A few years ago, GSPC and Glasgow University ran a project to see what added most value to your home. The conclusion we came to, based on data from thousands of sales, was that adding living space did more to increase the value of your home than anything else.
More space, not more rooms
That doesn’t mean subdividing rooms to create more rooms, but increasing the overall habitable living area – sometimes at the cost of other things like garages and gardens. In contrast, improvements such as new bathrooms or kitchens often didn’t add as much value to the property as they cost to install. Poor bathrooms or kitchens could reduce the selling price, but luxury or designer fittings often cost more than the amount they added to the sale price.
Now, that may not come as a surprise, but it has two important lessons for most us.
Improvements that cost more than they deliver
First, spending money on making our home look better will often cost more than you gain. And it is harder to avoid doing this than it sounds. Despite our best intentions, we make the natural, but flawed, assumption that other people will like what we like (and will value it as we do).
That’s not true of course. You may like Les Miserables, but others prefer Metallica (or vice versa) and these differences in taste apply as much in property as they do in music.
So, Rule One for anyone improving their home with the idea of selling it is; if you are faced with a choice between an expensive and a cheaper option, favour the cheaper option.
Of course, no rule is quite that clear cut in real life and there are a couple of caveats to this one.
In general, the higher the property value, the more important it is that the fittings are high quality ones. You can’t increase the value of a property simply by loading it with expensive fittings, but you can damage the sale of an expensive property with poor quality fittings. And avoid the obviously cheap – the stuff that looks like it will fall to pieces and probably will. Buyers will see this as a reflection of how you have looked after your home in general.
Add living space – even if it means sacrificing the garden or the garage
The second, and really the more important lesson, is that the best way of increasing the selling price of your home is to add living space.
In the project we ran with Glasgow University, we found that shrinking the size of the garden to accommodate an extension will add more value than having a larger garden. And converting at least part of an integral garage in to living space will add more value than you lose from having less garage space. Converting a loft was even more attractive because it didn’t involve the sacrifice of space that might otherwise be used for something else.
There are, of course, keen gardeners who place a premium on a large garden and car collectors for whom a garage to store their vintage treasure is essential. In other words, if you have a large garden or a large garage (or both), there will be buyers who particularly value those attributes.
But the evidence from thousands of sales and a detailed analysis of the attributes of each property, shows that buyers in general tend to value usable living space more than anything else.