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» Home Improvement Guide

[Top»] Planning an extension

Today’s homeowners stay in their homes longer that people did 20 years ago, mainly because of the high cost of moving. Seven to eight years in one home, is much the norm these days, leaving plenty of time for home improvements.

A well planned home improvement project will add to the sales potential of your property, whether you sell immediately or a few years down the line. Anything you do to give your home additional living space will make it more appealing and could add more than 10% to its value, be sensible though, not all home improvements will return you an investment. Adding an extension, fitting a new kitchen or installing a utility room can add thousands of pounds to the value of your home, but some improvements need to be viewed as personal comforts rather than extras that will provide return on investment.

Experts say extensions are a great way to maximise space, squeeze as many rooms as you can downstairs, such as a utility or downstairs cloakroom, but bear in mind the size of your garden, don’t take up too much outdoor space, make sure it stays in proportion.

Loft conversions are usually a cheaper way of building an extension and could create an ideal extra bedroom or home office. Upstairs you need to be a little more careful however, you don’t really want to knock down walls and turn one bedroom into two. An additional bathroom is always a good idea.

For those fitness fanatics out there, why not install a gym in your home. A basement, extension or garage would make a great place to put the equipment and you won’t have any excuse for not going to the gym anymore.

Why not relax in a hot tub. You can buy a hot tub from £2,000 to £20,000. Running costs are surprisingly low and once you have managed to get the tub into your garden and plumbing and electrics fitted, you can start relaxing.

What about a cinema room with surround sound that delivers music, games and movies – bring the room alive!

[Top»] What makes a property saleable?

Estate Agents have long had their own opinions as to what determines value, but location and neighbourhood are very important factors and a little research into other properties in your area will give you a good idea of the ceiling price and what you can expect the value of your house to be. Don’t ignore unseen factors like up to date damp-proofing, tidy guttering, efficient drains, good pointing, secure roof tiles and a well planned garden.

Cleanliness is next to profit and according to research, having a second bathroom may add as much as 9% to the value of a property, but only if it has several bedrooms. In a two-bedroom house, for example this may seem as a waste of space.

One sure way of adding value to your home is by a loft conversion, extension or conservatory. These extensions should never feel like add ons and should be decorated in keeping with the rest of the house. Keep colours fairly neutral and don’t overspend, particularly if your property is already approaching its ceiling price.

Remember, don’t fall into the trap that while many home improvements have intrinsic value, they won’t always add real money. Splashing out on a £30,000 designer kitchen is great if there is a keen cook in the house, but this probably won’t be recouped in a sale.

If you would like further advice in making your home a more saleable property, drop us a line at and we will be pleased to offer more individual advice.

[Top»] Before the work starts

Building work can be disruptive and you should seriously consider moving out for all or part of the building project, especially on larger contracts. Don’t just consider yourselves, think about your children and any pets. If you are staying at home, follow our tips and advice and it should help your project and you run smoothly.

  • Clear the area where the tradesperson will be working – make sure personal items are out of the way. Your friendly tradesperson, will probably give you a hand to move the larger items. Remember to ask the tradesperson for any dust sheets to cover the furniture that you cannot move.
  • Clear and protect any areas that the tradesperson that may need for access.
  • Check whether the tradesperson needs to put up any scaffolding and if this needs to go on neighbouring land. If so, remember to ask your neighbour first.
  • Agree any location of a skip and ask the tradesperson if they intend to leave any tools overnight.
  • Agree start and end times at the beginning of the contract, paying particular attention to the elderly and sleeping children.
  • Don’t forget to exchange telephone numbers and always remember to let the tradesperson know if you are going to be away at any time during the contract.
  • Always communicate with each other – although we hope that each day of your contract will run smoothly, sometimes circumstances dictate otherwise. Ask your tradesperson to keep in constant communication with you and let you know if for any reason he cannot get to you today.

[Top»] Choosing the right tradesperson

The tradesperson that you use will be spending several weeks, or even months, working in your home. You need to be confident in their ability to do the work and that you have a good working relationship with them.

Having contractors into your home, ranks as one of the most stressful times in your life – almost half of the population say its as stressful as arranging a wedding, buying a house, or having a baby – and much worse than spending a week with the in-laws. It’s no wonder that we all have to adjust our private lives to fit in with these strangers, to prevent unnecessary strains on the family. It’s a massive invasion of your personal space having contractors in the home - the key is to keep cool, keep talking and keep it friendly. One in three homeowners still try to live a normal life as they share their homes with burly tradespeople who demand snap decisions on where electrical sockets want to go or what tiles you have chosen, not to mention the constant supply of tea and coffee.

However, there are a number of ways in which homeowners can reduce the stress by having the contractors in – 17% move out, 10% go on holiday, 14% use a written contract and 26% chose a builder recommended by friends. So you don’t have to be one of the 14% of homeowners that said they would rather turn to alcohol than to get the tradespeople in, if you use accredited tradespeople, who take pride in their work and are only happy giving 100% to the customer.

Improving your home doesn’t have to result in contractor chaos – by following a few simple guidelines you will get the best from your tradesperson.

  • When you know exactly what you want, ask your friends for recommendations. After all you don’t want to use someone that doesn’t finish on time or doesn’t turn up when they say they will and your friends will always give you their opinions.
  • Once you have some names, check them out. Talk to their previous customers, visit recently completed jobs and make sure you are happy with the quality of the work carried out. Professional people that take pride in their work will always be happy to show you what they have already done.
  • When you know exactly what you want, give a shortlist of tradespeople the information they need to draw up written quotations. When all the quotes are in, compare them all, but make sure you are comparing like for like. Remember the cheapest quote won’t necessarily be the best. After selecting a tradeperson, agree the terms and write everything down. You should always enter into a formal contract with a tradesperson, no matter how happy and content you feel with them. Why not include a timeline for stage payments that covers the completion of segments of the work in your agreement?
  • Making firm decisions about what you want and agreeing costs with the tradesperson upfront means you will be able to manage your finances with no nasty surprises, although its always wise to set aside a small contingency fund for unexpected costs that neither you nor the tradesperson could have envisaged. Remember if you do make changes along the way or add things that were not in the original contract, they will add extra costs and the tradesperson will have to charge you for this.
  • Be available to your tradesperson too – let them know when you will be around and how to contact you when you are out so that you can make quick decisions when they are needed, saving both yourself and your tradesperson time. Keep talking – good communication is essential to success. Remember your tradesperson is not a mind reader, so if your project is not going to plan, let them know before things get out of hand.
  • Finally, once the work is completed and you are happy with it – pay your tradesperson promptly. This will result in all parties fulfilling a very successful contract. Make sure you are happy with the work, that the area has been cleared up and you have all the relevant paperwork and certificates. On some larger projects, it is common practise to retain 2.5% of the contract value for a period of approximately 3-6 months. This however, should be agreed at the onset of the project and is by no means compulsory. Once the builder has attended to the snagging list, any monies retained should be paid promptly.