There’s no shame in that. But there are clear signs that autumn is officially in full swing: The X Factor has got to ‘judges’ houses’ stage, they’ll soon be announcing the winner of Bake Off and we are once again inspired to take up the tango with Strictly back on our screens (the leaves turning fetching shades of red and burnt orange is a little clue, too).
The run up to Christmas might be a pretty quiet period for the housing market, but by the time the snowdrops begin to sprout up at the end of January, the property market is ready to bloom for another year. If you’re thinking of selling your home next year, or maybe even the year after, now is the prime time to put down the remote control and get your home ready to launch onto the market.
My rule of thumb
Don’t just sit back and wait for your home to gain value; create the extra value for yourself by renovating your property.
As with many areas in my life, some simple ground rules go a long way – as long as you stick to them and prioritise what matters:
- Focus on structural and functional problems first
- Be sure not to spend more than you can recoup
- Don’t take on big jobs that’ll remain unfinished when you go to sell
- Make sure the changes will add value
- Find a trusted and reliable expert to give you advice
First impressions count
They say that you only have seven seconds to make a first impression when you meet someone new, and it’s the same for your house. Just as you would dress presentably for a job interview, your house needs to make a good first impression on potential buyers – and in the current market it’s more important than ever to keep this at the front of your mind.
Ask yourself if your house has ‘curb appeal’ – if you walk across the street and look at your house from a distance, does it look good at first glance? How do the houses around it look? Are the nearby pavements and grass areas clean and tidy?
Find ways to enhance the positive features and eliminate the negative features and try to tackle any big turn-offs that a buyer might notice immediately.
Double or nothing
If someone said you could double your money, would you? According to Phil Spencer of Location, Location, Location fame, a £20,000 loft conversion could add as much as £40,000 to the value of your home. However, a loft conversion can cost anywhere in the region of £15-40,000 (or more) so make sure you’re confident you can get that money back (one of the ground rules!). It’s also worth remembering that conversions and extensions can be a lengthy process from conception to completion, so give yourself plenty of time in order to avoid any last-minute panics (now would be the time to start thinking about it for 2018, for example).
Little things can make a big difference and adding value can be as simple as neatening up the garden and slapping on a new coat of paint. These are the kind of home improvements that could be completed by Christmas time if you and your partner set your mind to it – so make December your goal! What’s more, you’ll get to show off your well-presented home to guests over the festive season!
Sit down with your other half and weigh up the priorities, listing what needs to be done and by when. The simplest and cheapest fix is often adding a fresh coat of paint and replacing broken fixtures. Phil Spencer reckons that £100 - £1,000 of fresh paint can add as much as £5,000 of value to your home (especially if your house is starting to look a little worse for wear).
Having an untidy garden could cost you and a survey by Barclays Mortgages found that 44% of buyers would offer 20% below the asking price if the exterior of the property was off-putting.
Live a little
Adding a conservatory, or even turning a garage into an extra living space, can up the value of your home. According to Phil, a conservatory could cost anywhere from £5-30k and could add 7% onto your home, while an extension would cost somewhere in the region of £10-30k and has the potential to add 11%. The extra space could make an ideal living room area for teenagers, or perhaps an office for a working mum.
It pains me to say it but if you live in an area where parking is at a premium then paving over some of your garden could actually add value to your home. Ask your estate agent if they think the value of your home would increase with more parking space.
The proof is in the pudding
The kitchen should be your primary focus. More than just a place to cook, it can often become a hub of the home - a place where the kids can do homework, maybe even another room to watch TV if everyone’s catching up on Eastenders and you’ve already seen the latest episode. Research by Sainsbury’s Bank Home Insurance revealed that 57% of estate agents believe kitchen improvements are the number one way to get return on investment on home renovations.
Bathrooms come in a close second - my own bathroom boasts a (once trendy!) avocado bathroom set, but now it’s so dated, it might hinder a sale, so it will be the first major renovation I do. Although I don’t mind it too much, for many buyers, this kind of retro decor is often a deal breaker.
According to good ol’ Phil Spencer, a bathroom can add 2.88% onto the value of your home. So even if you’re just adding some new taps or upgrading the shower unit, it could help sway a buyer.
The one thing I know I’m terrible for is thinking of my house in terms of what I would like to change, rather than what will help give it universal appeal to other buyers.
Remember that you’re trying to make other people fall in love with your home, so rather than thinking about what you’d like it to be, you need to be focusing on what will make other people fall head over heels. While one family might love a garden that looks like a children’s playground, another couple might be looking for a garden with lots of areas to sit and relax.
Ask your estate agent for more information about the typical demographic of your neighbourhood. to see who is most likely to move there. Would the likely buyers be younger or older? Are there good schools in the area that might appeal? Use this to then tailor the renovations to suit this ‘most-likely to buy’ demographic.
Don’t feel you have to go it alone
Finding a trusted and reliable expert is essential. Having a great builder or tradesman to help rather than trying to do everything yourself makes everything much easier. When you’re looking for a tradesman, do your research to make sure they don’t mess it up.
Think to yourself - how would the potential buyer look at this house and what would they want to see?
Although it might be hard to face the idea of spending chilly autumn weekends and dark winter evenings toiling away doing DIY when you’d rather be watching Strictly, a little effort now could help sell your home quicker and for more - a winning combination in my book!
Once you’ve got your house up together, let us help you focus on the financial side of things. Use our Value your World tool to check that you’ve got the right amount of financial protection for you and your family when the time comes to move to your new home.