off and lower the property’s value. This doesn’t mean you need to do the place up like a show home, but a newly fitted kitchen or bathroom is a huge selling point.

“Potential buyers do tend to look at the general cleanliness of kitchens and bathrooms, so if it’s possible and within budget, update tired sanitaryware (budget bathroom suites can be purchased for under £500)”,recommends Jason. “Perhaps replacing or improving an old worksurface (with, say, a granite over-veneer) might help to present the property better for relatively low investments.”

DO: Modernise your kitchen

It could be argued that the kitchen is the hub of the home – no household can function without one, after all! For this reason, it’s one of the top considerations for both buyers interested in the property and valuation surveyors.

Before forking out for an entirely newly fitted kitchen, consider whether there are smaller upgrades to your existing set up that could bring it up to date and refresh the look of the room. Replacing worktops, the sink, lighting or cupboard doors could be all it takes to give it that much needed facelift.

If, however, you think your kitchen could benefit from a complete revamp, consider factors such as storage and use of space, as practicality is paramount. Energy efficient appliances are also a big draw.

A brand-new kitchen could set you back £6,300 on average and add 5% to the value of the property.

DON’T: Decorate with expensive wallpaper

Wallpaper may seem like a great option when you’re decorating for yourself and a high-end design can certainly lend a property a touch of class. That being said, people have varying tastes and your choice may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

When buying a property, a lot of people enter with plans to redecorate and that’s where wallpaper can become problematic, as it’s tricky and expensive to remove. Plus, the money you’ve spent on high-end wallpaper has gone down the drain. Instead, stick to painted walls, which are easy to cover up if necessary.

Image © HomeProtect

Space optimisation

The key to getting the best possible price for your property is making the most of the space you have – wasted space is wasted money. Renovating unused spaces such as a loft or cellar can be a valuable alternative to building an extension.

Open plan layouts are also often favoured over smaller spaces, so it’s worth considering knocking walls down between smaller reception rooms to transform the ‘flow’ of your home. A large kitchen-diner, for example, could be a more desirable asset than a separate smaller kitchen and dining room.

“In general, adding space to urban properties, where space is difficult to come by, is likely to be more attractive than adding space to a rural property where there are often larger houses for potential buyers to choose from,” explains Jason. “Urban properties tend to benefit disproportionately from relatively small extensions and remodelling projects that can turn existing space into living accommodation (such as loft conversions) – with every inch counting, it can make a huge difference to the enjoyment and value of a home in the town or city.”

DO: Convert your loft or cellar space

Lofts and cellars are often left untouched or reserved purely for storage but turning these rooms into proper living spaces could increase the floor space of your home by up to 30%.

Furthermore, a great deal of value is placed on the number of bedrooms a property possesses, so converting your loft space or cellar into an additional bedroom could be the most lucrative upgrade you give your property.

A typical loft conversion costs an average of £11,500 but can add 12.5% to a home’s value, while a cellar conversion can cost approximately £20,000 and add up to 20% to the property value.

DON’T: Lose a bedroom

Knocking down walls  to create larger open-plan spaces can be worthwhile when you’re dealing with living spaces, however, when it comes to bedrooms this is a big no-no. Combining two small bedrooms to create one big bedroom has its appeal when you’re living there yourself, but houses are largely valued on the number of bedrooms, so you would essentially be downgrading the property.

Listing prices are calculated based on comparisons to similar homes selling in the same market and number of bedrooms is a key factor in this. Extra bedrooms can add up to 15% to a property value, so removing one could result in an equivalent loss.

Extensions

Adding square footage to your home is usually a guaranteed way to boost the property’s value, whether it be to expand the kitchen-diner or add another bedroom. Extensions need to be handled with care, however, and factors such as the positioning, building materials used and general planning of the structure can all influence its impact on property value. It’s also essential to check whether you need planning permission before beginning any building work.

“While conservatories remain popular, the peak of conservatory additions was in the 1980s and, almost 40 years on, these conservatories pose more problems than benefits,” says Jason. “I see a lot of homeowners looking to replace their cold (or very hot, depending on the season) conservatory with a solid walled, but glass-rich, extension that can be used all year round.”

DO: Add a fixed extension

Depending on the size and location of the extension, adding a single-storey extension can start at around £30,000, while a two-storey extension is generally about 50% more expensive – so from approximately £45,000 (before VAT).

A single-storey side-return extension – typically running adjacent to the kitchen to open up the space – can add approximately 15% to the value of your property.

DON’T: Build a conservatory

Compared to the cost of an extension, building a conservatory is a reasonably affordable way of adding to the floorspace of your property and they quite often don’t require planning permission. This being said, they’re dated, and temperature control can be problematic. Plus, while the idea of chilling out in one on a sunny day is pretty nice, adding a sunroom might only generate half the extra value that an additional bedroom would bring, at just 6%.

Eco-friendly upgrades

Adapting your home to make it more energy efficient can not only save you money while you’re living in the property, it can also add value to it in the long run. Green energy solutions that make the home cheaper to run can certainly add to the appeal of a property, but the upkeep has to be relatively simple not to deter buyers.

“There are many ways to reduce your home energy bills but they fit into two main categories: they either reduce a home’s energy demand (insulation, double or triple glazing, etc.) or they generate the energy the home requires more sustainably (e.g. solar panels),” says Jason. “While both improvements are becoming increasingly popular, it’s the former that is likely to add more in the way of house value.”

DO: Fit double glazing

If your home has single-glazed windows, upgrading to double or triple glazing will almost definitely give the value a boost. Not only is single glazing behind in the times, double and triple glazing also helps to eliminate draughts and improve heat retention, therefore, boosting the thermal efficiency of the property and reducing your carbon footprint, by using less energy to heat it.

The cost of the job will vary depending on the size and number of windows being glazed, however, the average price of double glazing is £5,000 and can offer an average increase of 10% to property value.

WITH CONSIDERATION: Install solar panels

While installing solar panels is a fantastic step to take towards reducing your carbon footprint and making the property more environmentally friendly, they are costly to install (the average cost of a 3.6-4kWp* solar panel system in the UK is £6,672) and are unlikely to add any real value to the property.

In order to reap the financial benefits of solar panels you probably need to be in the property at least a couple of years to earn back the initial cost in savings on your energy bills. That being said, once you have recouped your investment, solar panels and other forms of green technology are regarded as a selling point of a property.

Tech touches

Technology is the future, so why not get ahead of the curve? The last couple of years has seen the rise of smart technology integrating the home and changing the way that people live. Varying levels of technology can have varying impacts on the property value, however, and while smart thermostats are seen as a useful asset, automated sound systems are more likely to be regarded as an unnecessary luxury commodity.

“One particular small home improvement job that is in vogue is the introduction of smart home technology – we have control of so many aspects of our lives, and people are increasingly finding that they want their homes to work for them, too,” explains Jason. “So lighting, and in particular security, have been real growth areas for tech. What’s more, it’s a relatively straightforward improvement that doesn’t require too much DIY.”

DO: Install smart home technology

Smart home technology is fast being adopted by households across the globe, so installing it in your property will help you to get ahead of/ keep up with your competition and add up to 5% to the value of the property. Systems can be used to control your thermostat, home security, lighting, doorbell and more, and they’re relatively inexpensive and simple to set up. A smart thermostat can cost as little as £280, including installation.

This technology can also be used to improve energy efficiency, as it makes the homeowner more aware of their energy usage and where it can be reduced.

DON’T: Install built-in electronics

While a top-of-the-range inbuilt sound system or home cinema may be something that blows your socks off, for a lot of buyers it may be a luxury they are not willing to pay more for. The average cost of a home cinema, for example, is £27,500, but is only likely to add £2,000 to a property’s value. It’s also worth considering that electronics quickly become dated and require updating or replacing.

As with a lot of home renovations, over-personalisation of a property can put buyers off, as it makes it harder for them to imagine what they could do with it themselves. They want a blank canvas to work with.

Of course, there are a multitude of factors that can influence the value of a property and there is no promise that home-improvement work will have a significant impact on this.

“Most streets in the UK – particularly those in towns and cities – have ceiling prices that, regardless of how big or lavishly refurbished a home on that street is, its value will never go above a certain price,” explains Jason. “As there is no such thing as a national or even regional housing market, you need an experienced local estate agent to guide you through the improvements that your particular market – both local and demographic – will desire.”

If you’re considering selling your property, the most important thing to do is your research and seek advice before undertaking any work.

HomeProtect offer home-owners’ buildings insurance that protects them financially from the cost of fire and flood damage, vandalism and more. We provide buildings insurance for homes that are classed as “hard to insure” by others, such as listed buildings, steel framed buildings or those near water.

Please note: This article does not contain investment advice

Jason Orme is one of the UK’s leading self-build and renovation experts. For many years he edited the best-selling magazine and biggest website for homeowners looking to carry out their own building projects (Homebuilding & Renovating). He is the author of The Self Build Dream and advises hundreds of homeowners every year in person at the Homebuilding & Renovating Shows. He has spent twenty years building and renovating houses, and is just nearing completion on his latest project, a major remodelling and extension scheme in Staffordshire.

Home ImprovementAverage costEstimated average % impact on property value
Cellar conversion£20,000+20%
Extension£30,000-45,000+15%
Loft conversion£11,500+12.5%
Double glazing£5,000+10%
Conservatory£6,000+6%
Smart-home technology£280+5%
New kitchen£6,300+4.6%
High-end wallpaper£400 per room+2.6%
Home cinema£27,5000%
Solar panels£6,6720%
Combining bedrooms£1,000-2,000-15%