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The most and least valuable home improvements

Written by
Anna McEntee
Insurance comparison expert
Posted
4 AUGUST 2023
8 min read
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When it comes to home improvements, there are so many options. Most homeowners will carry out some kind of refreshing or remodelling in their homes, whether it’s a simple coat of paint or major works.

But if you’re planning on selling your home at some point in the future, it can be hard to justify spending large amounts of money on a new kitchen or bathroom, especially if you’re only going to get a year or two’s use from it. But is it worth the expense to increase the price you can put the house on the market for? In this guide, we’ll explore the value that home renovations can add, as well as explaining which types of work can gain you the most (and least) added value if you’re planning to sell your home.

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What affects the value of your home?

In order to understand whether home renovations will add value to your property, it’s first important to recognise the factors that influence the price someone will pay for it, regardless of the interior.

Each home will have its own ‘ceiling price’ – the top value any seller will pay for the property, based on several key factors. Knowing this number can help you decide whether or not it’s worth doing any major work, or whether you’re better off simply decorating and then moving home when you need more space. Once you’ve hit this ceiling price, you’re unlikely to get any more money, so home improvements become less financially valuable.

Let’s delve into some of the factors that influence this top valuation.

Location

Location is crucial for any home. You may have a lovely property, but if it’s in a run-down neighbourhood or has bad transport links, it’ll command a much lower price than if it was on a nice street or was better connected. This is simply based on what the majority of buyers will be looking for. Of course, you may get a buyer who doesn't mind driving everywhere, but there’s no guarantee that future buyers will feel the same, so they’ll want to protect their investment by buying a property that is likely to sell at a profit in the future.

Wider location will also come into play – research by the Federation of Master Builders has shown that creating an open plan kitchen/diner in London can add around £48,417 to the property value, for example, but the same work in the north-east of England will only add around £9,813.

Crime rate, noise, traffic and pollution at a location can also affect price, especially since there’s very little you can do about them.

Other similar properties in the area

Any potential buyers will likely do their own research on neighbouring properties when they decide how much to offer for your property. They’ll be reluctant to pay more money for a similar property in the same road, for example. While the condition of each of the houses will mean that there is a variation in price, ultimately a three-bed semi-detached house at one end of the road should be in a similar price bracket to one at the other end, for example. The most comparable features are often square meterage and number of bedrooms, as well as outdoor space.

Regardless of what size of building is on the current land, many buyers will assess what expansions they can add when they view a property. This will influence the price, as having extra space means they can extend the house if they so wish, and therefore potentially increase the value when they come to sell.

Buyers may also look along the street to see what building works have been carried out on neighbouring properties. Whilst there’s no shortcut to the planning permission process, some buyers feel that having precedent (where similar work has been carried out successfully on nearby properties) may make it easier for them to go ahead without objection. This may mean that they’re happier to make a higher offer.

Why can some renovations add value to your property?

Home decor and layout can be a personal choice, with each owner deciding on a setup that works best for them. As everyone has different requirements, this may mean a change that you make for your benefit might not be seen as a positive for a future owner. This is especially true for interior design choices.

However, there are some changes which are generally regarded as beneficial, such as adding extra space. These can make your home more attractive to potential buyers before they’ve even stepped through the front door. Not everyone wants to take on a renovation project, so having a beautiful home that is ready to move into may mean you receive a higher amount of interest and offers.

Modern, well-insulated properties can also be attractive to buyers, especially with rising bills. Properties in the UK are all required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before they go up for sale, to help buyers understand how energy efficient the building is. In Scotland, this is also known as an energy report. The property is rated from A-G, with A being the most energy efficient. The certificate will show the potential energy rating the property could receive if work is done to it, as well as specific recommendations about which areas can be improved.

Not only can homes with a higher EPC rating be more appealing to buyers, as they’ll likely result in less heat being lost and therefore lower bills, but they can also be helpful when it comes to mortgages. Some lenders will also offer ‘green mortgages’ to applicants who are buying properties with an EPC rating of A or B. This can result in more favourable rates, and in some cases, allow applicants to borrow more money.

Most valuable home renovations

Even if you’re not planning on moving anytime soon, it can still be useful to understand how much value renovation works can add to your property. This can help inform decisions about how much you should spend, as you’ll better understand how much of that cost you’ll likely get back.

It’s also important to consider the value that the work will add to your quality of life – whilst it’s not financial, choosing a setup and decor scheme that you love is important for your comfort during your time in your home. However, it can be hard to put a price on this, so we’ll be focusing on financial benefits in this guide. Let’s take a look at some of the options available to homeowners.

Loft conversions

Approximate value added: 20%

Converting your loft is a great way to maximise square meterage within your home, without encroaching on valuable garden or driveway space. Many of us already have lofts that we use for storage, so a basic conversion will simply repurpose this space and turn it into a home office, bedroom or bathroom.

They’re a popular option as they often don’t require planning permission (unless you alter the structure of the roof, or live in a building with special restrictions), which means that work can be done more quickly and with less expense. It also removes the possibility of the application getting rejected.

A loft conversion can add around 20% to the value of your home, according to research, meaning they’re one of the most valuable options on offer when it comes to home renovations. This number assumes that the conversion will incorporate a double bedroom and an ensuite – it’s important to note that doing this work either relies on you having a large loft in the first place, or expanding the roof, which will cost more in the first place.

Building requirements for a loft conversion

Lofts can often be steeply pitched, which can make a loft conversion tricky. They’re also often disconnected from the electrics, water and waste that service the rest of the house, meaning that extra work is required to make the space fully habitable. Some key factors to consider before you get started are:

  • Roof height. Bedroom regulations stipulate that distance between the ridge timber and ceiling joist should be 2.2m, at a minimum.
  • Windows. Windows need to be big enough for a person to escape from if there is a fire.
  • Stairs. You’ll need to think about how you’ll access your loft conversion safely, including meeting fire regulations.
  • Doors. These need to provide 20 minutes of resistance in the case of a fire, and there should be one specific fire door at the top or bottom of the staircase.

In addition to this, you’ll need to meet the loft conversion regulations for electrics, sound proofing and weight bearing. Bathrooms in loft conversions come with their own set of regulations too, so it’s important to work with a builder you can trust. Whilst you may not need planning permission, you will still need to get building regulations approval.

Finally, consider the storage space that you’re losing when you do a loft conversion – you’ll need to find another place to put those suitcases, old files and seasonal decorations.

Extensions

Approximate value added: 5-8% for a single storey, 12% for a double storey

Many of us choose to extend our homes rather than simply renovate the layout in the existing footprint. In fact, extension potential can be a big selling point – many people purposely buy a smaller property on a bigger plot of land, to allow them to create their dream home. Some estate agents will even add ‘potential to extend’ on the listing.

Both a single storey and double storey extension can add value to your property, especially if they create another bedroom, bathroom or living room. Research suggests a double storey extension can increase the value of a property by 12%, with a single storey adding around 5-8%. Single storey extensions in particular can create an airy feeling which works well with the current trend for open plan living.

The cost of an extension can quickly add up, as you’ll likely need several different tradespeople to connect the electricity and other services to the rest of the house. To get the best value for your money, make sure that the total cost comes in at less than the predicted added value – or be prepared to foot a little bit of the cost to account for the benefit you’ll get during the time in your home.

Kitchens

Approximate value added: 10%

The kitchen is the heart of the home. Going far beyond just a practical place to prepare food, many families choose to spend extra time in their kitchens, with the space offering a central location for homework, conversations or simply a chance to relax and have a cup of coffee. The popularity of kitchen/diner rooms also means that our kitchens are more on display to guests than ever before.

It may come as no surprise then that a kitchen renovation is likely to add around 10% value to your property. At the very least, it will make it easier to sell, as potential buyers can often be wowed by this section of the home. Kitchen remodelling can be expensive, so they’ll also likely be glad they don’t have to fork out the full cost.

It’s very easy to overspend on a kitchen renovation, especially if you buy everything new, and only buy top-of-the-line appliances. This can make it difficult to get the optimal return on investment. Instead, consider if you need to replace everything, or whether updating the colour scheme, tiling and layout can make a big impact whilst keeping costs down. It’s also possible to buy a kitchen secondhand – not only does this cut spend, but it’s also a way of renovating that is kinder to the environment.

Off-street parking

Approximate value added: 13%

With 33.2 million cars on UK roads at the end of 2022, many potential buyers are looking for parking spaces outside their homes. Whilst on-road parking is useful, it often comes with an additional cost, and it’s far less convenient than a driveway or garage. Plus, where you park overnight affects your car insurance cost.

According to some estate agents, off-street parking can add around 13% to your property price, and as such, it’s a feature that they’re keen to highlight. Even if you don’t drive, it may be a selling point when you come to put your home on the market. With online property platforms offering the ability to filter out homes that don’t have a driveway, this renovation will ensure that your house is visible to a wider range of potential buyers.

Least valuable home renovations

We’ve covered the most valuable home renovations, but there are some upgrades that don’t offer the same return on investment. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ahead with them, but it’s important to understand that you may not get your money back on these projects when it comes to selling your home. Instead, look for the value that these changes make to your enjoyment of your home whilst you live in it.

Bathrooms

Approximate added value: 4-5%

You might think that adding or updating your bathroom can add a lot of value to your property, but the truth is that they’ll probably only add around 4-5%. Whilst that’s still value added, it’s a lot less than some of the renovations we covered above. However, having multiple bathrooms or a downstairs WC can be a selling point, especially for families. An ensuite in the master bedroom can also be attractive if you have the space, due to the privacy it offers away from children and guests.

To keep costs down, try and keep your toilet, shower and sink in similar locations, even if you decide to change all your fittings. This will mean less work, as your plumber won’t have to move the water and waste pipes. The same goes for electrics – bathroom electrics are subject to specific regulations due to their proximity to water, and keeping existing cables can help when it comes to building regulations.

Conservatories

Approximate added value: 5%

Conservatories can add value to your home, but only if they’re made of quality materials, are well-insulated and you can transfer any guarantees when you sell your property.

The orientation of the conservatory can also make a difference, as north-facing rooms will likely feel cold, especially with a lot of exposed glass, whilst south-facing spaces may be too hot to use in the summer months. They also rely on the view – a conservatory facing a well-landscaped garden, for example, is of far more value than one that faces a flat lawn and then a wall or fence.

If you can get the right combination of orientation, quality and size, a well-placed, well-built conservatory is estimated to add around 5% to your property price.

Garden landscaping

Approximate value added: 5%

Garden spaces are often unique to the owner, and as such, it’s hard to do a renovation that appeals to a range of buyers. Low-maintenance gardens may be a selling point for some people, especially if they’re not green-fingered, but a lot of families look for at least a small patch of grass. At the other end of the spectrum, some buyers will look for a larger garden to allow pets to roam, or try their hand at growing fruit and vegetables.

However, privacy and security are two features that are universally valued, so you could consider adding secure fencing and planting shrubs that will offer a sense of seclusion. This is particularly useful in terraced or semi-detached houses.

Al fresco dining has also been popular in recent years, so a space to set up a table that is close to the house may also encourage buyers to look favourably on your outdoor space. Make sure to include some power or lighting so that the new homeowners can stay outside into the evening with their guests.

Whatever you decide to do, if you’re looking to sell in the near future, make sure that you don’t overspend – a garden makeover typically only adds around 5% value. Buying plants and adding hard landscaping can quickly cost a lot of money, which may be difficult to gain back in the sale.

Painting and decorating

Approximate added value: 2%

Painting and decorating the interior of your house is not without value, but it’s at the lower end of the scale when it comes to return on investment, offering around 2% added value. Like gardens, decor tends to be a very personal choice, and many buyers will plan to repaint when they move in anyway.

However, a lick of paint across spaces that may look old or tired can freshen your home up, and make it look more inviting in both estate agent photos and at viewings. Some buyers feel that they should offer less money for a house that ‘needs’ a lot of work – so the more liveable you make your house seem, the more you’re possibly going to get for it. If this is your aim, then a neutral palette is likely to be the best choice, as it gives a feeling of calm, and shows off the house, rather than just the decor.

Exterior painting

A more unusual renovation that you may not have considered is painting the exterior of your home. Kerb appeal is a term that estate agents use to describe how attractive your property looks to buyers as they approach it, and it can often play a big part in what price it gets valued at.

Exterior paint can allow you to make your property look more modern and well-cared for, and it’s much cheaper than re-rendering or having cladding put on.

Do I need to let my insurance company know about home renovations?

Whilst you won’t need to let your insurance provider know about small works such as redecorating or renovations that don’t affect the structure or purpose of your rooms, you will need to inform them of major work. This includes adding bedrooms or bathrooms, as the quantity of these rooms are used to calculate your premium.

The risk level for your home insurance is raised when you’re completing major work. This is because the chance of something going wrong is increased – if you’re knocking down a wall, the risk of something going wrong is much higher than if you’re just going about your daily life. Likewise, adding or removing windows can change how susceptible your home is to the elements.

There’s also a raised security risk that comes with having contractors regularly going in and out the property. Not only are there a lot of unknown people in your home, but they’re also more likely to leave doors and windows open for ease of access.

If you’re unsure, it’s best to call and let your provider know. They’ll then be able to let you know if there are any changes to your premium. In some cases, especially if you won’t be living at the property whilst the work is carried out, they may not be able to cover you on your current plan. In this case, you’ll need to take out specialist renovation insurance.

Anna McEntee - Insurance comparison expert

Anna’s all about delivering fantastic insurance products at a great price. Value is the most important thing for Anna, as she cuts through the jargon and finds what’s most important and worth your hard-earned money.

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