A combination of low interest rates and high property prices have made extending or refurbishing existing property an increasingly popular option.
Nearly every estate agent will tell you that rising house prices, especially in desirable areas, have made moving to something better more expensive, but also means people are less concerned about investing in their homes. Consequently improving or enlarging what you’ve got rather than moving has become more attractive.
But think carefully before you start turning your house into your dream home. Poorly thought out and badly built renovations or extensions can be expensive, while a little planning and some homework could save you huge headaches and a small fortune.
Most experts will tell you that the key is to decide exactly what you want done and what your budget is, rather than having a vague idea which can gradually evolve into a major, expensive project.
Also consider whether your planned upgrade will add value to your home. For example a swimming pool may bring you family a lot of enjoyment during summer, but it may not mean you’re able to sell the house for a lot more. You also need to think about whether any increase in property value will offset the installation and maintenance costs.
On the other hand, converting underused space into an extra bedroom, bathroom or living area will add value. For example, an attic conversion could provide more living space or an outbuilding might be turned into an attractive cottage or office.
Before renovating think about the following:
- Be honest. Are you making a lifestyle improvement, such as installing a Jacuzzi, or do you want to increase the value of your property? Lifestyle improvements that may only appeal to you are less likely to pay for themselves. Practical benefits such as more living space, should enable you to sell the house for more. Deciding on whether you want to improve your lifestyle or property value will help inform the decision about the budget and whether you should get a loan and for how much.
- Set the parameters. Decide exactly what it is you want to do. On larger projects it is worth paying for some expert advice from an architect or designer and getting plans drawn up. Make sure that the builder or installer understands exactly what it is you want and put this in writing.
- Check credentials. Always deal with builders or installers who belong to a professional association such as the Master Builders’ Association http://www.mbsa.org.za or Kitchen Specialists’ Association http://www.ksa.co.za. Don’t just rely on the membership of a professional body, ask for and check references.
- Do your homework. Many professional associations have websites which are a good source of advice for first-time home improvers. An online search should also give you a good idea of some of the do’s and don’ts.
- Stay involved. Ask questions during the construction. Understand what’s being done and why. Ask about any possible budget overruns, such as having to move a pipe or electrical conduit. Also double-check the price of building supplies to make sure you’re not being ripped off.
- Flag the snags. Once the work is completed check it carefully and share the snag list with the builder or installer. You should do this as soon as possible after the work is completed. Don’t hand over the final payment until you’re happy the snags have been resolved.