If your house feels a bit too small, should you stay where you are and improve? Or should you buy a new property? Here are some pros and cons to consider if you’re thinking about whether to move house or improve your home.
Moving house: the fees and charges
With stamp duty and estate agent’s fees to consider, moving is not a cheap option. You can easily spend £10,000-£20,000 or more in fees and charges – and that’s without the cost of getting the extra space. Plus, mortgages aren’t exactly easy to come by and some lenders are down valuing which means the process may not be straightforward.
SAVVY TIP: If you have to move into a new area to get an extra bedroom or reception that could involve more expense if you end up in a pricier area.
Extend what you have
The obvious answer might be to save whatever you would have spent trading up and put it towards an extension instead. But what do you need to consider?
1. Do you need planning permission? Unless you’re getting a relatively small extension (which may come under ‘permitted development’ rules) you’ll have to get planning permission. Contact your local Planning Officer before you put in formal plans, as this will give you an idea of what to expect.
2. How will an extension affect the resale price? While the main purpose of building on will be to get a better home for your own use, it’s worth keeping an eye on how it will affect the resale price. By adding space, you will add value; but not necessarily as much as you think. If you over-develop, you may not get back more than the cost of the extension.
SAVVY TIP: The way to avoid this is not to develop beyond the limit of the road – so if it is made up of three-bedroom houses, you may find it hard to get the top price for a five or even four-bedroom house.
3. Think of the overall layout. If you end up with a house that’s been overdeveloped so that the layout doesn’t work anymore, it can be tricky to sell.
SAVVY TIP: Likewise, if you build a large extension, but are left with a handkerchief-sized garden, you may find that buyers are not so keen.
Vet your builder
Many people put off extending their home because they worry about being ripped off. There are so many stories about cowboy builders that it is not surprising. The standard advice is to pick someone who has been recommended to you; and although it’s normally the best option, it’s not foolproof.
SAVVY TIP: Do your own research as well: ask for references from three customers and find out if you can go and check out the work the builders have done on their properties.
1. Check trade associations. Some people recommend using a builder who’s a member of a trade association. But others (including some builders) do not think that membership gives consumers much in the way of extra rights. There are a number of trade associations including the Federation of Master Builders and the National Federation of Builders.
SAVVY TIP: Most trade bodies vet new members, but do not generally carry out ongoing checks. However, others do not even insist that members have adequate indemnity insurance. And if member firms do breach the code of practice, you may find the trade body does not have the ‘teeth’ to get the problem sorted.
2. Use recommendation websites. Recommendation websites are only as good as their systems to prevent people from leaving bogus recommendations. I’ve used some of these sites in the past and I think that as long as you look for a builder who’s had quite a few recommendations over a period of time, you should be OK. But don’t assume that just because a builder has had one or two recommendations that they’ll be up to the job.
3. Compare quotes. Working out how much any building work will cost (and whether the quotes you are being given are reasonable or not) can also be a challenge. Whatever the builders quote, you will have to add on professional fees (such as getting the plans drawn up). You can use an architect, but if it is a relatively simple project you could save money by using an architect’s technician.
SAVVY TIP: Get quotes from at least three firms of builders and ask them if they would do the extension in the way you are planning. They may have some useful suggestions and it’s far better for your costs that you stick to your plans once you have commissioned them.
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