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 useable 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 spend 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, etc, 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, or in some cases English Heritage. And if your home’s 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.