Life changes all the time, including the space you need at home. You might have realised that you love your home but you’re outgrowing it, and need more space. You’ve thought about moving, but there’s a lot of hassle and cost involved. You might also have kids who are settled in the local school, or have friends or family nearby, and you’re reluctant to give this up.
However, with some thought and planning, there are many things you can do to make your current home work better for you instead, by adding to the space you already have. There’s also the potential bonus of adding long-term value, so that if you do decide to sell your home at some point in the future, you’ll reap the rewards of your hard work now.
There are many advantages of adding to what you’ve got. More space can give you:
another bedroom, bathroom or a play area for a growing family
some independence for older kids
open plan living to make family life easier and more harmonious
a space for older parents
room to store essential items.
Unlock your home's potential
With a little imagination, there’s a multitude of things you can do to add square footage to your home, or re-organise the space you have more effectively - you just might need to look up, down or out. Have you considered a loft conversion, a basement conversion, or an extension? What about a conservatory? Look at any existing under-utilised areas you could turn into a living space. Do you have a garage that would be better-served as a play room? Whatever you’d like to do, it might cost less than you think. Local builders will often give you a free, no obligation quote.
Once you’ve reached a decision, a sensible next step is to speak to your local estate agent to sense-check your plans. This is especially important if you’re interested in adding to the long-term value of your home. Also consider the most expensive houses on your street or in your area. Your home might not sell for much more than these (known as a ‘ceiling price’ because of other factors such as local amenities), so be wary of home improvements that could mean you won’t get your money back at a later date, unless this isn’t your top priority.
Other things to bear in mind include trying to keep original house features if possible. These are often attractive to future buyers (such as doors, windows and fireplaces) and add charm and personality in the meantime.
Planning and building
Planning a build can seem like a complicated process with many steps (such as planning permission), and it’s not always clear what you need to do.
Did you know you might not even need planning permission?
Permitted development allows you to undertake a home extension or conversion as long as it doesn’t exceed certain height, boundary or volume restrictions For example, you can build a loft conversion as long as it doesn’t exceed 50m
If you want something on a bigger scale and find that you do need planning permission, you’ll need drawings of your plans. These often require completing by an architect, who can help you visualise, design and implement your new space, and oversee the build.
You can apply for planning permission online (to your local planning authority at your local council).
They will write to your nearest neighbours and anyone else affected to notify them of your plans and allow them to comment. You’ll usually receive a decision within 8 weeks.
Things to consider when choosing a builder
Ask for recommendations from friends or family who have had recent work done, especially if it’s a similar job.
Request 3 estimates so that you can compare them and make sure the price you’re being given is fair.
Meet any prospective builders in person, so that you can get a feel for their approach and work ethic.
Check their availability - a good builder is often very busy so you’ll need to book them in advance.
Agree a fixed price for the job to keep your budget under control, and make sure you stick to it. Don’t pay for it all up front - pay in installments as the job is progressed, and be clear about what is included in the price and what isn’t. If there’s a change, have it costed before it’s implemented.
It could also be a good idea to set aside a contingency budget if you can - 10% of the total cost is the recommended amount.
Think about how you’ll manage whilst work is in progress - do you need to move out (this could be the case if you’ll lose hot water, cooking, or heating facilities, or if you have small children). If so, where would you go? If you’re able to stay in your home, try to create ‘build – free’ areas if possible in which to live and cook. Also think about arranging for your builder to start work in spring/summer when it’s warmer and therefore less inconvenient if you can.