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The Right Time To Renovate?
January 6th, 2009
A recent poll by found that, despite the credit crunch, two-thirds of those interviewed plan to improve their homes.

This is backed up by research from Abbey that found an estimated 8.3 million homeowners planning some home improvements over the next 12 months.

So, is it a good time to carry out those works you've been putting off? Or is it simply a waste of money? Well, it depends who you ask.

Is It Worth It?

1. No: The Building Society

If you're considering doing up your home to sell in the very near future, Abbey Building Society says don't bother. According to their figures, falling house prices mean that very few home improvements will add more value than they cost to implement at the moment.

The Abbey research found that extensions, costing on average 33,800, would only improve the value of a home 13,568, meaning that they could, in effect, cost the homeowner over 20,000.

New kitchens and conservatories were said to set back renovators nearly 14,000 and loft or basement extensions over 9,000.

According the Abbey research the only upgrade that will make you any money is redecorating, which will bring in around 2,227 once the bills have been paid.

Phil Cliff, Director of Abbey Mortgages, comments:

"Our research shows that very few home improvements will actually add more value than they cost to implement at the moment.

"It's important that people are making these improvements because they want to live in the end result and aren't doing them in order to add value alone."

2. Yes: The Architect

Abbey's research, while an important reminder of the potential risks, was conducted back in the summer, but Hugo Tugman of Architect your Home says the situation has changed since then:

"A couple of months ago I wouldn't have said it was such a good time to renovate your home. But now, if you can raise the money, it's a radically good time."

Hugo's reasons are:

1. The cut in VAT. On a large project you could save several thousand.

2. If you can borrow, with interest rates being low, you may be able to get a good deal.

3. Hugo says that builders are definitely bringing their prices down: "A lot of builders are still busy, but they're concerned about next year."

And, says Hugo, the market is unpredictable, so, by the time your works are finished, prices could be on the up again.

Finally, recent changes to the rules governing Permitted Development should mean, for householders planning extensions or loft conversions, a lot less uncertainty as well as savings of time and money.

However, Hugo warns, "the rules are every bit as complicated as they were before, so you do need to take advice from an architect who knows about residential works.'

3. Yes: The Tradespeople
Brian Berry, Director of External Affairs at the Federation of Master Builders, agrees: "It's a good time to have building work done because it will help you retain the value of your house."

And, in terms of the availability of good tradesmen, Brian says that builders' workload has dropped off recently and they are taking on jobs they might not have done six months ago.

"It's easier to find a builder but don't expect to pay less - builders' costs are the same as they were six months ago," says Brian.

"A good builder will be in demand even in the current market."

Another positive is that with many more builders readily available, the cowboys are being pushed out. "Don't' expect bargains," says Brian. "But it will happen more quickly."

4. Yes And No: The Estate Agents

James Brooks, Sales Manager of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward's Streatham branch, says: "House prices have come down, but a property in good order, compared with a property in poor order, will still go for more.

"Doing up a home will improve its value. But you have to spend money in the right areas. Side return extensions and loft conversions add value because increasing square footage improves value, as long as the property is in balance.

"I had a client phone me this week asking whether it was worth him doing a loft extension. He had managed to get a good deal from a builder, 35k. I told him that the extension, which is two beds and a bathroom should add 50k."

But Michelle Williams from Reeds Rains estate agents in Woodseats, Sheffield, doesn't agree. "A lot of people are staying put at the moment, and building extensions," says Michelle.

"But if you are thinking of moving, it's a good idea to smarten up your property, re-decorate in neutral colours, but don't do anything structural."

DIY Or Die?

According to the poll, three quarters (72 per cent) of people prefer to do work themselves rather than hire a professional.

And a run on the sale of 'how to' guides at B&Q since the start of the credit crunch backs up the fact that, where we can, Brits are keen to have a go at household improvements.

However, there are jobs that are best left to experts.

Figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents show that each year 200,000 people are admitted to hospital after DIY goes wrong.

Research from, indicates that botched improvements are so common that over half a million people have had to claim on their insurance.

And, as some policies stipulate that only professionally accredited tradesmen should carry out certain work, you could render your policy invalid if you decide to tackle renovations yourself.

However, as long as you take on work that is within your capabilities, estate agent James Brooks says that he would encourage homeowners to tackle those tasks because they will make your home more saleable.

"DIY must be to a reasonable standard," says James. "But very often a homeowner will take more care over it than a professional might.

"If you've got money, get in the builders. If not, tidy up the garden, paint inside and out, pull up an old carpet and sand the floorboards over Christmas."

UKTV Homes spokesperson and DIY expert Gordon Whistance adds: "Maximising the space you have and leaving the past where it belongs is one way of beating the credit crunch. However, people should be mindful when redecorating as it's harder than it looks."

Top 10 Modern Home Turn Ons*

1. Power shower - 55%

2. Heated towel rails - 52%

3. Under floor heating - 46%

4. American style fridge freezer - 42%

5. Granite countertops - 41%

6. Concealed appliances - 40%

7. Stainless steel appliances- 36%

8. Solar Panels - 35%

9. Free standing baths - 34%

10. Slate floor tiles - 32%

Nikki Sheehan


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