Live with a loft conversion or move on?
Loft conversion is a booming business. And it’s not hard to see why. Stamp duty hikes and lots of media hype about housing prices and shortages. Suddenly, converting an empty attic into a useable room seems the obvious answer if you need more space.
But, before you call in the builders, what are the pros, cons and considerations of a loft conversion?
Lofts conversions increase value as well as space
It’s estimated a loft conversion can add 10% or more to the value of your property. That means it can be a sensible option even if you’re going to eventually move. And the additional space, which might be used as an office, bedroom or snug, can add interest for potential buyers, giving your property a bit of an edge.
But not all lofts are right for conversion
A sloping ceiling, low beams and roof windows might seem appealing but are they practical? Will you have enough head room? There is nothing more annoying than constantly hitting your head, and low ceilings can work against you when you come to sell. You’ll need at least 2.5m in height before you start the conversion in order to be comfortable.
Will you also have enough room for stairs, a cupboard and a bed? How will the addition of stairs impact the rest of the house? And what about heating, plumbing and anything else that is currently in the attic, like a water tank that will need to be moved?
Not all houses are right for conversions
A loft conversion has a significant effect on the structural integrity of your property. You will need to inspect the foundations and any load-bearing beams. Your house may need underpinning to support the added weight and that can really add to the cost of the build.
You also need to consider the pitch of your roof (no less than 30° is best) and any necessary internal supports. These may need replacing as will the joists for the floor and the room below the conversion.
Building regulations, control and notification
While you may not need planning permission (but check first), you will need Building Regulation approval. You will also have a Building Control officer, who will make fairly regular inspections during your build before hopefully issuing you with a certificate on completion.
If you have a shared wall with your neighbour, you also have to give them appropriate notification (if you’re in a terrace or semi-detached property).
There are different forms of insulation to consider, from between the ceiling and the roof, to internally by adding another layer to the ceiling. The latter is probably cheaper and easier to do but will eat into your headroom. The former will need to be done from the outside so will eat into your budget, as your builders have to remove the tiles.
Don’t forget that a loft conversion is a fairly major building project and will involve a degree of disruption which could go on for weeks. Most conversions take 6 to 8 weeks, but some take longer, particularly if bad weather hits. That means dirt, dust, noise at times and builders working daily in your home. For some, that’s a breeze but for others, it can be a major challenge. And you’ll have to re-home all that junk that you used to store in the attic.
Take some time to compare the costs and benefits of a loft conversion to a standard extension. Although an extension may cost more and require planning permission, they often add more in terms of both property value and space than a loft can.
And don’t rule out a move
I know, I’m an estate agent so I’m bound to suggest a move, I hear you say. But the thing is, when you weigh in all the costs, risks and upheaval that can be involved in a loft conversion (often in order to achieve quite a small space), moving property may just be a better option. At the very least, you should talk to your local estate agent (that’s me) to get an idea of price, demand and what’s available on the market.
Graham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking
He’s also a portfolio landlord, as well as specialising in helping other landlords. Apart from his own experience and expertise, he can also recommend the right professionals, as tried and tested by him, to advise you.
Multi award winning EweMove in Dorking is a residential property sales and lettings agency who pride themselves on being refreshingly different and standing out from the crowd. EweMove Dorking covers from Ockley to Oxshott.