To convert or not to convert – that’s the lofty question

To convert or not to convert – that’s the lofty question

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

loft conversions 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

building inspector 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).

Insulation 

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.

Disruption

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.

Standard extension

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

www.ewemove.com/dorkingHe’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.

Enquiries to 01306 406 506 / 01372 701 702, or via email to dorking@ewemove.com

Helping the property market

Helping the property market

Is the UK housing market broken?

With the publication of a white paper last month, entitled “Fixing our broken housing market”, the Government clearly thinks so. But if you’re a landlord or looking to buy a property, what does that actually mean to you and what can you do about it?

The white paper itself is 106 pages long but Government policy is contained within just 60 of those pages.  Having recently been asked to give a presentation on the subject and to save you the trouble of wading through, here’s my at a glance guide and view on the report:

The Government recognises the urgent need for housing and a need to be more inventive in making housing available now and more supportive (both financially and practically) of those trying to find homes.

Looking to buy but struggling? 

tips for moving houseThe Government will continue to assist first time buyers. The help available will be in the following form:

  • ISAs to support saving for a deposit
  • Help to Buy ISAs with a 20% discount for five years, allowing you to purchase with a 5% deposit
  • Rent to Buy, meaning rent at a 20% discount to help save for a deposit
  • Shared ownership, buying a 25% or more share of a property

There will be continued efforts to crack down on empty homes and support areas most affected by second homes. And the Government has said they will look at the buying / selling process to see if it can be improved.

Are you a landlord or tenant? 

Standards in the private rented sector remain below those in the social and owner-occupied sectors, but are improving: just 28% of homes are now non-decent compared to 37% in 2010. (A property is non-decent if it fails to meet a set minimum statutory requirement. Factors to be taken into account when deciding if a property is “decent” include level of thermal comfort, the state of repair and whether the facilities are reasonably modern.)

The Government is going to encourage institutional investment in the private rented sector, helping to deliver approximately 15,000 new homes for rent. There are currently 54,000 in the pipeline.

Fairer rents 

The aim is to make renting fairer for tenants and to promote transparency. That includes the growing number of leaseholders (there are around 4 million leasehold homes in England).

Renters often face upfront costs including fees charged by letting agents to tenants and tenants often have no control over these fees because the agent is appointed by and works for the landlord.

To combat this the Government has already introduced transparency in respect of fees and are going to consult early this year, ahead of bringing forward legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows, to ban letting agent fees to tenants. This should improve competition in the market and give renters greater clarity and control over what they pay.

Safety and standards

landlord responsibilities The Government will also continue to try to drive up safety and standards in the private rented sector and drive out rogue landlords.

In the white paper, the Government repeated its intention to implement measures introduced in the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which will introduce banning orders to remove the worst landlords or agents from operating and enable local councils to issue fines as well as prosecute. But we’re still waiting for details.

Other measures may include making electrical safety checks for rented properties and client money protection for letting agents mandatory. An announcement on this is expected soon.

Finally, the Government also plans to extend mandatory licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which will ensure greater protection for thousands of vulnerable tenants.

Family friendly private rented sector

According to a Shelter report last year, an estimated 65,000 families say that they were forced to move their child’s school the last time they moved within the private rented sector. The predominant use of 6 and 12-month contracts can mean that families who are renting need to move home before they had planned, and that’s alongside the uncertainty and costs associated with taking on a new rental property.

In light of this, it has become the Government’s intention to make the private rented sector more family-friendly by taking steps to promote longer tenancies for new build rental homes.

You’ll find the full white paper report here but I’ll keep you up to date with any developments.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/590043/Fixing_our_broken_housing_market_-_housing_white_paper.pdf

www.ewemove.com/dorkingGraham Faulkner is Branch Director of EweMove Dorking and 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.

Enquiries to 01306 406 506 / 01372 701 702, or via email to dorking@ewemove.com