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Add some verve and value to your home

WE all know that moving house at the moment is tricky, but for those who are bored of their home, there is another option apart from upping sticks. Instead of moving, many people are opting to improve their homes this year to add a bit of pizazz.

However, that is easier said than done in many cases. Home improvement should not just be about improving the space to cope with your needs, but also making sure that you add value. Extra bedrooms are great for big families, but are wasted space for singletons. A spanking new kitchen might be great for those who entertain a lot, but leave families cold.

So where is the best place to spend money if you would like to better your home while you live there, but also see your investment back when you sell? Below we ask three experts for their opinions.

Option 1: Creating a multi-functional family room.
Recommended by Hugo Tugman, founder of Architect Your Home

Open-plan, adaptable spaces where you can cook, eat, play, work and entertain are extremely popular with homebuyers right now, so they will always be desirable.

Most properties, from small terrace houses through to detached properties, will be able to accommodate one. In fact, family rooms are especially suited to smaller properties as they allow spaces to overlap – in effect to be used twice. Planning permission may be needed and you will need to comply with building regulations that cover everything from the thermal efficiency of your project to the safety aspects, but your architect will be able to guide you through these things. It’s also best not to forget that noise and smells travel further in open-plan spaces, so it is advisable to invest in a good extractor fan and some quiet white goods in the kitchen.

Building one of these is fairly complex and disruptive – and can involve taking out non-essential walls. There will be periods when you have no kitchen or even water facilities, so the disruption will be significant for short spaces of time, but your builder should be able to keep these to a minimum. The costs is generally from £40,000 upwards, and build time is usually four to six months, excluding the time it takes to get planning permission.

Option 2: Adding green features.
Recommended by Hugo Tugma

Investing in the latest green technologies is also a good use of money. These are becoming ever-more popular among buyers who are keen to lower their utility bills, as well as their carbon footprint.

Grants are available, so it’s worthwhile checking if you are eligible for any funding before you get started

(www.energysavingstrust.org.uk is a good start).

Below is a selection of the most popular green features being installed in homes.

1. Cavity wall or loft insulation. Suitable for most houses built after 1920. These types of insulation are simple and cheap to install. The cost is approximately £250.

2. High-efficiency boiler. A condensing boiler captures a great deal more usable heat from its fuel and is therefore more efficient. If you replace an old G-rated boiler with a new A-rated condensing boiler you can save up to a quarter on your heating bills, for example. Cost: between £2,000 and £4,000.

3. Ground-source heat pumps. This system uses pipes buried in the garden to extract natural heat from the earth. It is usually used to warm up water for radiators or underfloor heating systems. This can be a bit disruptive as parts of your garden will need to be dug up to lay the pipes. The cost starts at £7,000 and goes up to £13,000.

4. Solar water heating. Uses heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water via solar panels fitted to the roof. Cost is from £3,000 up to £5,000.

5. Wood-fuelled heating. Generally burns wood pellets, chips or logs in order to power central heating and hot water boiler. Cost: from £3,000 up to £9,000.

Option 3: Creating a statement kitchen.

Recommended by Arabella Gurney, chief designer at interior design practice and property developers Blaze & Co.

Kitchens are now one of the most important rooms – if not the most important – to get right, and they are often the room that clinches a house sale. Planning is the key to creating a statement kitchen: no other room in the house has to cater for so many functions and people.

Using a variety of lighting is a good start – use a combination of ceiling spots, wall-mounted lights, under-counter lights, for example. If you have more money to spend, a row of dimmer switches can be replaced with a control panel with programmable “moods”. Under-floor heating beneath kitchen tiles is a relatively inexpensive thing to do, costing a few hundred pounds generally, and ceiling-mounted speakers will generally cost around the same amount. Both are very popular.

Islands are still very desirable among clients, too, so it's best to incorporate one, even if it’s tiny. Mums can serve kids their lunch there, or quickly read a recipe sat at one. They are a good place for family members to chat to the cook, too, while he or she is rustling up dinner.

The gadgets for kitchens just get more amazing but a wine cooler is almost a must – the price for these starts at around £100 upwards, and a Quooker instant hot water tap, which costs around £700, is a great luxury for anyone. No more filling the kettle and waiting.

In terms of styling, the simpler the actual kitchen units, the wider their appeal. As for counters, granite has a depth of colour, solidity, reflective surface and reasonable practicality that I think is hard to beat.


Option 4: Landscaping your garden.
Recommended by James Hyman, partner for residential sales, Cluttons estate agency.

Utilising outside space to its full potential is one of the most valuable improvements a home owner can make. Whether your home has a bijou roof terrace or capacious lawned gardens, external space will always add a premium to the sale price. Outdoor space can vastly extend the options for entertaining, relaxing and exercising, and it needs to be exploited.

A well-presented front garden – even if there’s only room for a few pots or containers – gives a home instant appeal and places an immediate sense of value in the buyer’s mind. Landscaping a garden could add up to 5 per cent to the value of a property, and can be sourced for as little as £1,000. Spending around £5,000 could really make a difference, and mean a well-designed outdoor space truly becoming an extension to the home. Larger gardens can accommodate sheds and outbuildings that can work as offices, discreet storage or as further living space.

When it comes to landscaping, the old adage of less is more is generally true. A landscape designer can help plan the best garden for you, and devise a schedule for upkeep, but you must consider how much time you have for maintenance. Do you enjoy cutting the grass and have somewhere to store a mower, for example? If not, consider reducing the amount of grassed space.

If you don't have the time or inclination to maintain a garden, keep it practical – or hire someone else to do it. An overgrown, unused garden doesn’t add value, it’s just a lost opportunity.