We all want that dream home: that double fronted detached Victorian house with the flowers climbing up the side of the house, right? Just me then. If your income isn’t enough to put you in a position where you are able to acquire your dream home, my 20 tips and advice will help you climb the property ladder and make you the smartest investor you know. After learning from my mistakes, here’s my list.
1. Focus on fixing
Before beginning, consider cosmetic improvements and repairs like new extensions, bathrooms, kitchens, flooring and redecorating. You need to fix any major structural problems. ‘You can wallpaper over the crack’ is the old saying, but these problems will come back to bite you and you will only be fooling yourself, not the person who is completing the valuation on the property, which will only delay the process of moving forward.
Examples of things you should take notice of include:
- Rotten joists or roof timbers
- Sagging or leaking roof
- Rising damp
- Structural cracks to walls
- Bowing walls
- Insect infestation
- Missing or broken roof tiles
- Cracking in the chimney stack
- Sunken or cracking in the floor/slabs.
Is it the end of the world if you have any of these issues? NO! It can all be repaired, but at what cost? The areas we have listed are most likely to be the most costly expense but knowing you have corrected any of these issues will not only give you peace of mind. It will also give your potential buyers confidence and most importantly, the best possible chance when it comes to the dreaded mortgage valuation.
Our sister company Build It Smart offer a service for this exact scenario. You simply book a 1-hour appointment with our experienced builder and he will give you a list of defects and also the cost to correct any defects or issues that he spots. Click here for more information.
This is the first step in your project. You need to have these problems pointed out and repaired, as speaking from experience on my first home, I tried to ignore this part to stretch my budget and ended up paying double and triple to fix problems further down the line. Annoying? Yes, but crucial.
2. Complete the To-do List
Everyone has an annoying list they give to their partners: the dreaded to-do list! D.I.Why? We hate it! You need a million tools to complete the smallest of tasks on the list but, deep down, you know it needs doing.
Don’t panic. Wirral and Liverpool builders, Glassar Projects have got your back. We’ve taken the time to complete a to-do list for you! Take a look at the list below. You’re welcome!
- Peeling paint
- Squeaking or sticking doors and windows
- Door latches that don’t work
- Broken or damaged windows
- Mouldy sealants in kitchen and bathroom
- Dripping taps
- Lifting flooring
- Loose tiles
- Sewer smells
- Squeaky floors and stairs
- Cracks to ceilings and plaster work
3. Storage Space Is A Must
The more minimalist a property, the more creative you need to be with your storage solutions. Utilise every square foot of any property including areas you might not see as a useful space at first. Everyone has stuff they need to store, so take a look for:
- Concealed nooks in corridors
- Chimney alcoves
- Under-stair space
- Space in the eaves
- Cellars or attic that can be upgraded
- Wall space for wall-mounted cupboards.
You can always have a look at a neighbours’ properties as there are times that storage spaces have been boarded up or concealed by previous owners, especially in period properties.
4. The Kitchen
I know im not the only one who thinks an amazing-looking kitchen can be a great investment. Whatever the style, the key points I would follow are:
- Don’t go too bold with colour
- Keep it hygienic
- As much natural light as possible
- Added features, like LED lighting or a wine cooler
There are things to consider when you begin a kitchen renovation and, to be honest, the choice of kitchens nowadays is almost overwhelming.
You don’t always have to break the bank in order to get your dream kitchen. Almost always, kitchen carcasses are made of the same material (melamine-covered chipboard). This is because they are cheap to manufacture. By arming yourself with this knowledge, you won’t be fooled by any salesman nonsense.
Take advantage of simply fitting new door fronts and worktops. A great material which I have in my own home, is quartz. It looks fantastic and it’s a lot cheaper than lookalike worktops (such as granite or corian). Quartz worktops are extremely low maintenance and come in every colour and design imaginable.
If you have a smaller budget, that doesn’t always mean you’re going to end up with something you are unhappy with. For example, my first home was a 4-bedroom detached Edwardian house (I probably bit off more than I could chew at the time). The kitchen space I had to fill was around 20m². Instead of throwing in the towel when my budget was stretched, I got creative.
I sourced wardrobe carcasses (melamine-covered chipboard) that were on sale in IKEA for £15 each. So I purchased four of them to create a bank of four larder units with space in the centre for my ovens and microwave which I clad in MDF. I then sourced more carcasses from Ebay to create a large central island. I then waited until the January sales and purchased all of my doors for less than half price. In my opinion, the results were pretty impressive. Not to everyone’s taste but I didn’t hear a bad word about it. Please see some of the photographs below, taken on my mobile phone.
If you are at all confused about your layout, this is something your kitchen company will help you out with. At Glassar Projects and Build It Smart, we charge around £1,200– £1,800 for kitchen installation, depending on the size of the kitchen.
People say the kitchen is the heart of the home and it certainly is the most used communal space in any home, so it makes total sense to invest in this space. There has never been an easier time to source materials, so by being smart and, with a little bit of help from Google, you can create a great-looking kitchen that doesn’t break the bank. Or, if you have a good-sized budget, simply visit a high-end kitchen manufacturer. Porcelanosa is one of my favourites. I have been told that they offer pensioner discount, which is something you may be able to use with the help of an older family member.
Bathrooms should look and feel fresh and hygienic, so make sure the tiles and lighting in a bathroom are on-point, as it can make a smaller space appear a lot bigger. If you don’t want to tile, you should consider painting. There are many water-based paints available on the market that can really help you out with gaining the ‘tiled’ look without spending a fortune. We prefer water-based products as they are more environmentally friendly.
At Glassar Projects, we love a luxurious feel to a bathroom, so take into consideration different textures and lighting options to get this look and really give your bathroom that wow-factor for added value. Showers in bathrooms are a must, so try your best to get one installed if you haven’t already. Always consult your plumber and the manufacturer’s specifications for what water pressure and boiler system you have before purchasing your shower. In some cases a booster pump will need to be installed at around £500, including installation. Builditsmart.co.uk offer an all-in-one ‘electrical shower installation’ package that starts at around £350 for the shower itself, with all the necessary cabling installed.
Take the existing sanitary ware into consideration. People don’t want to walk in and see a 1970s avocado-coloured bathroom suite. Some things just never come back into fashion, that being one of them! A basic suite can be bought at around £400 and can be installed for a further £350–£550.
If your budget allows, you may want a wet room, which is a great look and it really does have that wow-factor. You can consider different floor finishes like heavy duty vinyl, which is generally related to disabled wet rooms and could be a cheaper option, but we prefer a more modern ceramic or porcelain-tiled finish.
Ventilation in any bathroom, en-suite or w/c is a building regulation that should be met. Get rid of that old suite, clean that mouldy grout, and buy yourself a new shower screen. Our bathroom refurbishment prices start at around £4,000 excluding tiles and suite, which must be chosen by the customer, but the price does include installation and fitting of the tiles and suite.
6. Existing Space
In most cases, extending a property’s footprint is a no-brainer to add value, but before you do anything, why don’t you take a closer look at the existing space? The easiest way to see if a new design will work or not is by simply sketching your ideas. Or, if you are familiar with CAD (computer-aided design), then this is another quick option and can be used to send to an architect or designer via email. There are also free online CAD software options which you can experiment with if you’re looking to knock out walls, move walls, change floor finishes and so on.
The work required to knock down walls and make any structural changes should, for safety, be completed by companies like us, Wirral Builders Glassar Projects. Or you may have to consult an architect or structural engineer if steel calculations are needed for the support and removal of any walls.
There is huge demand on the Wirral and Liverpool for open-plan living. This can still be achieved without the construction of an extension and, in most cases, you would have to settle for an open-plan kitchen/dining area, which is still a great option for giving the illusion of more space than there actually is. Large home builders take full advantage of this, as it gives the impression of more space. At Glassar Projects, you can expect to pay around £1000–£2500 for a knock through with steels and a plastered finish, with all waste material removed.
7. Bathrooms & En-suites
Bathrooms, shower rooms and en-suites are a fantastic way to add real value to a home. This is possible to achieve without the need to extend and can be fitted around your current layout by remodelling. If you can manage to add w/c facilities to every floor of your home that contains a bedroom, you are onto a winner. Our bathrooms and en-suites start at around £4,000.
Make sure that any bathroom or en-suite you add is in proportion to the room. Around one bathroom to every three bedrooms is a good rule of thumb. Any +more bedrooms and you may want to consider adding an en-suite.
You can be as creative as you want with shower rooms. Starting measurements can be as small as 1m by 2.4m. This may be particularly useful in older Victorian homes where many bathrooms were located on the ground floor. Moving them upstairs can be very appealing but losing a bedroom can devalue a property in certain cases. So if you can squeeze a shower room or en-suite into an existing bedroom, then we say why not?
8. Does Everything Work?
Ask yourself, does everything work the way it should? We’ve all had those light switches or plug sockets that are upside down or in the wrong place. When I was younger, I remember my grandma having to climb behind her bookcase every time she wanted to switch the living room light on! Whether it be freshening up new light switches and sockets, or sorting out those radiators with 16 layers of paint on them, you’ll be doing yourself (and potential buyers and mortgage valuers) a favour!
- Check electricity in your home. Make sure you get an electrician to check all your current wiring. Talk to your electrician about possible upgrades and alterations to your current installation. They are the best people to speak to on all modern accessories and additions to your current setup.
- Adding twin sockets with USB ports is a great way to modernise any home as it allows anyone to charge their phones, tablets and other accessories they might have. This will add value to any property.
- Adding LED lighting to the kitchen or even your garden. It can make the most average-looking space look incredible. There are also many Smart Home options available on the market nowadays, from home entertainment systems, like Sonos, to security options like Ring doorbells containing CCTV cameras.
- It is extremely important that all your electrics meet current building regulations and are RCD protected.
- Pipework in many old homes can get clogged up and lead to poor hot and cold water pressure. There are also times where you can hear knocking and banging from old pipework which can lead to the pipes bursting in extreme cases. Consult your plumber on the possibility of changing your heating system from gravity-fed to a pressurised system, as this will free up any space that an old water tank might currently use, which can be used as storage space.
- Always consider a combi boiler for ease of use and maintenance. But always consult your plumber as he might recommend that you go for a cylinder tank (this is where your hot water is stored and can be very effective in the right homes).
The main reason to point out the above issues is that, at the end of the day, we all love a nice, hot shower with great water pressure!
9. Quality Heating
Update your heating system where possible. How many times have you heard someone say over the years that their boiler has broken down or doesn’t seem to have the right pressure? Or maybe the radiators don’t heat up sufficiently? With the government determined to roll out combination boilers to home owners in a fight to reduce energy consumption, many properties on the Wirral and Liverpool have been changed from conventional to combination or “combi” boiler systems over the years
It’s essential to get an expert heating engineer or plumber to advise you on the best port of call when making updates and alterations to an existing home. A new central heating system can cost upwards of £4,000 and is essential to any home. Most importantly, it is essential to future buyers and mortgage valuers.
You may want to think of other improvements you can make to keep your home nice and toasty in the winter. These can include:
- Adding insulation into the loft space (click for more information)
- Investing in double glazing
- Ensuring drafts around doors and windows are sealed
- Installing Smart Home Thermostats from Nest & Hive
Don’t be scared to experiment with your ideas on how to heat your home. Adding heated towel rails and mirrored heaters to a bathroom can make a great addition cosmetically as well as functionally. You may want to consider electric or water-fed underfloor heating. Or, on a grander scale, heat conversion pumps or solar energy.
10. Add Space With An Extension
Improving value on any property is pretty straightforward. The more space you have, the better. A huge aspect of this is the number of bedrooms your property has. It doesn’t only add value (and impress mortgage valuers!) but it also adds interest from possible buyers in the future, regardless if they will actually use all of the bedrooms in a property.
Now, this is harder than it sounds. Generally, on the Wirral and Liverpool, all of our sleeping quarters are on the first floor. So, unless someone comes up with an anti-gravity way of building, you will have to build a ground floor and first floor extension over the top over it, unless you can build over an existing garage, of course.
Loft conversions are becoming more and more common as people find it time consuming and expensive to find and buy another property to fit their needs. Why move when you can simply customise your existing home by adding a loft conversion or extension? In our opinion, it’s a no-brainer as you achieve two key things. Firstly, you (or your architect) can design a space that works around you and your family, and, secondly, you are almost 100 percent likely to increase the value of your home.
Wirral and Liverpool Builders Glassar Projects are extension specialists, the difference with us being our customer ratings and quality of work. When choosing a builder, I’m sure you have always been advised to get 3 quotes and generally go with the cheapest. For me, that doesn’t make any sense. Do you apply this method to any other aspect of your life? I guarantee you don’t, so why choose this method when deciding on a builder? Like most people, we go with our hearts and our heads. You should ask yourself these questions:
- Do I trust this person?
- How do I know what the work is going to turn out like?
- Will their finish be what I want?
- Will they help me make decisions?
At Glassar Projects, we put our clients’ fears to rest. How? By showing them proof via our online video portfolio and, most importantly, our reviews. Our reviews speak for themselves, with many 5-star google reviews, reviews on Facebook, reviews on Houzz.com and also named Houzz.com Award Winner for Customer Satisfaction 2018. There isn’t another builder on Merseyside that can say that!
We know the sacrifices you have to make to save or gather the funds to build an extension on your home because we have done it ourselves. It’s a pain! We can’t predict the future but we can use the past as evidence to help us make a calculated decision when choosing the right builder. When searching, you should be looking for:
- A builder who has a great reputation
- An expert
- 5 star reviews
- Pride in their brand
- Video evidence of previous work
- Knowledge and access to current building trends
- Awards or accreditations
Glassar Projects ticks every one of these bullet points and more. Don’t be swayed by a family friend who suggests ‘Bob the Builder’, who’s a friend of a friend, who you know nothing about. You wouldn’t do it when buying anything else so don’t do it when it comes to choosing a builder.
11. Know Your Stuff
Whether you’re looking to upsize or downsize, you should always be switched on. There are many opportunities for people to extend the amount of land they own. Now you might be thinking, why would I want to? Simple: land and housing will never be as cheap as it is today. That is a quote that has always stuck with me, and it couldn’t be truer.
If ever the opportunity would arise that you can purchase extra land at a reasonable price, then jump at it. This being said, you must always remember that 90 per cent of areas across the Wirral and Liverpool have a ceiling cap. A ceiling price? Yes! A ceiling price is the maximum cost statistically of what other peoples homes have been purchased for in a particular area. A good way to find out what previous homes in your area have sold for is to use Mouseprice.com. Now, if we were in the centre of London, then those words wouldn’t really exist but in the rest of the country, they do! Let’s say, for example, you buy a house for £150,000 but the average house price in your area is £225,000. Now you wouldn’t go and spend another £150,000 on your house, as that would mean you have spent a total of £300,000 on a house that sits in an area with a ceiling price of £225,000.
You must remember that mortgage valuers only value houses in a particular area on previously sold properties. This rule does change slightly depending on the current state of the property market.
By purchasing adjoining land, you can also significantly increase the value of a property, especially if:
- Enhances what you already have (for example, a bigger garden or driveway)
- Gives you the opportunity to extend in the future
- Keeping live stock or horses can make a house very attractive
If you have extra land but don’t have the funds to build, why not get planning permission for a future project? This will increase the value at a fraction of the price.
Conservatories are a great way to not only add extra room to your living space but also can add a lot of value for little expense. But it does need to be relevant and sympathetic to your current layout otherwise you could be heading for disaster.
Wirral & Liverpool Builders Glassar Projects conservatory builds start around £4,000. In most cases, it will not require planning permission, although it will have to comply with current Building Regulations. On period properties, we wouldn’t suggest a standard conservatory. Depending on the ratio of cost to value, a bespoke conservatory or orangery is likely to make more sense.
There are pros and cons to building a conservatory and I am sure we are all aware of someone with one who complains that it’s unbearably hot in the summer and unbearably cold to use in the winter. This is due to its thermal properties and the amount of glazing that is used.
Conservatories have come a long way from the 1990’s conservatory boom but you will be surprised that these issues of use still appear nowadays. Take into consideration which direction your house is facing as this could be crucial when choosing a location for the conservatory. I doubt it is something a conservatory sales person will mention.
New double-glazed windows can add considerable value to a property and, are considered essential by most buyers, regardless of their style or lack of it. Pvcu or Upvc windows require very little maintenance and have good energy efficient values, depending on the manufacturer and are typically very secure.
Good looking or bad looking windows can make a huge impression. Not only are they a design feature but they can change a space massively and are very important to mortgage valuers and new buyers. Not only for there appearance but for there functionality.
It’s amazing how different a well-glazed home can look compared to one with older windows. The most popular choice would be PVCu, which you can now purchase in many different colours (anthracite grey is quite popular at the moment). PVCu are low maintenance, energy efficient and, with multipoint locking, are very safe.
There are also other options on the market from timber to aluminium which are probably the most expensive and generally used on commercial buildings, but do look pretty amazing. If you have it in your budget to pick any, I would always go for aluminium for one simple reason: quality. They stand the test of time and the window frames are usually of a slimmer profile to PVCu windows which make the whole design of a house look more sleek and expensive. They also look great on almost every style of property.
If you have any damaged windows (units) , they should be replaced, this is a lot easier to do than you might think.
You can run into issues if your home is grade 1 or 2 listed or sits in a conservation area. If you are unsure, contact your local council. Where we are located, it’s either the Wirral or Liverpool councils. For most homes in most cases, you’re generally OK to choose as you like, and we can also help out with the installation of your windows, if needed.
Remember these keys things when choosing new windows:
- Ensure the style is in-keeping with your property type
- Get your proportions right
Check the manufacturer (are they accredited or awarded?)
14. Loft Conversion
Loft conversions. Some people love them, some people hate them, but one thing is for sure: they are on the up… literally! Glassar Projects costs around £550–700/m² for a loft conversion, compared to around £700–£1000 for an extension.
There are pros and cons with loft conversions. They look great on the inside, they provide more room, possibly include an en-suite. Sounds good, right? It is, but as long as you have the space for a staircase and, in many scenarios, this can be quite tricky to fit in without it looking like an eyesore. Some dorma extensions can also look quite ugly from an exterior point of view. Do these small issues devalue a loft conversion in anyway? Beauty is in the eye of beholder, as they say.
Natural light can be key when extending any part of the home. Therefore, there has never been a better time than now for glazing solutions in the home, especially for a loft conversion. Many large glazing manufacturers like Velux provide simple solutions to combat this problem. They even make an open out window balcony solution, but you might need to consult your local council on planning permission to install one.
Remember that, when making changes to a property, you must consult your local council. Trust me when I say they are not the enemy. They are there to give you help and advice in creating something that will add great value to the property and most importantly that any changes comply with current building regulations, ensuring that it is safe. For example, current building regulations require an enclosed means of escape for loft conversions. Which means adding fire doors to all habitable rooms leading onto the halls and staircase.
A loft conversion does not require planning permission, which is great news, but we would recommend getting some good design ideas and drawings. The issues discussed above can all not only be resolved but usually avoided with good design and planning. If you need any help or advice in designs or connecting you with the right architects, please contact us.
15. Outdoor Living
Now, we all have days where we are so overwhelmed by the task at hand and this can definitely be said for the garden.
By simply changing your perspective on your garden, you will truly appreciate its value. Will a garden put a lot of people off if it’s not kept neat and tidy? Yes. Buyers, along with mortgage valuers, want to see a space being used to its full potential.
Privacy is very important and giving your garden a feeling of seclusion will add real value. There are ways to achieve this, especially if you have overlooking neighbours which is no big deal but, in reality, we all want our own corner of quietness and tranquillity so that we can truly relax. Think about the addition of fences and planting trees. Planning permits walls and fences up to a height of 2m but this can vary, so it’s best to double check with your local council.
Be creative! The garden is one place you can afford to be bold and make a statement. The addition of a BBQ, pergolas or even a hot tub can turn the most inhabitable of gardens into something fun and fresh, and simply a place you want to hang out or spend quality time with friends and family.
There isn’t really any excuse for an unkempt garden. Either do it yourself or even pay a local garden maintenance company to come every couple of weeks to mow the grass and tidy everything up. This can continue into the winter months, changing to once every three weeks, and will pay for itself when summer returns and your garden looks fantastic.
Memorability. It sounds like a made up word, but it is: “the quality or state of being easy to remember or worth remembering”.
This is a must for any home owner who is trying to add value to their home. Think about it from a valuers or buyer’s point of view. What one or two things would you remember from your home as it currently stands? If you can’t think of any then get some inspiration. Take a look at Houzz, Right Move and nosey into other people’s homes for inspiration and ideas.
Interior cladding or certain textures and finishes can have a wow-factor but take it easy and don’t go over the top otherwise you will run the risk of your home looking and feeling like a bar. If you have a higher budget, you should consider a flameless glass extension. They really give that wow-factor to any style of property.
17. Character Features
As a builder, I have seen some crazy alterations to period houses, especially Victorian properties. I’ve seen it all from blocking up original fireplaces with shoddy plasterboard or to destroying decorative coving. I think there was a period in the 70s where people just simply lost their minds when it came to interior design.
However, adding features can also work the other way. I think the point I’m trying to make is ensure that features are correct for the period of your property. It’s easy to try and cram all your ideas into one place, but this can cost you in the end, as not everyone will have the same taste.
Consider removing from a home to increase its value:
- Wrong period details, such as mouldings or fireplaces
- Pine cladding
- Stone wall cladding
- Polystyrene ceiling tiles
- Textured ceilings or walls
- Fake beams
- Damaged laminate flooring
- Inappropriate porches
- Roller interior doors
- Random windows that don’t match
- Polycarbonate conservatory roof
Add value by restoring or replacing the following:
- Original or period-style fireplaces
- Stair banisters and handrails
- Appropriate windows
- Decorative mouldings
- Panelled doors
- Sanded and polished floorboards
- Knot-free panelled doors
Concealed timber beams or beams concealed behind masses of paint.
18. Parking Pain
Parking can be a real pain but if you have the space, then why not create your own off-road parking? Off road parking isn’t just convenient. It’s also a great investment to boost the value of your property. If this means damaging or removing a front garden lawn or flower beds, we would say do it.
Most households have two or more cars nowadays so off-road parking can be invaluable to many houses. You may be losing a front garden but you are creating kerb appeal and you’re turning a high-maintenance front garden into a low-maintenance practical, useful space.
Before you get a mini digger, always consult your local council for advice. You might need planning permission or have to adhere to certain constraints.
19. First Impressions Count
Our parents always told us when we were young to not judge a book by its cover, but I thinks it’s safe to say they were wrong. We all do it. It’s in us humans to gather first impressions and make a split-second decision. Unfortunately the same goes for houses. So consider purchasing a front door that really tells valuers and possible buyers what the house is about. This can be said for any age of property and, again, make sure the points people pick up on (windows and doors) are in keeping with the general design of the house. You would never see PVCu windows on a Tudor building and there’s a reason for that.
Take notice of the following:
- Re-painting doors and windows
- Re-pointing brickwork
- Replacing or adding a house sign or number
- Replacing an old garage door
- Changing/repairing windows
- Repainting walls
- Repairing cracked or broken cladding, such as render or timber
- Removing stone cladding
- Adding a porch
- Adding climbing plants or trellis
To create drastic changes and give your property a facelift, consider rendering old, tired brickwork. There are many different types of silicone-based render available that you don’t have to paint once applied. Change fascias and guttering, as this can really freshen up an old property.
If you aren’t sure on what direction to go in, we offer a Photo editing service. This allows us to make all the changes and take a look at the changes you are suggesting without actually making them in real life. It’s a good option if you find it difficult to imagine a finished project.
20. Stand Out From the Crowd
This article provides you top tips and advice to help you stand out from the crowd. I have made some extravagant suggestions and some not-so extravagant ideas, to show what the possibilities are, regardless of your budget. A lot of what’s been said is simply common sense, as people will simply attract to the more attractive things in life. So, by gathering ideas and managing your expectations, you will add value to any property. It’s possible to add 10 per cent to a property’s value by simply painting the interior to a high standard and dressing the interior up, which may surprise some people. Some simple tips that will make a difference include:
- Wooden floors especially parquet
- Styling with furniture, lamps, accessories and flowers
- Repainting throughout freshens things up
- Re-opening fireplaces
- Upgrading to LED lightbulbs
- Cleaning windows inside and out
- Renovate your kitchen and bathrooms
- Sanding floorboards(great idea in Victorian homes)
- Creating storage
- Stripping and re-painting woodwork
10 per cent isn’t nearly as much as you could achieve, and your job is to make valuers want to value your property for as much as possible. We are always here to help and guide you as best as we can. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and almost have too much choice! This guide is designed to help you clarify what’s important and how you can take action
Thank you for reading.