Moving house? Experts reveal the home improvements you SHOULDN’T waste money on

If you’re keen to capitalise on the mini-boom in the property market, you may well be spending much of lockdown doing long-awaited home improvements.

But before you do anything drastic such as ripping down a wall or giving your lounge a radical makeover, have you stopped to take stock of what is actually going to make your house more appealing to a potential buyer?

While some renovation projects are a relatively safe bet, others could end up costing you more than you’re likely to make back from your sale.

Here FEMAIL speaks to a range of experts in the field, from UK-based estate agents to interior design gurus, who share their insight into which home improvements are  worth taking the plunge, and those best saved for your future property.

If you’re keen to capitalise on the mini-boom in the property market, you may well be spending much of lockdown doing long-awaited home improvements – but will they make your property more appealing? Pictured: stock image

Steer clear of ‘trend based’ decor and feature walls

Heather Young, editor of Ideal Home magazine says: ‘If you’re updating your bathroom with a view to selling your home, steer clear of anything trend-based that might date quickly. 

‘Instead, opt for a simple, minimal scheme and dress the room with accessories and houseplants to add character and personality.’

Richard Page, marketing director at the estate agency Dexters, adds: ‘When decorating, choosing on-trend colours may look fantastic for now but could be quite divisive for potential buyers. It’s a cliché but generally go for neutral colours.’ 

According to the experts at Style & Sage, a professional staging company who work with developers and estate agents to transform properties into fully staged and styled homes, painting a striking ‘feature wall’ is a bit no-no.

Richard Page, marketing director at the estate agency Dexters, recommends going for neutral colours with your decor. Stock image

Richard Page, marketing director at the estate agency Dexters, recommends going for neutral colours with your decor. Stock image

‘For lots of people, working from home means spending time looking at your walls and wishing you could make a big change,’ they say. 

‘But spending effort and money on a bold feature wall isn’t the answer! Making a rash decision can be quite divisive when you want to sell your house in the future, and the next buyers might just cover up what you do. 

‘Focus instead on creating a feature picture wall or adding in a picture rail, which will have a great impact on the space without being too tricky to change in future.’

Make your garden ‘effortless’ to maintain – and avoid a hot tub 

While a Ground Force-style makeover can make your outdoor space more impressive, be aware that some buyers may be put off if it looks like too much hard work to keep pristine. 

‘When planning outside space, however big or small the garden, make it look effortless to maintain,’ says Richard. 

‘Big ticket items like hot tubs may look great in a brochure, but if a buyer doesn’t want one there is no added value. 

‘Stick to less subjective items and let the buyer add their own extravagances.’ 

Heather adds: ‘We saw a huge surge in the popularity of outdoor living during 2020, as socialising moved into the open air. 

‘While buyers want to see a tidy and well organised garden, you can create the idea of living or dining zones by dressing areas with furniture or accessories, without the need for expensive landscaping.’

Rethink that garage conversion 

‘With our homes having to step up to meet a huge number of different purposes over the last year, converting the garage has become a popular renovation project to add a much-needed extra room,’ says Heather.

‘While this is a great solution to meet the needs of the current owner, it might not be so appealing to buyers who are often more interested in a garage for their car, or for the storage potential that space offers.’

Open-plan extensions are NOT always worth the money 

‘Spending so much time at home shines a harsh spotlight on your property’s limitations when it comes to space,’ says Heather. 

‘While it’s very tempting to want to take the plunge and embark on a large extension project, if you’re going to be selling your home in the near future, this is an expensive endeavour that might not make financial sense.  

‘We’ve seen open-plan homes take centre stage for a number of years, but time spent at home in lockdown has highlighted the disadvantages of open-plan living, when the call for separate spaces for work, schooling, fitness (or just to escape to chill out!) has been amplified. 

‘Creating an open-plan space can be a high cost project if it involves reconfiguring the interior spaces, and it may not make your home more appealing to buyers.

‘If that dream extension is something you think your home could benefit from, it’s worth getting planning permission in place before putting your property on the market as this will make it very attractive to potential buyers, who can then take on the project themselves to suit their own vision and needs.’ 

Richard says: ‘In terms of creating more space, the options are almost endless; side extension, rear extension, loft conversion. 

‘Think carefully about the cost of the extension versus what the property will gain – maybe adding another bedroom will add more value to your property than a large kitchen/diner, depending on the house prices where you live. 

‘Think about whether you want all open plan space or actually have rooms with doors that can be closed for privacy. With more home working, well planned dedicated study/office space will really appeal to buyers and tenants.’

Think twice before adding an en-suite 

When it comes to adding bathrooms, Richard suggests putting yourself in a buyer’s shoes and assessing how you’d want to live.

‘Does a miniscule shower room with a tiny washbasin created out of the corner of a bedroom add real value, or would it just be inconvenient and become an annoyance?’ he points out.

‘Likewise, a big stand-alone bath in a master bedroom looks great, but is it practical to live with?’    

Only add a bedroom if you can fit a wardrobe 

‘Think very carefully about removing or converting a bedroom as this is likely to adversely affect value,’ Richard advises. 

‘Instead, if you want to use a bedroom as a home office or a walk-in dressing room for example, focus on changes that are temporary and easy to reverse. 

‘If you permanently change a bedroom, for example changing a small bedroom into an ensuite bathroom for the main bedroom, you may be adversely affecting the value of the overall home.

‘Remember that storage space is vital, so if you are making an extra bedroom, also think about whether a wardrobe could fit in the space too. 

‘An extra bedroom that only has room for a bed is not very practical for family living.’

Using a ladder as a staircase

‘Using a ladder rather than a proper staircase to an upper floor may be a quick fix, but is rarely the ideal solution,’ Richard warns. 

‘Invest in improvements that are practical and have longevity rather than doing a rushed or cheap job now which could ultimately devalue your home.’

Bifolding doors can be impractical for daily living 

‘If you remove or change windows, try to focus on getting that natural light back into the space with other windows or skylights,’ Richard says.

‘Losing natural light will always have a negative effect on the home’s value and could lead the spaces to feel more cramped than they actually are.

‘In addition, although bifolding doors in the kitchen look amazing, make sure you have another small opening window in the room for simple or quick ventilation. 

‘Only having bifolding doors make be a great aesthetic choice but can be impractical for daily living.’

Do make the most of the ‘dead space’ you already have 

‘When thinking about investing in home improvements, the first thing to remember is that adding value doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money,’ says Richard.

‘Spending time carefully thinking about your home and how best to maximise its value and liveability can work better than copying flash trends.

‘The key is to maximise space, using every inch to maximum advantage, particularly when city living. 

‘Depending on the property, have a good look at what’s there and use a floorplan to help and see if there is any underutilised space you could transform. 

‘Perhaps an unused under-stairs space could become a working from home nook, or a guest cloakroom. 

‘Equally, if you have an awkward wall area, perhaps adding bespoke shelves could add useful storage and make use of otherwise dead space.

‘A big spring clean and a ruthless decluttering is a good way to start. Lift carpets and polish the original floorboards for a more contemporary look, reface existing kitchen cupboard fronts, and remove curtains to fit blinds.’ 

Spend money on details like light switches and a new front door 

Richard says: ‘Don’t forget the details; are all light switches and plug sockets the same design?  The same goes for skirting boards and cornices, doors and door furniture – avoid a mishmash. 

‘As always make sure the approach to the property and front door looks immaculate as first impressions really do count. 

‘Updating these elements to be more uniform can help to transform your home and create a very elegant product without huge expenditure.

‘Spending time upgrading the door, choosing a complementary door colour, adding window boxes or smartening up the approach can help to turn your property into one of the best looking on the street.’ 

Style & Sage also speak highly of adding accessories to inexpensively dress a room.

‘There are several trends at the moment that can help to uplift a space and give a fresh, timeless look without a huge cost, such as using statement vases and pampas grass,’ they say. 

‘Keep the accessories in moderation and focus on textures and layers in each room. This can have a much bigger uplift on a room rather than physical changes to walls or spaces that may be too expensive or impractical right now.’

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