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The cheapest ways to make your house worth more

Felicity Hannah

House prices are going nowhere fast and would-be sellers are battling negative equity and a sluggish market.

And if you want to sell but can’t, home improvements can grow your living space and make it easier to stay put.

That means as many as one in six Britons will undertake home improvements this weekend, a study by Santander finds, and most are saving cash by doing it without any expert help.

Doing it yourself

When money is tight, getting workmen in to make home improvements is an unaffordable luxury, even if it increases the value of your home.

In fact, a survey by HSBC showed that two-thirds of home-improvers plan to cut costs by doing it themselves rather than employing a tradesman. However, Santander claims that 13% of DIY and home improvement projects undertaken last year went wrong. It can cost a lot to put mistakes right.

So the most important rule for budget DIY is not attempting anything you actually can’t do. A botched job or a costly mistake won’t save money and won’t add value to your house.

[Related feature: When DIY is an costly mistake]

Spending more than you make

Unfortunately, some home improvements that look like easy wins may not be such great value. According to HSBC the value of some home improvements has dropped considerably.

For example, a loft conversion now adds an average of £16,152 to the value of a home, compared to nearly £21,000 last year. We contacted a large chain of builders and were told that prices start at around £17,500 for a typical home. That means the cost wouldn’t necessarily be recouped by the increase in your property’s value.

Of course, if you can’t afford to move to a larger house then such home improvements may allow you to stay put longer and accommodate a growing family.

When you factor in moving costs such as stamp duty and a removals team, not to mention a larger mortgage, you may decide it’s worth making improvements even if you won’t recoup the full cost when you eventually sell.

[Related feature: Six ways to add value to your home]

Making more than people will spend

There’s no point in carrying out expensive improvements in the hopes of boosting your home’s value if it simply can’t increase.

Put simply, if every other house on your street is worth £100,000 then people won’t necessarily be willing to spend £150,000 on your house – even if it has been extended, altered and improved.

Where to make improvements?

So what is the cheapest ways to add value to your home? Well, probably one of the easiest DIY jobs is smartening your house or flat up with a fresh lick of paint. If you’re planning to sell it in the near future, this is a chance to use neutral tones so that would-be buyers can imagine their own décor.

According to the HSBC survey, decorating the property can add £3,100 of value to a home. Even if it just helps you sell faster, it’s probably worth the relatively minor investment.

What adds the most value?

A loft conversion adds the most value to a property, at an average of £16,152. But, as the above figures show, that might not be enough to cover the outlay. In fact 3% of property valuers questioned said they had seen no increase in value as a result of a conversion.

Here are some other home improvements and how much they might increase your home’s value by.

Home improvement
Average increase in property value
Room extension
New kitchen
New windows
New bathroom
Redecorate house
Re-surface drive
Re-carpet house

If you can carry out some of this work yourself then that would cut the costs and could mean you add real value to your home.

[Related feature: Could you build your own home for less]

Cut your bills

While 28% of respondents to the HSBC survey said they were planning to redecorate rooms over the summer bank holiday weekends, just 2% said they planned to insulate the loft.

Yet this is a comparatively cheap home improvement that can make big savings. The Energy Saving Trust reckons it costs the average home between £50 and £350 to install.

If you have no insulation right now then it could save as much as £175 a year, while if you increase the insulation from 100mm to 270mm, you could save approximately £25 a year in heating costs. That’s a small investment that can cut your carbon footprint and save you money in the long term.

Your home

If you’re not planning on moving for a long time then there’s a lot to be said for getting your home the way you like it. After all, despite the nation’s obsession with house prices and equity, your property is your home first and an investment second.

Do you do DIY? Have you ever had a DIY disaster? Do you do all your own home improvements or think that people risk ruining their homes? Share your thoughts, tips and experiences with other readers in the comments below.