One of the key mantras of the property business is that it costs more to buy space than it does to build it. In other words, extend if you can and buy a bigger house only if you must. But don’t do either of these things if it means neglecting every day maintenance on your house, or value-adding basics like central heating.
Convert or extend?
These are the three options for getting extra space. Loft & cellar conversions don’t usually need planning permission because they fall within the golden rule of “permitted development”.
But – and with planning there is always a but – there are a number of restrictions on doing anything to the roofline, or adding verandas and so on. The Planning Portal is a good place to research what you can and can’t do.
Loft conversions are a lot cheaper than extensions – some estimates put the building cost at half that for an extension. However, they don’t add the same amount of value as extensions do. There’s always a problem with access to the loft. If a pull-down ladder is used, many people won’t want to use it and that restricts the amount of value that it’s going to add when you come to sell, so plan for a staircase!
One of the easiest ways to add value at a reasonable expense is to restructure the living space on the first floor, to produce an extra bedroom and possibly also another bathroom. In some period properties, the master bedrooms are enormous and carving the space up differently produces an extra bedroom which has reasonable dimensions.
If your lucky enough to have a cellar, convert it properly, if its not tanked and water tight and has no means of escape, it will not be classed as habitable living space when you come to sell!
Architectural Technicians – useful professionals for conversions
If you want to reallocate the space on the first floor of your house, to provide another bedroom, you’d be well advised to get help with drawing up the plans. You don’t necessarily need to employ an architect – you could use an architectural technician.
These useful people have professional certification, and provide a planning and design service, particularly on the kinds of projects that may be too small for an architect, or which involve conversion and refurbishment rather than a new building. They are able to take a view of a space, suggest how it could be better used, draw up plans and manage the project. They often work in architects’ practices, or in surveyors’ offices.
They have a website, which begins somewhat unpromisingly with “Architectural Technology is the technology of architecture”. You’re kidding us right? However, once you get past the introduction, the site has a lot of interesting detail on what this profession can do.
On some kinds of projects, where the type of material being used is important, they can provide the ability to translate your ideas into practical reality, while respecting the construction of the existing building.
Larger extensions without planning permission – act before the 2019 deadline
Extensions definitely top the list of value-adding house improvements. Currently, there is an opportunity to extend further than you would normally be allowed to and without planning permission , as long as the work will be finished by 2019, and the building work consists of a single-storey rear extension.
But as with all planning, there is a blizzard of regulations that you have to meet, and even though you don’t need planning permission, you do have to tell the planning authority that you’re going for a larger extension. The limits are 4 to 8 metres for detached houses and 3 to 6 metres for any other kind of house – that’s quite a large area.
Again, check the planning portal for the whole list.
Flats aren’t necessarily included
If you have say, a ground floor flat and want to extend it, then you will need planning permission, as the permitted development rights don’t necessarily apply to flats or maisonettes.
This is where professional advice can help to prevent an expensive mistake. If you get a qualified surveyor, architect or architectural technician in at the beginning, they can tell you even before the first set of plans is drawn up, whether your proposal is likely to be approved, or falls within permitted development.
There are forms that you can download, to tell any affected neighbours that you are going to be putting in a larger extension.
Will your building materials blend in?
One of the planning regulations says that materials used in an extension must be of similar appearance to those used in the existing house. So a block of red brick attached to a sandstone house is likely to cause an issue. It’s also likely to be a waste of money, because one way to subtract value from a house is to tack on a badly thought-out extension which makes the whole house less attractive.
Also, be aware that there’s stone and then there’s stone. People who have just moved into an area may just think “stone” and specify no further. They could get a nasty surprise, when they see that their extension is a completely different colour from the rest of the house. It’s best at this stage to get advice from a masonry specialist, Huddersfield Masonry, who know how to match stone with stone.
One of the key pieces of knowledge we have, is how each type of stone will weather. There are cheaper alternatives to stone that look just like it. Well they do at first, anyway. Not so much like it after a few years’ of hard Yorkshire winters. There’s a reason that local builders built houses out of local stone in the first place – they knew that it would stand up to the local climate.
This doesn’t mean that you have to build a replica of a period house. But you can still you can pick up stone in the detailing, such as paths, window sills and so on. Look around for examples of extensions that you think have been done well and take a picture – similarly, note any that you think have spoiled the house. These are both useful once you start talking to your builder.
And talking of stone …. will a shepherd’s hut add value?
David Cameron recently lashed out £25,000 on a shepherd’s hut for the garden of his place near Chipping Norton. Samantha Cameron has painted it in tasteful shades of Clunch, Old White and Mouse’s Back, from who else? Farrow and Ball.
Apparently unaware of the overtones of Marie Antoinette playing at being a milkmaid, Mr. Cameron has commented that it is now a very nice colour which goes with the Cotswold stone of his house.
So should homeowners in Huddersfield be rushing to get out the Farrow and Ball colour chart and decide which colour best complements Huddersfield sandstone? “Mole’s Breath” perhaps, or “Dead Salmon”, or there again “Plummett”? Should they in fact, be putting plans for an extension on hold, and investing instead in a shepherd’s hut?
It’s true that many people are looking at alternatives to traditional extensions. Some are building guest cabins, garden office pods and others placing garden rooms at a short distance from the house. Is this dead money, or can it yield a return?
Garden rooms beat cabins for adding value
Many people look at the cost of building an extension and decide that instead of a guest bedroom, they’ll just buy a cabin, at a third of the price. This looks like a great investment – however you may need planning permission if you want to connect the cabin to mains water and sewerage.
And buildings such as sheds which are not a permanent part of the house don’t count towards the valuation if you go to remortgage. So you may have a fancy cabin that cost thousands but it won’t necessarily increase the value of the house for mortgage purposes.
A garden room is a different proposition. Whether connected to the house or not, if it is aesthetically pleasing – such as an oak-framed structure, it will add value to your house. While cabins are a lot cheaper initially, they cost a lot more to heat once summer is over. The key factor is insulation, with garden rooms usually well insulated and double glazed.
Just make sure that your cabin is sized to suit the garden. Very few buyers want something the size of a scout hut that blocks out the view from the house. You can have too much timber in the garden.
On the other hand, garden rooms look great with some local stone in the mix, and large windows that allow you to enjoy the house and garden from a different viewpoint. And when it comes to adding value, garden rooms win hands down.