The mammoth guide to improving the value of your home
It's surprising how many homeowners have misconceptions about what actually improves the value of their home to a buyer.
If you're looking to sell your home, a little bit of research and self-analysis could bring you big rewards. Take a look at our guide and we hope that it highlights some considerations which you can make use of to maximise the value of your own home.
First steps: do your research and basic tips +
Understand the target market
You need to figure out what kind of people live in your neighbourhood and, more importantly, who wants to move into your street or area. The type of improvements that would help your property sale or value is dependent on the type of people who are looking to move into your area. For example, in a young family neighbourhood bedroom space and room to play are important. On the other hand, if it’s a student area and the property is ideal for buy to let then the buyer is most likely interested in the space they can let for money over other aesthetics.
- Research average property size in your area
Typically houses in an area sell for similar prices, differentiated mostly by the size and condition. Which means you should try and not outgrow the average selling price by too high a margin. If, for example, almost all the houses on your street have three bedrooms, investing in major conversions and extensions may increase the value, but may limit your chances of being able to sell your property as your target market may not be looking for something bigger than the average.
- Know your property values
This tip borders on Tip 2 above. Driving the property price up above the average is fine, as long as it isn’t by too high a margin; don’t try and build that £200,000 3 bed into a £400,000 5 bed mini mansion! Keep your target market and your area’s average property prices in mind before you start. Sites such as Rightmove, Zoopla and even the Land Registry are good ways to do your research.
- Work out prices by square footage
Average property prices in an area are a good way to look at your property’s value; however, it may help understanding the property’s price by square footage. A like for like square footage with a similar property which is for sale may mean you would have to rely on more than the square footage to shift your house. However, a higher than average footage (not too high - remember Tip 2?) may put you in a better light compared to another similar priced property in your area. It is also a good way to work out the potential increase in value were you to build extensions or knock down walls to create space.
- Maximise living space
It’s often important to maximise living space, especially if your home is of average or below average size. A large number of UK homes tend to have unused spaces that could easily be converted into living space. When planning on improvements, consider ways to improve on living space.
- 6) Optimise storage space
Once you have an idea of your target audience, you may have an idea of their storage requirements. Space required by students is vastly different to space required by a family, or young couples. Our houses have many nooks and crannies that could be converted to storage space. For example, an open space under the stairs may be appealing to a younger couple looking for a “minimal” open look, while a family might appreciate it being converted into a more useful storage area. Figure out what storage spaces you have and clever ways to maximise them. This Pinterest board has a collection of some pretty cool ideas if you are lacking inspiration.
- Work out your budgets
It’s very easy to let DIY get out of hand and over budget, and it is even easier when hiring professionals. The best tip we can give you is this - work out how much the value of your property would increase as a result of any improvements you decide to make. Then set yourself a budget. If you can’t afford it, just don’t do it.
- Identify your selling timeframe
Let’s face it, some improvements that may seem a good idea now, may not be in five years or even 10 years’ time. If you’re planning on selling in the short term, then larger improvements such as conversions and extensions may slow your sale down while you complete. If you are planning on selling some time off in the future, make sure that you consider the longer term benefits of any improvements. If you are selling soon, then consider all the smaller finishing touches first.
- Take stock of your capabilities
Are you handy at home? Organised, creative and good with your hands? If you are, then you could start with all the things that you could do yourself to save yourself some money. On the other hand, if you are clumsy or not good with DIY, don’t take the risk. Botched DIY can scare potential buyers. Rope in some friends or pay for professionals instead.
- Don’t forget the legal stuff, e.g. planning permission
You have to make sure that any work that you do to your home doesn’t fall foul of the law. There are plenty of improvements that you can make without the need of planning permission, but when you need it, get it. Also, a house with a lot of external development potential would sell much easier if it came with planning permission in place. Ideal for when you don’t have the money to do the extension yourself. Luckily, the Planning Portal has very useful interactive guides to help you figure out the details. If in doubt, speak to one of our solicitors for advice on planning laws.
- Get thrifty
While you are budgeting, allow for saving more money. For example, do some of your DIY shopping online using discount codes. Sites such as VoucherCodes.co.uk find discount codes that are normally only available to online shoppers. B&Q gives 10% discounts to OAPs so it might be worth bringing an older relative along when you buy your DIY material. When upgrading bits and pieces around the home, such as door knobs, drawers, or even doors, there is no harm in buying second hand, used or overstocked sale items from auction sites such as Ebay.co.uk. If you are carrying out major extensions or work, you may need a skip. Sites such as LoveSkips can give you online quotes that you can compare with local suppliers, try an alternative such as a Hippobag, or simply use a price comparison site like Skip and Bin.
Simple changes that make big impacts +
Painting is a cheap way to add value to your house, especially if the current paint job is tired, garish or too quirky, or if you have wallpaper. Some of the best places to start are the living room, the main bedrooms and the kitchen, and don’t forget the ceilings! However make sure you pick simpler colour schemes, and where possible use neutral colours. Anything dark is not advisable either, as this makes your living space appear much smaller than it is. Paint your external walls, especially if they are looking faded or worn over time.
Making your house stand out as soon as the potential buyers get the first glimpse puts them in a positive frame of mind. 75% of the experts surveyed by HSBC suggested that this would make an impact. In contrast only 56% of homeowners felt that it would. This tells you how wide the gap is between what we think helps sell a house and what the experts experience suggests.
- Tone down your aesthetic choices
Decorating and presenting well are key to improving a home’s saleability, however be careful of not overdoing it. Sometimes our personal preferences may not be to everyone’s taste; try and go for neutral, minimalistic themes where possible, highlighting the potential of the home, rather than drawing attention to your own art collection or “that” centrepiece you love.
- Love your garden
It is important to keep the garden well-maintained, and depending on your target audience, easy to manage. Expensive and high maintenance features such as spas, hot tubs and water features may not drive the price up, and may actually make it difficult to sell the property. Specifically consider cleaning and repainting outdoor plant containers such as pots. Shape up unappealing or overgrown trees and shrubs. If necessary, spend a little time weeding. We don’t think that a full landscaping of your garden is necessary, but a few touches go a long way towards improving a property’s perceived value.
- Evaluate fences and gates
Repairing, repainting and basically improving the appearance of both your gates and fences may help improve your properties value. In fact, the HSBC survey recorded that 64% of the specialists surveyed felt that this would help. The WoodWorkersUK blog has a good guide on how to get started.
- Make good use of unused spaces
Although we advise against using “loud” decorative items when presenting your home, simple, understated statement pieces are a great way to bring attention positively to unused spaces you haven’t had the chance, time or money to improve on. For example, turn an unused fireplace into a mini bookshelf, or stack with natural logs to give the room some modern “chic”.
- Use the mirror trick
Narrow hallways are fairly common in the UK, and so are tiny third bedrooms. Well placed decorative mirrors give the appearance of a space being much larger than it really is. This trick can be used in any small rooms in the house, however be careful not to overuse it.
- Clean up
Appearance is everything, and a clean appearance is much more appealing. Day to day we may not notice outside drains with mould, or taps with grime, cobwebs in hard to reach corners, dusty bookshelves, stains on bathroom walls, dull floors etc.. However, potential buyers may notice all these tiny details and may be put off. Get the house as spick and span as you can.
- Present your furniture well
When a potential buyer walks into your home, they want to picture themselves living there. While we don’t suggest going out and buying new furniture, make sure what you have is clean, tidy and well looked after. Stains on the sofa may distract them, so would odd bits of furniture taking up space when not necessary. Stow away pieces that take up too much space and try arranging your furniture to maximise layouts. These days, show homes use professionals to maximise the outlook of a home - visit a few yourself to get an idea of how you could rearrange your furniture to give a pleasant, yet cheap upgrade to the way your home is presented.
Mid to low cost changes to improve your property value +
Clean cookers and other appliances, preferably professionally
There is nothing more off-putting to potential buyers than dirty appliances. The kitchen tends to be the hub of any home – and if the viewing includes a dirty kitchen or damaged appliances (think of scarred hobs, leaking fridges etc.) then you may be losing a potential buyer. Get the cleaning gear out or hire a professional and get the kitchen and appliances gleaming.
- Consider decking
If you don’t have the money to build a conservatory, you can still add to the house by adding decent decking. Experts suggest that you could add up to 2% to the value of a home by adding well-thought-out decking.
- Get energy efficient
With heating costs and energy bills going up each year, it is advisable to consider going energy efficient. The Energy Saving Trust has a few tips on how to get started. Not only will you reduce your cost of living, you will add value to your home for your potential buyers. In fact, the Department of Energy and Climate Change released a study showing that improving a home’s Energy Performance Certificate (known as an EPC) may boost house prices by up to 14%.
- Upgrade storage areas
If you have tiny pantries with a lot of unused wall space, consider putting up shelves to maximise the space. Small built in wardrobes could go a long way with simple IKEA-type wardrobe upgrades that enable better organisation of clothes. Storage comes at a premium for families, and the more you do to maximise that space, the better your property would be perceived.
- Give your bathroom a makeover
If you can’t afford a brand new fitted bathroom, consider making smaller, lower cost upgrades that would improve their presentation. For example, replace shower curtains with a shower door, replace worn tiles, consider chrome heated towel rails to replace radiators, and upgrade the ventilation, or at the least clean it. The Channel 4 website has some more information on presenting your bathroom for sale. Or check out ideas from the Bathrooms.com blog.
- Fix broken stuff
Maintenance is very important for a house sale. Leaking taps, broken window handles and nail damaged walls are all turn offs, and if left long enough could become larger jobs than necessary. We have highlighted earlier about improving the front appearance of your home; missing shingles and roof tiles should be added to the list of things to sort out. Fix cement cracks in pavements and your driveways.
- Install central heating
You would be surprised how many houses in the UK still survive without central heating. In addition, many homes still run off storage heaters, which aren’t energy efficient, or viewed positively by house buyers. Installing central heating if you haven’t got it will make the property much more attractive, and expect the property value to increase by more than the cost of a decent energy-efficient system.
- Improve the front of the house
The first thing a potential buyer looks at is the house from the outside. If your home doesn’t look appealing from the outside, you may be turning them off even before they set foot inside. First appearances matter – weed the front garden, paint the exterior walls, remove any mould or moss on the walls, varnish or repaint the front door (63% professionals surveyed say that this helps), fix the gates (64% of experts surveyed say that fixing front gates matter), de-clutter the front driveway, clean the windows from outside. Basically make sure the front of your house looks as presentable as possible. It is important to note however, if you do make changes, that they suit your houses current style, for example, make sure that you don’t replace the front door with one that doesn’t match.
Major changes to your home to grow property resale value +
Consider a loft conversion
The HSBC survey carried out last year highlighted that in 2012, a loft conversion added £16,152 to the value of an average home. However this varies from region to region. The same survey pointed out that, in London, a loft conversion could increase your property value by as much as £40,357. When an average loft conversion costs about £20,000, adding over £40,000 to your asking price is literally a lofty profit! A loft conversion is also a great way to add an extra bedroom and even a bathroom, especially if you have outgrown the size of your home, and can’t afford to move yet.
- 29) Knock down unnecessary walls
Living space, as we have identified earlier, is an important factor in a house’s value. Getting rid of walls that take up unnecessary space is cheaper than getting extensions, and may just add as much value. However you have to be really careful that you don’t knock down a wall that is load bearing – when in doubt, consult a professional.
- Add a conservatory
Conservatories are much less expensive than complete extensions, yet are a pleasant way to add to your living or kitchen areas. You could spend anywhere from a few thousand to £40,000 on a conservatory, however on average they added £9,420 to property values in 2012. The most common advice that professionals offer is to make your conservatory look as similar in style to the main house as possible, and avoid making them look like afterthoughts to the home, standing out for all the wrong reasons.
- Build a room extension
If you live in London, room extensions could add nearly £52,813 to your property values. However in the rest of England, room extensions may add only about £16,069. Room extensions come in various forms, and it is best to take advice from professionals on the costs, as well as work out beforehand how much value they can add.
- Install a new kitchen
New kitchens aren’t cheap, although the average home in 2012 gained £4,577 after a new kitchen was put in. However the good news is that a lot of kitchen improvements can stem from small changes such as updating shelving, doors, tiles and smartening up work places and work tops. De-cluttering the kitchen is an ideal way to make them look bigger and better, and certainly, as advised earlier, try and get a new paint job. Tiling could be done yourself and a cheap way of improving wall surfaces and floors. Upgrading the basics certainly helps update the look of the kitchen as well.
- Upgrade to double glazing
If you haven’t got it, get it. Double glazing reduces the cost of heating a house significantly. In addition, if your home is on a main road, it could reduce the noise levels inside a house. In this day and age, NOT having double glazing may actually reduce the value of your home to potential buyers, and sometimes even discourage them from putting in offers. As a result, having it would certainly improve your chances of selling, and allow you to claim the right price for the property. Do make sure that the new windows match the style of the house and complement it though.
- Buy a new bathroom
If your bathroom is dated and unloved, it may be worth prudently splashing out to update it. A well organised and budgeted buy could improve your bathroom, and result in your property price increasing by an average of £2,955 according to surveys.
According to the HSBC survey, re-carpeting your home (if your current ones are worn, faded or aged) can add £1,738 to your property’s value.
- Upgrade to wooden flooring
Phil Spencer, the property specialist, appears on several TV shows including ‘Location, Location, Location’ and ‘Relocation, Relocation, Relocation'. He says that he favours wooden flooring, and suggests that it increases a property's perceived value. However he does advise checking if the current flooring of your home is wooden underneath the carpet – improving an existing wooden floor would be much cheaper than getting expensive flooring installed. Bob from the Property Investment project advises caution when applying wooden flooring, and suggests using wooden flooring on the more communal areas of the home rather than blanketing all the floors. This would, of course, be cheaper on the pocket, and may appeal to a much wider buying audience.
- Convert the garage
If your house has decent sized driveways, then a garage is a space that could easily be converted into a much more usable area. Some of the most common conversions are turning the garage into an office, a gym, a guest room and even a recreational room. Phil Spencer suggests that the property price could go up by as much square footage of the garage you convert, so don’t spend more than your potential increase in value. If you are strapped for inspiration, this Pinterest board is full of ideas on how to turn your garage into a useful room.
- Add a second toilet or bathroom
According to a Nationwide Survey in 2011, adding an extra bathroom adds nearly 6% to the value of an average home in the UK. If you have the space to build a second bathroom, especially without losing living or bedroom space (maybe via a side extension) you should consider it, especially if your home is to be sold to a family of more than four.
Bonus tips: increase your chances of selling +
There are two types of values you can build into a home, a physical value by the various improvements we have outlined in many of the tips above, and a “perceived” value which, again, is impacted by many of the simple aesthetic tips we have suggested, but is further increased by other “emotional factors”. Buying a house is often an emotional experience for many people. Some of the tips below may help increase the “positive” feelings that potential buyers get when they are at your property, which in return may increase your chances of selling, and selling quicker.
Use fragrances (simple, homely smells)
A common American estate agent trick; people use all senses when making emotional judgments. A kitchen that smells of freshly baked cookies or even cake trigger positive emotions, most American realtors argue. However, a study by Washington State University suggest that simple scents are the way to go. Try and complement your home’s environment with natural aromas - orange and lemon are favoured amongst tests that the team ran.
- Keep relevant information, such as broadband rates, to hand
Often home buyers have a plethora of questions, and it is always great to be armed with answers, such as council tax bands, rates, information on nearest schools, transport networks, local amenities, and increasingly important, broadband connection speeds. The more you can answer, the more trusting the buyers will be, not having to go back to find out the answers themselves. And ideally if you can, why not get little handy print outs with these details to give away?
- Photograph everything, detail everything
When placing your property for sale, try and capture as many details as possible – often estate agents don’t put out enough visual information on a property online. Take for example, one of the researchers on this guide recently bought a house with a huge outhouse and a ready-converted garage, information which they only found out when they actually visited the property. Not surprisingly, the sellers suggested that they had very few viewings despite the property being on the market for three months. If they had highlighted the extra space that these two features offered on their listing, it’s likely that they would have had many more viewings.
- Consider an open day
Another American tradition, which is becoming more common in the UK, is open days. These are a great way to get a number of people into a home at the same time looking around. The first aspect of this is, of course, convenience. You would not have to keep showing the house when it suits the estate agent, rather the schedule could work around the day you are at home to be able to make sure that the house is presentable and to host the visitors. The second benefit of an open day is to have many potential buyers seeing that others are interested; a little competition is a good way of swinging people’s minds towards making a decision. The American real estate blog has eight useful tips for an open day here.
- Dress your home with help from a professional.
Some home staging companies say that they can sell your homes 10-15% quicker if they are used. Their services aren’t cheap, as most charge about £300 a day for consultation, as well as costs if you were to take them on board. Worth a try if your property has been on the market for a while with no offers, or if your property is empty, and might need an “additional touch” to inspire people. The good thing about these companies is that they have tried and tested formulas, as well as show home furniture to rent for the duration. Try Home Stagers (0800 542 8952) or House Wow (0333 800 8002).
And there you have it. We hope these tips were useful. Don’t forget, when selling your home it is important to use a Conveyancing solicitor. Contact us for more information.
Have a question or need some help? Call us today on 08082747557