House prices are a British obsession, with plenty of us lingering at estate agent windows to see what places are going for. We all know exactly what we paid for our own properties, and we all hope that when the day comes that we look to move on, we’ll be able to make a tidy profit in the process.
A property’s value is determined by many things, plenty of which are beyond our control. Unless you’re an eccentric billionaire, you’ll never be able to move your house brick by brick to a new location, and you’ll only ever have a limited say in how good your local school is, or how good the transport links are.
But when it comes to the property itself, there is plenty you can do to change how it’s viewed by others, and how it is valued. The size of the property, the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, the underlying structure of the home, the garden, the finish - all of these things can influence the price tag an estate agent will recommend for your home. That means that how you arrange your home, how you decorate it, and how you expand it can all have a huge impact on your home’s value. We spoke to experienced estate agent James Mason of Hawksman in Surrey to see what works in today’s busy market.
It shouldn’t be any surprise given the past few months that office and study space is proving crucial to buyers in today’s market. “It’s all about offices at the moment,” James told us. “People are expecting that working from home will be a more common part of their lives going forward, and they want their homes to reflect that. Whether it’s a spare bedroom that can be turned into an office, a downstairs study room, or even space in the garden where you could put in a garden study. For more expensive properties I deal with, ‘his and hers’ studies are the latest thing, where everyone can have their own space to work.”
There are many ways you can get your home working space ready - take a look at our comprehensive guide to see how you could get yours set up. In terms of value, adding an outside office can be a real winner in terms of adding value - a well-built, fully insulated structure could add 5% to your overall value.
Bedrooms vs bathrooms
Bedrooms are still used as our shorthand for the size of a house - is it a two-bed or a four-bed? - but not all bedrooms are built equally. People are interested in the options that space gives them, James told us: “All buyers are different. If you’re a large family, you’ll probably want more separate bedrooms and won’t want to sacrifice one to be an en suite for example. For others, having that bathroom space is a selling point. Flexibility is key.”
MyBuilder’s head of trade quality, agreed that for most houses, a master bathroom and one en suite is usually enough. “Houses still tend to be bracketed into values by the number of bedrooms. If you do want an en suite, it can often go into a surprisingly small space with some good design.”
Open-plan living has been the standard over recent years, giving homes a bigger sense of space. However, James has noticed attitudes beginning to change. “I often hear that ‘we don’t live upstairs’, and it’s true, we all tend to be downstairs most of the time, and in lockdown I think a lot of people saw the value in having more separate spaces.”
Many kitchens have been opened up into dining and living rooms to improve opportunities for socialising over the years. Making big changes to kitchens can be difficult in terms of delivering value, as they can be very personal, but simple layouts and classic finishes are timeless.
Look for opportunities with extensions and loft conversions
There’s risk in any big investment, that what you spend on the project will not be reflected in the final value - it is always worth seeing what similar properties in your area have reached. For example, if you’re on a terraced street where some of the homes have loft conversion and some do not, what is the average difference between the two kinds of property? If homes with loft conversions sell for £20,000 more, then spending £25,000 on a loft conversion isn’t a good financial investment, in the short term at least.
However, buyers are always on the lookout for potential, according to James. “In many ways, potential is the biggest factor for many buyers,” he told us. “People want to know that if that they have the opportunity to expand and add their own value if they want to, so getting planning permission agreed can be a huge selling point. Money has never been cheaper, so people are looking for cheaper properties in better areas knowing that they can extend them - so getting permission can make a huge difference to your value."