Adding a bedroom or bathroom to your home seems like a no-lose situation. Surely an extra room will help?
Sadly, it's just one of the changes people are making that not only cost thousands, but end up making their home worth – at best – exactly the same.
Take Wendy Porter, for example.
“A few years ago I made the decision to convert my loft space into an additional bedroom, which I thought would go a long way in adding value to my home,” the 46-year-old from Bradford said.
“After months of hard work and thousands of pounds spent, we learnt when it came to selling that we couldn't actually class it as a 'bedroom' as we didn't have the appropriate certification.”
And that meant all the work was for nothing.
“We needed to sell fairly quickly, we didn't have the time to rectify the situation, meaning that when all was said and done we were significantly out of pocket.”
And that's not the only thing that can cause problems with loft conversions.
“One of the biggest challenges I come across are roof conversions where they've been converted into a habitable room,” explained David Hall from South Coast Surveying.
“If converted after 1983, building regulations would require the walls, the slope of the ceiling and the ceiling above to be insulated. Although many people do fit insulation, if I can’t access it, I have no way of evidencing it.”
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It's not just with loft conversions that ensuring the papers are in order is important to selling.
That's because even if you get an offer, without the right sign off from everyone from window installers, electrical work, fire safety and more sales hit the rocks as soon as the lawyers get involved and demand certificates.
That goes for everything from lofts to conservatories, garage conversions and full extensions.
Wendy, sadly, learnt too late. "Moral of the story: triple check you have all the right checks and paperwork carried out before investing in any home improvements," she said.
It's the market that matters most
If you remember Property Ladder , you'll remember countless examples of people taking on properties, spending too much doing them up, making questionable choices and still somehow making money.
At the end of it, Sarah Beeny would patiently explain that – because of a rising market – they would have got more profit if they'd just left it as a ruined shell for six months.
The reverse is also true.
"My Husband and I had our small house in West Hampstead valued last summer and proceeded to work with an interior designer to modernise it,” explained Aly Johnson, blogger and house sale enthusiast at Property Solvers .
“After spending £30,000 renovating our home, we got it revalued in January of this year only to discover it's now £30,000 less than the original valuation!
“The property was put on the market and received offers for £50,000 less than our asking price.”
The mistake? On a £200,000 street, you can spend a million doing a house up but people with that sort of money still won't want to live on a street where the rest of the homes cost £200,000. And in a sliding market that goes double.
If you spend a year and £50,000 on a home and the market falls £100,000 in that time, no matter how tasteful your changes are you will still lose money compared to selling it right away.
You also need to think about who will be buying it, spending thousands on a landscape gardener to get a stunning outdoor space is hardly worth it if you're selling to young professionals who mostly want something low maintenance.
Big DIY mistake that could turn your home renovation into a disaster - and it takes just two minutes.
A downstairs bathroom can wipe £13,580 off the average UK property compared to properties with an upstairs family bathroom, research from Direct Line Home Insurance has found.
More, 44% of UK adults said a downstairs bathroom would put them off buying a property, with 7.4 million Brits saying they rejected a property in the past because the main bathroom was downstairs.
But changing bathrooms is another area that needs careful attention lest you fall foul of buildings rules.
Open plan problems
Many people love the idea of space and flow, and the recent trend for open plan seems to back that up. But knocking down walls could be knocking money off your asking price.
Why? Because more walls might actually make you money.
“Homebuyers see extra rooms as a way of separating the functions of the house, so avoid converting two bedrooms into one larger room,” said Bola Ranson, founder of commercial property estate agency, Ranson .
“The new larger bedroom might feel more spacious and airy, but it will affect the value of your home. Consider adding rooms by converting a very large bedroom into two smaller rooms. This will immediately add value to your home.”
But there is a limit to this tactic though – as five box rooms are unlikely to be as attractive as three decent sized ones. “Be careful not to overdo it though,” Ranson added.
Designs no one wants
Your perfect home might well not be anyone else's. A passion for vintage wallpaper might mean you love your living room – but to others it might come across as dated or reminiscent of their gran's house.
“We took on a property last year where the owners had spent a lot of money creating a very bespoke living space. The house felt very gothic, dark and almost sinister,” Ranson said.
“Conceptually it worked very well, however, when they came to selling, they struggled to generate interest and it became clear that their home’s value had been impacted by the extent of their personalisation. Personal styling can be fun but it's important to understand the impact that it might have on your homes marketability.”
If you're renovating to sell, take a look at what developers are doing in your area – in general terms neutral, light colours are the most effective for selling a place.
“Personalising your home might suit your current lifestyle right now, but if you’re planning on selling in the near future, be careful not to make costly changes before it goes on the market,” said Vincent Reboul, managing director at Hitachi Personal Finance .
So what does work?
In general, adding floorspace and bedrooms boosts values the most – but make sure the numbers add up and you don't spend more than the improvement will add.
Cheaper fixes you can try include updating tired-looking paint, carpets and units in the bathroom and bedroom – as well as keeping outside spaces tidy and everything as clean and clutter free as possible.
In terms of specifics, research by home interior specialists from Hillarys found these to be the top 5 features buyers would most like to find in a home:
- Exposed wood, such as flooring, beams, etc
- Smart home features
- Fitted blinds / indoor shutters
- A fireplace
- A balcony/terrace