I live in London and the flat I own was a rental property before I bought it. The landlords had put in a very cheap kitchen and bathroom. Upstairs the room layout was unworkable, there was what estate agents described as a single bedroom but which I felt was unusable because it was an inner room with no window (just a skylight) and two double bedrooms. When I bought it, it had been on the market for quite a long time (a little over six months) because the flat clearly needed work.
My first task was to move the upstairs rooms around to make a better layout. That was a horrible dusty and dirty task and I used a firm of builders to do it for me as it involved putting in a support beam. The cost was around £4,000 for a range of tasks including building a suite of fitted wardrobes in my new bedroom and shelves in the room I use as a study. But now I have a workable three bedroom flat with the additional bedroom adding around £30,000 to the value of the property and acting as my study when I work on my London lifestyle blog. This was the ONLY expensive change I made to the property that raised the value.
The kitchen was refitted with smart new units and the layout changed so that there is space for a small table. We all have our own taste in kitchen styling and after moving house several times, I've realised that I am better buying a house where the kitchen needs refitting - I save money on the price of the property that I re-invest in my new 'dream' kitchen. But, I don't believe that I necessarily increase the value of the property over and above what I spend on the kitchen I fit (about £15,000). It does however give me a property that I'm comfortable living in.
More significantly when it comes to selling the property, sometimes it is just cosmetic changes that make the difference. In the kitchen I now have a nice shiny stainless steel workbench that was made for me for just £200 and fitted by a friend, which works as a breakfast bar. And, the black granite countertops look a lot smarter with an accent toaster and kettle in bright yellow which cost around £60 for the pair! It's not what I spent on the kitchen refit that people will buy, it's the styling and personal touches that make it a home.
In the case of the bathroom, I am a little less in need of a 'dream' room. Thankfully, what I actually prefer is a simple white suite which I find restful as well as easy to keep clean. I fit good quality taps and radiators though, and believe that clever use of plain tiling can make a room that was previously very shabby look much more finished. So, in the case of my current flat, the bathroom refurbishment will have added value to the property without costing more than the few hundred pounds I spent on paint, tiles, taps and a towel radiator.
All in, I've probably spent about £25,000 to £30,000 on my flat, which I bought for £350,000. It's now worth well over £650,000 (about 8 years later), but obviously part of that of that is due to the rise in prices in London. I don't generally buy property that I am not planning to live in myself for some time and so, for me part of the 'value' is having a home that is as I want it to be.
The biggest pain and also the biggest gain was moving the layout of the bedrooms around. But, simple fixes like changing the radiators, putting a quality wooden floor down in living areas, re-tiling bathrooms and changing the taps and radiators are generally things that add value by making the property look much more attractive to a potential buyer. And, they don't have to cost a lot, I shop around for good prices and employ builders who I know or who are recommended to me.