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Making home improvements? Do your homework first

Home-owners are presented with the dilemma of whether to spend money improving their current home instead of moving up the property ladder.

Perhaps, like me, you have seen the latest twist on the apparently perennial property television-show format. Home-owners are presented with the dilemma of whether to spend money improving their current home instead of moving up the property ladder.

To most, this is hardly a new idea, but for once the concept has merit. Together, the two largest single costs associated with a house move (stamp duty and estate agent’s commission) will total thousands of pounds. Could this money be better spent funding extensions or home improvements?

You will need to do your homework on the following practicalities before embarking on drawing up plans for major home improvements.

The legal stuff

The land upon which all our homes are built has been the subject of terms in previous deeds created over many years.  It is not uncommon for these to include covenants such as building, height, view-line or usage restrictions. There may be rights of way owed to neighbours or legislation (e.g. the drainage law) which gives a neighbour or a local authority the power to prevent you from doing what you want to. You may need to seek permission from your neighbours before building close to your boundaries. If they don’t give their permission it defaults to common law rules, dealing with (amongst other things) proximity of buildings and windows to boundaries. It would be disastrous to embark on an expensive construction project only for it to be halted for a legal battle.  Before you spend any money on architects or planning applications (neither of which will take account of these legal issues) it is very simple to draw on a digital photo of your home to illustrate a very outline proposal, email this to your property lawyer or conveyancer who will quickly and inexpensively provide you with a summary of potential difficulties to take into account or overcome.

Your mortgage lender

Your mortgage will contain a standard term requiring you to seek the written consent of your lender before undertaking any material change to your property. This includes change of use. Works which add value are unlikely to be problematic with your lender, providing you can demonstrate that you have the funds to complete the project.

Avoid over-investment

You should consider your home improvements with your business hat on. There is no point spending on an extension or improvement unless it will increase the sale price of your property. Kindly estate agents will tender an informed opinion on what works will best improve property value as well as those which will not, so pick up the phone.

Don’t detract from current selling points

If your proposals involve the loss of private parking or natural light to your existing home then works might detract from its appeal. Your cherished man-cave may be the next man’s garden shed, so try to be objective.


Planning exemptions may not apply for a large conservatory, listed properties or if you are building it close to your boundaries. Double check.

Pre-planning advice

The planning department offers a very quick, helpful and free service, so make use of this.


Moving house may involve less personal effort and a shorter period of disruption, but if you like where you live, there is definitely a case for considering what scope there is to improve your current home before looking to move on.

At Viberts, we can help you do your homework to identify any issues that may sway your decision as to whether to renovate or move on.
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