Home Extensions Buyers Guide

Extending or Converting Your Home

home conversionsThere are statistics that state that for every self-built home there are 15 homes that get extended and that people move home only every 14.5 years – this seems to lend credence to the idea that upgrading, renovating, extending & converting the house you already live in is what people do first, before deciding to move house.

There are certain financial advantages to extending or converting your house instead of buying and movig to a new one:

  • You improve the value of your existing house
  • There is no stamp duty, solicitors or moving costs

With stamp duty at around 4% on the average 2014 UK house value (according to Wikipedia) of £274,000 you could face bill of over £10,000 just for the privilege of moving – without all the other associated expenses. This amount of money invested in extending your existing property would pay dividends.

Clearly there are loads of different options when it comes to doing some kind of home improvement (more info here), but before a single nail is hammered, what should you be considering?

Good Planning For Home Extensions Prevents Poor Results

Choosing the direction & use – do you want to go out, down or up and will the new addition mean capacity for more people (an extra bedroom for example). If you are adding to the accommodation size, part of getting the planning permission may require off-street parking being added to your home at the same time.

Access to your home needs consideration, not only after you have built the extension but also during construction for tradesmen & deliveries (concrete trucks, builders vans, delivery trucks, diggers, mixers etc). For example, are you happy to bring in everything through your front door if you are in a terraced house with no rear access?

  • Rights of way may need to be considered, both during and after the work.

Building Control & Planning Permission

Home Extensions Buyers GuideThese are things that you are virtually certain to have to deal with in the event of building any decent sized extension or conversion and need to be addressed at outset.

Using an architect may sound expensive, however for jobs under £20,000 value you could probably negotiate a fixed fee which is reasonable for the expertise that an architect can bring to the job as a whole. (Check if their charge includes any fees for planning etc.)

Even if you are an experienced DIY person who knows their way around the system and you are prepared to do all the work yourself, it is where you can come unstuck if not done properly.

  • It is a criminal offence to alter a listed building without permission

Building control is undertaken during the construction by visiting control officers whose job it is to make sure you are abiding by the regulations, when you complete a full plan submission to the local council there is a fee & this covers the stage inspections.

Choosing a Builder

This is probably the hardest part because there are so many about the UK, but if you can find a builder by recommendation from someone you know it’s a good start.

Experience & track record are key indicators to the quality of the builder, you should know what work they have done recently and speak to their previous clients about their experiences with the builder in question.

There are some accreditation's for builders such as:

  • FMB – Federation of Master Builders
  • NFB – National Federation of Builders
  • NHBC – National House Building Council

Individual trades-persons should have their own accreditation's – such as Plumbers (HVAC) or Electricians. Maybe you will be needing to increase the size of your home heating or electrics to accommodate the new room so you should make sure your builder assesses that what you have in place is capable of handling the increased workload (i.e. new kitchens & bathrooms)

Get written quotes, not estimates. Try to work with a builder who will give rock solid timescales and fixed price contracts with stage payments as this type of contract makes it in the contractors’ financial interest to get the work done to schedule– also confirm whether the quote includes any fees that could be incurred before, during or after completion & who is going to pay them.

You should also discuss things like can the contractors use your home facilities, such as your water, power or lavatory or should they provide their own.

(If the builder is charging VAT do a quick check that they have a VAT number – some less reputable builders may use it as a way to make more money from the job).

Public liability & “all-risk” insurance should be held by the contractor & you should inform you own insurance company about the work being done & adjust your cover to suit the new value of the house.

Suggested Check list

  • Have a set of objectives & a schedule – keep to them.
  • Keep money set aside for unforeseen problems or extra work.
  • Don’t get caught short for money – it’s a disaster suffered by some.
  • Think about how you are going to fund the work (cash. loan, mortgage).
  • Go for a fixed price contract. Don’t work on a “handshake”, do it properly.
  • Get several written quotes – not estimates.
  • Check the track record of any builder on your “short list”.
  • Use a builder who is recommended by someone you trust (if possible).
  • Don’t make drastic changes to the design during work – it will add costs.
  • Make sure yours & the contractors’ insurance is adequate.
  • Make sure any planning or other permissions are in place before commencing work.
  • Try to maintain a good relationship with the contractors.
  • Maintain an adequate level of overall supervision.

If you plan your work & work your plan then there is no reason why you should not be one of the many happy homeowners who are enjoying their new extensions - actually the vast majority of building works run well & without encountering major problems.

Extend or Covert Your Property.

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