The pandemic has prompted 2 in 5 property owners to plan to renovate or extend their home. (Source: Mortgage Advice Bureau).
With so much more time spent at home due to the pandemic, many people have already carried out home improvements during the past year. The key reasons homeowners involved in the survey stated why they were extending or renovating their homes were:
- Create a nicer living environment (33%)
- Expand on existing space e.g. a bigger kitchen (29%)
- Add value to the home in the long-term (28%)
- Create an entirely new room, such as a home office or gym (24%)
- Renovate the garage (23%)
- Add an extra bedroom, bathroom or other room (20%)
- Add value to the house to sell it quickly (18%)
- Build an new outbuilding for a home office or gym (16%)
During the pandemic, households have saved a record £143.5 billion since the first lockdown in March 2020, making homeowners in a stronger position to make the home alternations that have always wanted but haven’t had the finances or the inspiration to get the projects off the ground.
There are some simple guidelines people should consider before they start their home renovation projects including:
Know what you want to achieve
- Understanding your own motivations for any project is the first step for any aspiring renovator.
- Prioritise your own needs first rather than following current trends or imagining what a future buyer might like, particularly if you have no intention of moving anytime soon.
Be aware of the costs involved
- If you are extending or creating a new building, you will usually need the services of an Architect as they will have a good knowledge of every aspect of the extension process. They can advise on budget requirements, design ideas, planning routes and building regulations. Typically, an Architects services can cost around 10% of your budget.
- Get several quotes to make sure you are getting good value for your money and also get to know the various tradespeople involved in the project.
- Be aware of planning rules. Planning rules are another factor to think about for anyone looking to create extra space – whether that be an extension, loft conversion or outbuilding.
- The good news is that in May 2019, planning rules on extensions were relaxed slightly.
- The maximum length that a single-storey extension could be built to without a full planning application was doubled, from three to six metres for a terraced or semi-detached house, and from four to eight metres for a detached house.
Key permitted development rules for house extensions in England
- Only half the area of land around the original house can be covered by extensions or other buildings
- Extensions cannot be higher than the highest part of the existing roof; or higher at the eaves than the existing eaves
- Where the extension comes within two metres of the boundary of your land the height at the eaves cannot exceed three metres
- Extension cannot be built in front of the principal elevation or, where it fronts a highway, the side elevation
- The work cannot include Verandas, balconies or raised platforms, a chimney, flue or soil and vent pipe or any alteration to the roof of the existing house
- Cannot be in a conservation area or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Extensions built within these rules do not require prior approval or a planning application at all.
- Planning rules differ from council to council so check with your local council at the outset.
If you want to avoid subjective planning decisions, you might opt for using your permitted development rights. This allows certain properties to forgo a full planning application, providing the project adheres to strict guidelines.
The rules for all planning routes can be complex. We recommend you either work with an experienced architect or consult your local authority at the outset.
How do you choose a tradesman?
The most common find-a-trader websites include TrustATrader, Checkatrade, Rated People and MyBuilder. These sites not only enable you to find tradesmen, but also see how well they have been reviewed by previous customers.
Another, possibility is the not-for-profit, government-backed approved trader scheme, TrustMark.
With strict codes of conduct imposed on its members and a dispute resolution ombudsman that customers can turn to if something goes wrong, this website can provide further peace of mind for home improvers.
On top of these sites, the expert advice is to always conduct your own research into whoever it is you decide to hire.
‘We would recommend getting at least three quotes, make sure you are comparing like for like and don’t forget to include VAT,’ said Paula Higgins, founder of the HomeOwners Alliance.
Find out how long each one has been trading, and check their company details on Companies House.
Don’t be shy: ask for previous customer references and call them up directly to ask for photos or, better still, if you can, visit yourself.
Ensuring the tradesman has undertaken similar work to what it is you are asking is also vital.
A neighbour might highly recommend someone who upgraded their bathroom, but if you are planning a bigger job such as an extension, make sure they are also experienced with these types of jobs,’ added Higgins.
Should you go for the cheapest quote?
It’s always tempting to go with the cheapest quote – but price is only one factor when deciding. There is also the track record, the reviews and qualifications to consider.
‘When searching for a suitable tradesperson for your next home improvement project, evaluate both price and also reputation based on previous customer reviews,’ said a spokesperson for Checkatrade.
Average renovation costs (source: My Builder)
Project Average UK cost
Loft conversion: £40,000
Bathroom renovation: £1,900 – £7,400
Single extension: £26,000
Landscape gardening: £800
Fitting a new kitchen: £5,000-£6,000
Always make sure traders have the relevant authorisation to carry out the project and, of course, make sure you feel you can trust them.
What about the neighbours?
If you are planning an extension or loft conversion, it’s always a nice gesture to warn your neighbours in advance of any works commencing. With so many people working from home now, the constant noise of drilling and hammering may become quite disruptive. Sometimes, you will your neighbour’s permission before you can even begin any work. For example, if you’re living in a flat with a share of freehold, you will need the permission of your fellow freeholders to extend or convert the loft.
Furthermore, if you are extending your house along the boundary with your neighbour, you will need to consider a party wall agreement.
To avoid any problems going forward, be upfront about your plans early on. – we recommend having a party wall surveyor put together your notice, so you don’t fall foul of bad paperwork.
An unhappy neighbour could potentially put your project back by months and end up costing you more than you budgeted.
Leave it to the experts
For anyone intending to renovate themselves, the advice is to stick within your limits and leave any specialist work to experts. Anything technical, such as electrical, structural and complicated plumbing works should be left to the experts.
Structural work is crucial. If you take down any old wall in your house without establishing whether it is a load-bearing wall supporting the floors above, you may start to encounter cracks appearing or a complete collapse in some instances.’
What a homeowner can manage by themselves depends on how experienced, skilled and confident they are with DIY.
What if you are renovating to sell?
For those intending to renovate to sell, often the simplest improvements can make a big difference.
It is usually advisable to manage the simple aspects first such as the presentation of the property such as re-grouting the bathrooms, repainting the walls, or just tidying the property up so the space shows well.
Added buying appeal could be having planning permissions approved other feature giving the potential buyer with the opportunity to have the vision to put their own stamp on the property.
For homeowners looking to add value by embarking on extensions or loft conversions, the advice is to first consider whether it would still appeal to buyers in your area.
People often think that by adding extra square footage the more value you add to your property. But this isn’t always the case. You should be mindful you’re not to oversize your property so that you end up appealing to a much small portion of the market. You need to think about your target audience first, as they ultimately dictate the selling price for any property.
Good luck with your project and, don’t forget, contact the Insurewise Team before you start any renovation work on your property to make sure you have the right cover in place to reflect the changes you plan to make. Also check your tradespeople’s policies to make sure they are covered before they undertake any work for you.
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