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How to add value to your home in 2014

Top tips to make your home stand out  from the crowd

So your looking to add value to your home to enhance your living experience and make your home stand out from the crowd. We have put together a list of our top tips for home improvement in 2014. Feel free to share this with your friends and colleagues!

Fix Structural Problems

Before you can begin making cosmetic improvements to your property its important to fix any major structural problems. Cosmetic solutions can hide problems from potential buyers but its very unlikely to fool an experienced valuer and this will be sure to scupper any sale.

Examples of structural defects include: a sagging or leaking roof; rising damp; structural cracks to walls; bowing walls; rotten joists or roof timbers; insect infestation; missing or broken roof tiles; an unstable chimney stack; a collapsed floor/slab.

These defects can all be repaired but at a price. They are likely to be amongst the most expensive work required in a renovation project but, in terms of adding value, they are absolutely essential. If you are unsure about confusing structural defects with purely cosmetic faults, then consult a builder, surveyor or structural engineer.

As repairing any of these problems can be very disruptive, it is essential to identify them and get the work completed in the early phases of a project, ideally before you move in.

Space In The Attic!

It’s reported that a typical loft conversion can cost you in the region of £500-600/m² compared to around twice this for an extension. In terms of adding value, it is likely to be a very good investment providing it adds more accommodation than it takes away remember you need to make room for a full staircase and this will take up existing space.

Check first of all that the roofspace can be converted cost effectively. There needs to be plenty of headroom and the roof structure needs to be built either using attic trusses or cut roof timbers. If you see a web of thin timbers then you have a modern fink truss roof which is more expensive to convert in this case you need a specialist contractor and need to weigh up the benefits with the costs more carefully. Header tanks can be moved and if you upgrade to a mains pressure, sealed system, can be eliminated altogether.

Loft conversions must comply with the latest building regulations and this means adding a lot of insulation (around 100mm of urethane) between the roof timbers, and also underneath the trusses (around 45mm or urethane) this will reduce the headroom further. The Building Regulations also require an enclosed means of escape which means adding firedoors on closers to all habitable rooms leading onto the halls and staircase.

Natural light can be brought in either via dormer windows or rooflights. A loft conversion does not require planning permission, as it uses existing volume however, creating dormer windows may need planning if they face a highway (typically the front of a property) and so it is always worth checking with the planners.

Rewire Your Home With Smart Home Technology

We live in a digital world, so why not bring your home inline with the latest innovations in smart home technology. Synchronize your lighting, heating, home cinema, surround sound and security with a centrally controlled smart home system like Control4. The advantage of using this technology is the cost savings for reducing energy and heating bills and the ability to control functions using smart phone and tablet devices.

Improve Or Add To Existing Accommodation

A great deal of value is placed on the number of bedrooms in a property, and so adding bedrooms will usually add to the sale price, although be aware that there is a ceiling value for every street and so at some point the additional cost ceases to bring any return.

Extra bedrooms can be created by dividing up existing space by removing and adding walls, by converting the roof space, or by extending. Re-using existing space is most cost effective but only likely to be an option in old period houses with vast bedrooms.

If a loft conversion is possible, it can prove very cost effective compared to extending, but will also use space for the staircase. Extensions need designing very carefully to ensure that the new space is integrated well with the old and that access does not result in lots of dead space such as corridors, or through rooms. Make sure you create a balance between bedrooms and the number of bathrooms a ratio of one to three is a minimum.

Improve The Kitchen – It’s the heart of your home.

An attractive, hygienic looking kitchen is essential both to buyers and valuation surveyors. Before replacing a kitchen, consider the fundamentals such as its shape and position (see Creating a New Kitchen) and decide if you are going to make any structural changes to the space, or if you want to relocate it elsewhere.

Many existing kitchens can be given a new lease of life for a modest investment. Doors may be hanging off and the worktops may be damaged and peeling, but the carcasses may still be in perfectly good condition. The carcasses of a basic contract quality kitchen are almost identical to that of a designer kitchen, made from mfc (melamine faced chipboard). The only difference is that some top of the range kitchens have timber veneered interiors, and doors that are recessed into the unit rather than surface mounted.

Makeover The Garden

Forget Garden Gnomes! An attractive, tidy, well designed garden can add a great deal of value to a property as well as making it more sellable. It is worth getting a designer on board for a consultation and to give you a few ideas. You can then draw the plans yourself. Privacy is vital and improving the feeling of seclusion will add value. Consider adding fences and even mature trees. You can raise boundary fences and walls up to 2m without needing planning permission (0.6m on the highway). Structures within the garden, such as pergolas, can be up to 4m without needing planning even if they are right up to the boundary.

Create distinct areas for each function, seating, eating/barbecue, storage, lawn, work area. A well designed deck will extend a buyers perception of the amount of useable living space somewhere between the house and garden, and will add value.

Even if you do not makeover your garden, make sure you carry out at least the basics: clean up and tidy litter and dead plants; weed; repair and feed the lawn; cut back overgrown trees and shrubs; create interesting shapes with beds and borders; add colour and interest with planting.

Add A Conservatory

A conservatory can add far more to the value of a property than it costs, providing it is designed, built and integrated into the layout of the house well. Conversely, a poorly conceived conservatory can detract from the value of a property.

A basic conservatory kit costs £3-5,000 and a further £2-3,000 to build. In most instances, it will not require planning permission, although it will have to comply with the Building Regulations. On valuable period properties, a basic kit conservatory is unlikely to be a good investment, depending on the ratio of cost to value; a bespoke conservatory is likely to make more sense, even if it costs £10,000s.

Whatever end of the market your property is at, it is essential that you stick rigidly to the fundamentals of good design. The conservatory needs to be oriented so that the glazed part faces south to ensure it gains more heat than it loses never build a north facing conservatory. The floor and glazing should be energy efficient and the space must be heated so that it is useable all year round. Equally importantly, the space must be well ventilated to prevent it from overheating and suffering from condensation. The additional floor area needs to add functionality to the existing layout of the house, either as an enlargement of an existing room/living space, or if sufficiently large, then a room in its own right. Above all else, it must feel like a part of the rest of the house and not an add-on.

Restore The Building’s Character

Inappropriate alterations or additions to a property can depress its value and so it follows that removing them can add value. Removing the following is likely to be a good investment: polystyrene ceiling tiles; pine cladding; internal stone cladding; textured ceilings or walls; plastic fake beams or beams that are inappropriate; poorly laid laminate flooring; mismatched period details such as mouldings or fireplaces; flush doors; windows that are out of keeping; inappropriate porches; conservatories with a flat polycarbonate roof.

Restoring or replacing the following will add value: original or period style fireplaces; decorative mouldings; panelled doors; polished floorboards; appropriate style windows; stair banisters and handrails; knot-free panelled doors; concealed timber beams or beams concealed behind masses of black paint.

The key is to find out about the buildings origins and the way it is constructed and to work in sympathy with this, whilst avoiding being twee.

Add More Storage Space

Storage is a real selling point and lack of it can really put buyers off and depress your propertys value. Make use of every bit of spare space you can find, and either build shelves or fit doors to create cupboards. Look for: concealed nooks in corridors; dead space either side of chimney breasts or at the end of corridors; space in the eaves; understairs space; space in the cellar or attic that can be upgraded; space beneath the bath tub or alongside cisterns; space above sinks; unused wallspace for wall mounted cupboards. Creating a measured plan of the layout of your home can sometimes reveal odd spaces concealed behind plasterboard that you did not know existed.

Add Bathrooms/Shower Rooms

Adding a bathroom is usually a good investment, especially if it creates an en suite to the master bedroom. Extra bathrooms can be added by remodelling existing space, or by extending. Ideally there should be WC facilities on every floor that has bedrooms, so if you are converting the attic, try to include at least a WC, if not a full bathroom. Work on a ratio of one bathroom for every three bedrooms, plus the master en suite. For properties in high value areas, it may be worth adding an en suite to every bedroom. Where there is insufficient space for a full bathroom, consider including a shower room with careful design it need only measure around 1m by 2.5m.

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