Move or Improve? How to Successfully Carry out Improvements on your Home

publication date: Nov 20, 2008
author/source: Kate Faulkner

When house prices stop rising, people often stay put and spend money on home improvements. Changes to people’s home can mean spending a few hundred pounds on painting and decorating, to hundreds of thousands of pounds on major extensions.

Kate Faulkner, author of Which? Develop your Property answers questions to help us understand the top five mistakes that people make when upgrading their home and more importantly how to avoid them! 

Q. What’s the biggest mistake people make? 
A. It’s time. People don’t put enough time aside for the project to be planned and organised. They then underestimate the time a project will take to do, trying to rush into it and often choosing poor tradespeople who are free rather than waiting for the best tradespeople to become available.   

Q. Why don't people plan long enough in advance for home improvement projects?
A. The reason is that people tend to save their money for a home improvement and then organise planning/builders/trades people to carry out the project.  But what they don't realise is that planning can take at least eight weeks to secure and good tradespeople are often booked up months, if not a year or more in advance.

Q. What other mistakes do home improvers make?
A. Well this all comes down to money and experience, and people often don’t budget correctly, forgetting to include key costs. A good example is having carpets laid. You need to cost the carpet, underlay and grippers. But one thing that is not included is the cost of taking the doors off as the new carpet is usually higher than the old one, so they won't fit and need to have the bottoms shaved off. Secondly, people often spend more on home improvements than the value the changes would make to their home. For example spending £30,000 on a kitchen in a £150,000 house is unlikely to increase its value to £180,000. As a result it is a good idea to seek expert help with the costs of the project and check how much real value it will add to your home. 

Q. What are the top three things that you SHOULD do when thinking about upgrading your home?
A. This comes back to money again. Cost out everything you need and include a 10% contingency for a property built after 1930 or 30% for older properties. Secondly, work out what you can do yourself and what requires a professional. Don’t forget some work must be done by a specialist, including electrics, gas and fitting glass. Finally, make sure you gain three quotes from trades people who belong to a trade organisation such as Electrical Contractors Association or Kitchen and Bathroom Association. You must ensure you sign an agreement with them. If they don’t have one, you can get one free from the Federation of Master Builder’s website.


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