Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

How to build up your home's value for less

By Julia Gray

Doing up a property takes a lot of time, cash and effort, but be careful not to waste your resources on the wrong jobs.

1. It is unwise to take on a project unless you can really afford to do it properly and to the best of your ability.

If you're going to spend money on building work, ensure you get the maximum benefit from it, both in terms of improving your home and adding value. With loft conversions, for example, a large dormer window will give you the most head height and usable space. As long as planning laws allow, changing the line of the roof from sloping to 'straight', looking from the front or back, with a dormer spanning the width of the house, gives you the best possible conversion, although it won't be cheap. Some homes have a converted loft that can't officially be called a bedroom because it doesn't comply with buildings regulations. If you can make your conversion comply, and get a building registration certificate to prove it, it will be worth a lot more.

2. Don't overspend on your home, unless you're not concerned about recouping the cost.

It's easy to splash out on expensive home improvements, but it's wise to spend in proportion to the value of the property and the area it's in.

Fitting a £50,000 kitchen wouldn't be inappropriate in a £1 million house, for example, but could be considered an unwise investment in a £250,000 house.

3. Don't rip out original features. In decades past, beautiful period features weren't always as valued as they are now, but original cornicing, floorboards, fireplaces and doors add value and make your home more attractive and sellable.

Features can often be restored if they've been removed, using either original or reproduction versions - eBay's a great place to find them.

4. Don't ignore what your neighbours have done. Not improving your home in line with the rest of the neighbourhood could cost you dearly. If, for example, all or most of your neighbours' homes still have original wooden sash windows, replacing your windows with UPVC casement ones will probably devalue your home.

In some areas, UPVC windows are everywhere, so fitting them is more likely to add value than not.

5. Don't forget to get permission. Planning permission is, of course, sometimes required for building work, but it's not always obvious when you need planning and when you don't - ask your local council if in doubt.

Flats and maisonettes don't have permitted development (PD) rights, so if you live in one, you'll need planning for things that you wouldn't if you lived in a house, such as erecting a garden shed. Some houses have had their PD rights removed, particularly on "designated land", which includes conservation areas, where PD rights are restricted anyway.

If your home's listed, alterations usually require listed building consent from your local council. And if your home's a leasehold, you usually need the freeholder's permission for alterations, depending on what the lease says. Even if you own a share of the freehold, you still need the other freeholders to agree.

PRODUCT OF THE WEEK

Cleaning up after DIY can take almost as long as doing the DIY itself, but not with the Kaercher SC 3 steam cleaner - £159.99 from www.kaercher.com/uk.

It's on wheels and has a large enough water tank to provide plenty of steam, but it's also compact so you can store it easily - and has on-board storage for some of its attachments, of which there are many, including cloth covers. The SC 3 is powerful, easily controlled, heats up quickly and has a really long steam hose to give you flexibility - whether you're deep cleaning or spring cleaning, it won't let you down.

HOW-TO TIP

White tile grout can soon become grubby, which isn't a good look.

There are various ways to restore the whiteness, including scrubbing it with grout cleaner, applying grout paint, or even raking the grout out and regrouting. A much better solution is to steam off the dirt and marks with a good steam cleaner (see our Product of the Week).

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