Home renovations:how to extend your property with confidence

During times of economic uncertainty, many of us tend to improve the space we live in, rather than upsizing, in order to add value to the place we call home.

Will Brexit lead to a boom in home renovations and extensions? At times of economic uncertainty, people tend to be reluctant to move home, focusing instead on improvements to their existing properties – adding more space if they need it, for example, rather than making the commitment of buying a bigger place.

During the recession in 2008, the number of people moving home hit a record low, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That’s understandable. Moving to a new property exposes you to the uncertainties of trying to sell your current home, plus additional costs ranging from stamp duty to estate agents’ fees. You also have the difficult task of trying to second-guess what might happen with house prices – in the current environment, with political and economic factors changing every day, it looks particularly fraught.

Seek out expert advice
Still, a large building project carries uncertainties too and it makes sense to take advice from an expert, suggests the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba). Architects in Riba Chartered Practices comply with strict criteria covering insurance, health and safety and quality management systems.

So it pays to look for a practice with experience of your type of project or one that shares your hopes and aspirations. Visit architecture.com/FindAnArchitect.

Your architect will be with you through every step of the project and offer solutions to potential issues in advance so that you can take pre-emptive action. 


Make sure you have the right insurance
One problem to address is your home insurance policy – most insurers insist on being told if you’re carrying out renovations or building work, and you need to check you’ll have the right level of cover in place during the project.

Insurers worry that builders could unwittingly damage your property, or even the property of your neighbours; there’s also an increased chance of theft if lots of people are coming and going from the project, leaving access unsecured. If you don’t tell them about a building project and subsequently have to make a claim, you may find it is refused. And even if you do inform them that you’re having work done, it may put restrictions in place on what it will cover during the period of works – damage or theft may be excluded, for example.

Consider buying additional cover
“You need a policy that ensures your existing protection remains in place, so that your home and everything in it continues to be insured,” says Tim Slattery,  underwriting manager for personal lines at Hiscox Insurance.

“But it should also extend your cover to protect you from the additional risks you face during the work.” Don’t assume your builder will have insurance in place that covers you in every eventuality. The cover that construction firms take out varies enormously and may not protect you in all circumstances.

In the worst cases, this may prove disastrous. “I know of one case where someone’s home partially collapsed during a basement conversion and also did substantial damage to a neighbour’s property,” Slattery adds.

“The homeowner’s insurance didn’t cover this and it turned out that the builder’s insurance didn’t either because they weren’t properly qualified to do the work. The homeowner had to move out of their home, which was unsafe, continue paying an expensive mortgage, and also faced legal action from the neighbours.”

For more information about market-leading renovation and extension insurance visit hiscox.co.uk/renovation.

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