We will soon emerge from the cold winter months, and as the temperatures increase so too will property prices, albeit at a slower rate than in 2014. Demand continues to outstrip supply in many areas, but there are signs that we are slowly moving back towards a buyer's market. Buyers are getting fussier too, and if you want the best price for your home you'll need to make it as attractive to them as you possibly can. Here at WhatHouse?, we'd like to help you on the way with some of our top tips.
One of the first things you'll need to decide is when you are thinking of moving. If you are looking to move in the immediate future, your focus will be on making aesthetic improvements to make your home more 'sellable'. Alternatively, if a move is a year or more away you could benefit from taking on a more significant project to add value to your home.
Deal with structural problems first
Before considering any cosmetic improvements, ensure you assess any structural problems, which can range from rotten windows and rising damp to broken roof tiles. These are the first things a surveyor will pick up on when they come to view your home.
Ensure your utilities are efficient
Your heating, electricity and plumbing services should be efficient and up to date. Your boiler needs to be in good working order, your pipes shouldn't be rattling around and you should consider updating your electrics if your property has not been rewired in many years. Flourishes such as under-floor heating are desirable but not imperative.
Double glazed windows are expected as standard even at the bottom end of the market, and having them installed could add 10% to the value of your home. If you are selling a period property, think carefully before opting for double glazing and always replace like-for-like, as plastic can ruin the aesthetic of the home and is not permitted in conservation areas.
Recent research found that fast broadband has moved above off-street parking at the top of the list of demands from would-be buyers. With an increasing number of people working from home for at least part of the week, this perhaps should not come as a surprise. You don't necessarily need to have fibre-optic broadband installed, but having a fast connection can add up to 5% to the value of your property, and as much as 8% in London.
Conversions and extensions
The best way to add value is to add space. Popular options include loft conversions, garage conversions, conservatories and garden rooms. Research conducted last year by Nationwide found that an attic room can add £37,000 to the average home (21%), while an extra bedroom can add £20,000 and an extra bathroom £8,900.
Due to the variables involved, it is difficult to predict exactly what an extension to your home might cost. Basic loft conversions start at around £10,000, but the average spend tends to be in the region of £20,000-£30,000. Adding a conservatory can be a considerably cheaper option, but won't add comparative value.
Weigh up your options
If you decide to add an extra room, make sure you get the balance right. Adding an office to your garden is a great idea for many homeowners, but if your plans get too ambitious and it ends up taking up the vast majority of your outdoor space you could end up losing rather than adding value.
Always do your research and be realistic - swimming pools and Jacuzzis look great, but they are unlikely to cover their installation costs.
Lower cost options
If you can't physically add space, then create the illusion of extra space instead. A recent survey by Big Yellow Self Storage found that removing bulky items from your property can boost its sale price by up to 11%, and that two thirds of sellers who thoroughly decluttered before viewings received a higher offer than expected.
Remodel your existing rooms
Freshen things up by considering ways in which you could improve the current specification of your home. A new bathroom or kitchen suite will entice buyers who don't want to spend time renovating, and can also be a good way of ridding yourself of any value-sapping rooms you might have.
Give the garden a makeover
Don't worry if you're not an expert, as this can range from cutting back overgrown trees and tidying up the borders to completely redesigning your garden. Buyers don't just love seeing big spaces inside the house; they want them outside too, especially when purchasing a family home. Fences and mature trees create a valued sense of privacy, while a well-designed decked area will extend the illusion of having extra living space.
Julia Kendell, interior design expert and co-presenter of '60 Minute Makeover' shares her top tips for home improvement
Tick items off the wish list
"Most buyers are prepared to pay considerably more for a house with new bathrooms and kitchens to avoid the upheaval and expense of replacing such important rooms. Tick as many 'wish-list' boxes as possible, such as a range oven, island unit, solid surfaces and walk-in shower."
Make the most of space and light
"Maximise the feeling of space and light. Consider simplifying the window treatments by replacing heavy curtains with shutters, woodslat or flat fabric blinds. In the same vein, replacing a carpet with a hardwood floor or a good quality laminate alternative will provide a more open feel."
Smarten up the walls
"Wallpapering a room prior to marketing is rarely a good idea as it is a risk to assume that potential buyers will like your taste. However, if the walls are in bad condition, it is worth skim-plastering and re-painting. Most buyers are pretty savvy and can see if a new coat of paint is disguising a bad surface."
Make a statement
"Good lighting is key to showing a home at its best, both in creating the illusion of space and to produce an interesting and 'designed' look. Use good quality fittings to highlight good features and move the emphasis away from the less impressive. A statement chandelier or contemporary piece will add sparkle and raise the tone of the property substantially."
For more ideas about sprucing up your home, why not take a look at our Home Improvements section?