What are the best home improvements you can make if you want to add extra value to your property? Whether you are preparing to sell your home or just improving it to make your own life more comfortable, every homeowner will want to invest their money wisely.
© Gap interiors/inside - H&L/M Williams. Designer: Kate Moffrat
But where do you go for advice? No one knows the houses in any given area better than your local estate agent, who has probably walked through most of them, seen a hundred ways of interpreting the space available for their period of architecture, and is a fund of good ideas.
With this knowledge, estate agents are now able to offer invaluable advice on the right alterations to carry out that will enhance your lifestyle but regain your money on the selling price.
'Target expenditure where it will add most value. We use quality, mid-range materials that are sophistocated rather than fashionable'
In a new series Katrina Burroughs goes to the local experts to find out what they recommend to an owner about to embark on home improvement.
Here, she tackles the problem of a big studio space that has been badly managed. Steven Hewitt, senior property manager at estate agent Chard, sees the problem and knows the correction that will add value.
© Glenn Copus
The old flat
A one-bedroom flat in a terrace conversion in Campden Hill Gardens, Kensington. The flat cost £515,000. This raised ground-floor flat, in a handsome, Victorian double-fronted house, is in a premium location in W8. The interior has some original features, including cornices and some high ceilings. But the value, at £515,000, is surprisingly low - flats of a similar size (472sq ft) in that area can fetch almost £100,000 more.
A glance at the floorplan reveals the property's problem. The conversion features a bathroom that bites a corner out of the reception room, detracting from the attractive proportions of the original room. Not only is the bathroom ill-placed, it has a ceiling four feet lower than that of the main room, giving it the appearance of a discarded shoebox. While the bathroom is the main flaw, the wedge-shaped kitchen, set under the stairs, with some areas of wall too low to take overhead storage cabinets, is also an issue.
Swapping the kitchen and bathroom
Chard's Steven Hewitt is the specialist who has come up with a plan to help the Campden Hill Gardens flat fulfill its potential. He advises clients on simple, inexpensive alterations to extract the best rental or sale price from their property. Hewitt steers clear of "wow" features and designer brands.
"My focus is clear and always the same: target expenditure where it will add most value." He explains: "We come up with an idea of how the buyer will want to use the space, we work out the current value of the property, and its potential value, and then create a costing plan.
"Sometimes it's just a few cosmetic changes - paint the walls, renew the flooring. In this case the first job is knocking down the thin partition wall between the old living room and bathroom... you feel like you're showering next to people sitting on the sofa!" Hewitt has sketched out a revised floorplan (see illustration, right) in which the bathroom is transferred to the wedge-shaped area that the kitchen occupies at the back of the house, gaining privacy away from it all for bathers.
© Gap Interiors/Costas Picadis
The kitchen moves to the front of the house, reappearing along a wall in the reception room that has plenty of height for eye-level cupboards. The original, well-proportioned shape of the reception room is reinstated and it is transformed into an impressive and spacious dining-entertaining area.
Kitchens and bathrooms can be pricey areas to alter. Hewitt says: "We focus on using quality, mid-range materials, sophisticated rather than fashionable." For the Campden Hill Gardens kitchen, he suggests units from Howdens Trade or Lemongrass, stainless steel appliances, tiles, sink and mixer tap, at a total cost of £2,500.
For the bathroom, he prices a new bath, shower, WC, tiling, sink and vanity unit at £1,800 (from Bathstore) and proposes an American white oak solid engineered floor for the reception room, bedroom and hallway, to replace the existing laminate (about £1,200). With a lick of paint, the labour and materials work out at £12,500. In total, his simple reconfiguration and refurbishment costs about £21,150.
Doing the sums
If the owner carries out these alterations, what will the property be valued at? A raised ground-floor, one-bedroom flat of a similar size in the same road, refurbished in a comparable manner, was sold for £604,500 last year. So works costing £21,150 will probably add £89,500 to the value. For details of the property, visit chard.co.uk.