Home improvements

PUBLISHED: 15:57 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:33 20 February 2013

Home improvements

Home improvements

Elaine Price offers some top tips from local experts to help you add value to your home and improve your living space whether for you or for a future sale

Windows and doors

FIRST impressions count and when it comes to adding value to your home curb appeal is a crucial factor. While you might be tempted to focus on the things inside your house that you see all the time and that you feel need some attention, everyone else is forming an opinion of your house from the outside first and that includes potential buyers.
It might appear slightly odd just to stand outside and stare at your house head on, but whether it is from the estate agents details or when pulling up outside, it is that view that is starting to make peoples minds up about your home.
Windows and doors play an extremely important part in the overall impression of your homes exterior appearance, but crucially, they can also have a big impact on the inside of the property too. Ill-fitting windows, peeling paintwork and tarnished door furniture are an instant turn-off to most buyers, but as the owner it can be all too easy to turn a blind eye to these blemishes.
Of course replacement windows and doors involve significant work and often a sizeable budget too. However, the benefits to your living space and to the value of your property can offer big rewards. Some researchers are estimating that within three years, an eco-friendly house will be worth about 6% more than a standard home as heating efficiency becomes an increasingly vital consideration in
the selection of a new home. Replacing draughty windows and doors with double glazing is therefore likely to reduce your heating bills and
increase your property value.
If there are obvious improvements to be made to your homes energy efficiency, you may even be eligible for a government grant to help with the cost. Some large companies are also offering window scrappage schemes which offer considerable reductions on fitting new and more efficient windows. However, check the small print as these offers may be subject to certain design choices and minimum spends.
When choosing your windows and doors, consider your property type and match the style of your new fittings to the origins of your home. Period properties will benefit from retaining as many original features as possible while more contemporary properties allow for more creativity and a wider selection of more modern designs.
Popular trends of the moment are big expanses of glass with high quality surrounds, but if you are planning to sell, bear in mind that your fabulous floor to ceiling sheet glass may not appeal to everyone. Front doors are going minimal with the use of beautiful, quality stained woods which still show the natural grain. Whatever your choice, check whether you need planning consent before having any work done.

If you only do one thing
Check if you qualify for an energy efficient grant.

Estate agent advice
The windows of a house are like the eyes of a face, but equally, they have a big impact on the inside of the property too.
Julian Carder
Bidwells Property Consultants


OFTEN the heart of the home and arguably the hardest-working space in the house, the kitchen can make or break a possible sale. No longer just a place to stash a few pans and throw together a lasagne, kitchens now provide a valuable extension to the social and living space with a home and, with the right design, can be true showpieces.
A new kitchen can be a very wise investment, but it is important to bear in mind that there is no guarantee that it will add value to your property in terms of resale. If this is your ultimate goal, be realistic and keep the cost in proportion. Spending 20,000 on marble worktops and luxury units is unlikely to add 10% to a 200,000 house. However, if the design is right, research shows there is potential for an increase of up to 4% to the overall property value.
So, where do you start? Begin with your main reasons for redesigning your kitchen and set a budget accordingly. If you are selling, better to stick with clean, simple, neutral ideas than trying to second-guess at the taste of a potential buyer. Stylish, uncomplicated units can be found on a budget and be transformed with some clever design ideas.
If your existing kitchen is in relatively good condition, perhaps a straightforward face-lift is all that is required. Consider accessories like funky new taps or door handles, or perhaps inject some colour with new splash-backs, updated lighting or different cupboard doors.
For a longer-term investment the options are almost endless. Open-plan and family-room styles are still popular and go a long way to adding flexibility and quality to time spent with friends and family in this space. While the trademark beech units and cream walls of modern new-builds are smart and practical, colour is also making a comeback.
High gloss kitchens are big sellers and are popular in red, white and even black for those seeking a very contemporary look. Contrasts is another key theme in the latest trends, combining finishes such as gloss and chunky wood or stone with stainless steel.
Consider different levels for different functions. Lower extensions of a worktop or an island for dining will instantly update the look and provide a multi-functional space. As for the detail, look out for sleek additions like boiling-water taps (no need for a kettle cluttering up your shiny granite worktop), hidden power points and clever storage solutions.
Even the more rustic and eclectic designs have undergone a revamp. Iconic cooking appliances like the Aga have been copied and updated to give you practical centrepieces for your kitchen that look fabulous too. Traditional unit designs are now produced with high-end materials to give a pristine finish while maintaining the old-style character.
A new kitchen can be an expensive investment so it is important to get it right. Local companies often have the inspiration and expertise to help you achieve just what you are looking for and after-sales service could prove invaluable. Although that lasagne will probably still taste the same, just think of the fun youll have preparing it.

If you only do one thing
Think. Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve before you
start planning.

Estate agent advice
A stylish kitchen will catch the eye of a potential buyer and could be the determining factor for the sale.
Tim Rutter
David Burr Estate Agents


WITH the fast pace of modern life, our bathrooms have become something of a sanctuary as they are likely to be the only place in the
home with a lockable door where we can really escape from it all. It shouldnt come as a surprise therefore that bathrooms have become a key area when choosing where to invest in home improvements to add value to your home.
To increase the appeal of your home not only to potential buyers, but to you as well an extra bathroom or en suite will go a long way, although not at the expense of losing a bedroom which can all too easily have the opposite effect.
If you can accommodate an additional bathroom, there is the potential for your property value to increase by about 5%. A luxurious bathroom will, without doubt, make a property more saleable, but only splashing out with wise investment will guarantee a good return. Depending on the level of investment, be aware that you may only recoup 25% of your costs when selling your home, so take time to consider the cost and consequences of any revamp.
One decision that is pretty much a constant is the colour of your sanitary ware white wins every time. White bathroom suites or individual pieces are available in a multitude of designs and with prices to suit every budget. This also provides a blank canvas on which to build the design of the rest of your bathroom and no-one is going to object to the choice of a white bathroom suite.
A limited budget no longer means limited style; even striking features like free-standing claw-foot baths are now manufactured in lightweight stone-resin at a fraction of the cost of the original steel/enamel versions. Classic shapes in pure white continue to be popular, as is the more angular art-deco look which is timeless and future-proof.
In terms of overall design, the past decade has seen the emergence of the designer hotel spa with neutral walls and floors in luxurious natural materials like limestone, rich woods and lots of glass (including mirrors, screens and even glass-brick walls). This theme continues to be popular and is a sensible choice if you are planning on selling.
However, there is also a more recent colour revolution. This does not mean a return to the 1970s avocado suite, but colour is coming back in the form of new tile collections which seem to be reflecting the trends of the catwalk. There is a hint of glitz with metallics, raised textures such as reptile or tapestry effects and even bold colours like bubble-gum pink; apple green and dramatic rich, velvety plums and browns.
Big is most definitely beautiful in the bathroom and it seems were all getting a bit precious about our personal space. A key trend is his and hers with dual basins mounted on chunky counters to avoid jostling for mirror space. Think walk-in luxury and wet-rooms when it comes to showers too.
For a clean, smart finish, complete the look with some fabulous chrome-ware to complement your chosen theme. Add quirky, modern, barely there taps (wall mounted for a real minimalist style) or go for the sophisticated bygone era of the 1920s and 30s with heritage fixtures.

If you only do one thing
Introduce a fresh, white suite as the basis for your bathroom design.

Estate agent advice
Buyers are looking for large, walk-in showers and wet-rooms. Cubicles and curtains are a definite no. But dont ditch the bath as this takes away the potential for some valuable me-time.
Toni Thorpe
Walkers Estates

Extensions and conversions

TAKE a close look at the property pages or estate agents particulars at the moment and you will notice an increasing trend towards quoting square footage rather than the number of rooms. Space is what its
all about and the more you can add to your property the better. Our living environment has changed considerably, especially over the last decade, with preferences for open-plan kitchen/dining/family rooms, extra bathrooms and rooms dedicated for a gym or a home office.
Adding more space is pretty much a guaranteed way to add value to your home both in the fiscal sense and in the quality of living you enjoy. This can be achieved in a number of ways depending on the amount of space you have available.
For the less space-rich property, loft conversions are probably the best option, as these can often accommodate a large bedroom and en suite bathroom for the sake of a small part of your hall and stairway to add access to the extra storey. Loft conversions can also be fitted with tidy Velux windows which will have little impact on the exterior. However if you opt for a full dormer; be sure to get expert advice on the design to avoid a mis-matched monster sitting on your roof. Finished to a high standard, a loft conversion could add up to 20% to the value of your property which generally far exceeds the building costs.
If you should have the luxury of space surrounding your property, there are equal benefits to be had from creating additional living areas. Annexes and out-buildings are very popular as are cart lodges (whether attached or detached) as they provide garage space with additional living accommodation above. Investing around 25,000 to 30,000 on a cart lodge is likely to see a guaranteed return of at least 50% of your investment when it comes to resale.
Another option is adding a single or double extension to the actual property. Costs will be highly variable according to the size, but you can look to increase the value of your home by between 5% and 12%. During the planning phase aim to make your extra rooms as big as possible, but try not to sacrifice too much of your garden as this may create an imbalance which could put off potential buyers.
Because of the work involved, extensions or conversions of any kind can involve a high level of disruption. Make sure you plan well and consider what the extra space is to be used for and get expert advice in the early stages. Taking short-cuts during the vital planning phase could end up costing you dearly. Also consider your existing property. It is easy to overlook this when youre wrapped up in the details of your new extension, but make sure everything is in keeping with the original. If you have chosen to create a contrast with a modern glass extension on a period house, make sure it works for the overall look of the building.

If you only do one thing
Plan carefully, but once you decide to go for it, get the maximum benefit from the disruption that is caused.

Estate agent advice
Annexes and out-buildings are much sought after in the current market and will add value as they offer a high degree of flexibility in
terms of usage.
Anthony Bromley-Martin
Strutt & Parker

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