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Priceless Property

How To Add Value To Your House in Five Simple Steps
The latest reports suggest that, after a period of stagnation, house prices are slowly on the rise again. Which means that, for many homeowners, adding value to their property involves nothing more than sitting back, putting their feet up and watching the equity roll in. But there’s one snag in this foolproof plan. Your house might be gaining value, but so is everyone else’s. If you ever want to take the next step up the property ladder – a bigger house, maybe, or a better location – the gap between what you’ve got and what you want could be as high as ever.

One way to close it is to make the very most of the house you have now. If your house stands out from the crowd, it could be worth a lot more than you think. And giving it the ‘wow’ factor needn’t cost the earth. Yes, an exotic swimming pool might add thousands to its value, but it will cost thousands in the first place. A decent paint job, on the other hand, or a bit of freshening up, will cost a few quid, take a couple of weekends, and charm the contract out of any potential buyer.

And if you don’t plan to sell your house for years, it doesn’t matter. The great thing about adding value to your property is that it makes it a nicer home to live in now. So read on and we’ll show you how.

It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many people try to sell a house with peeling wallpaper and dirty paintwork. And though you might think that your 70s day glow colour scheme adds a certain kitsch character to the place, potential buyers will only see a house that is going to need an awful lot of work before they dare to start showing the in-laws around.

So if you’re thinking about putting your house on the market, freshen up its look with the sort of bright neutral colours that are sure to be inoffensive to everyone. Yes, the person who buys your house may decide to redecorate from top to bottom eventually, but in the first instance they want a house they can start living in straight away. And try and do the best job you can. If you’ve left splashes of white paint on the dark skirting boards, go over them. If you haven’t even been bothered to look after the paintwork, a viewer may ask themselves, will you have taken care of the damp proofing or roof repairs?

If you’re not planning on selling for a while, paint your house in pineapple and pink if that’s what you like. Just remember to redecorate when you do come to sell. According to a survey of estate agents, redecorating just living rooms and bedrooms can add nearly £2,000 to its value.

New Kitchens and Bathrooms
A recent survey by internet bank Egg found that most homeowners thought new kitchens and bathrooms were the best way to add value to their property. Many professionals, on the other hand, disagree.

Don’t get us wrong. If new kitchen or bathroom fittings will make your home a nicer place for you to live in - and you’re not about to move - then why not? But if you’re just looking to add value, there are plenty of things you should be doing first. According to estate agents, a new bathroom could add up to £3,000 to the price of your house. That sounds a lot, but it means that, if you’re lucky, you’ll just about recoup the cost of the investment.

There is an exception, however. Flats can benefit more from a kitchen or bathroom upgrade because there is little scope to do anything else. A new kitchen in an old flat can be a good example of making the most of what you have, and a good selling point for potential buyers. For house owners, however, a better bet might be to look to the loft…

Loft Conversion
Adding any extra space to a house – through an extension, a conservatory or a loft conversion – will add value (as long as its well done and keeps the feel of the house). Unfortunately, it will cost quite a bit, too. Depending on the state of your loft, converting it to an office, a spare bedroom or a play area for the kids might be the most cost effective option of the three.

That’s certainly what estate agents think. One survey found that loft conversions add, on average, well over £12,000 to the value of a house. In London, that figure rises to nearly £26,000. So you could get back more than the cost of the work, and in the meantime, you’ll have a lovely new room to play with.

A word of warning, though. If you try to raise the value of your house too much with major home improvements, you risk ending up right back where you began. In a word, the value of the surrounding houses will pull the value of yours down, and people who can afford to pay a lot more than the neighbourhood average will probably just choose a different neighbourhood instead.

The Details
In property, as in so much of life, it’s the little things that often count the most. You might not have the time, money or inclination to convert the loft. Even redecorating might be a job too far. Happily, there are plenty of easily accomplished little touches that will add value to your house without adding stress to your life.

For example, window boxes and hanging baskets add colour to your home, transforming dull, bare walls into havens of wildlife. Clearing front lawns and digging up dead trees and shrubs will also help to give the impression of a loved and cared-for house. Home buyers are becoming more and more knowledgeable and observant, so clean the gutters, scrub even small mould patches from the bathroom tiles and – for a great first impression – paint the front door.

Finally, clean even those tucked away places, like the oven and the fridge. In a survey by the Woolwich, 10 percent of respondents said that dirty fridges and cookers gave the impression of a house that had not been looked after, making them lower their offer price.

The Garden
Gardens are becoming increasingly important to house buyers, as an extra living space in summer, a play area for the kids and an oasis of calm in a busy world. So make sure you do the basics. Mow the lawn, clear away dead leaves and shrubs and sweep the rubbish away.

It might be worth thinking about putting a patio and/or decking down, especially if your garden is particularly scruffy or you live in an area which attracts a lot of young professionals. Busy people like the idea of an outdoor space which is nice to sit out in - but doesn’t take a lot of effort to maintain. Estate agents reckon that patio and decking can add between £1000 and £2000 to the value of your house, which means it may well pay for itself.

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