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Could Your Garden Help Your House Sale?

by Alison Feemantle

In recent weeks we’ve looked at the many ways in which homeowners have undertaken work around their property with a view to achieving a higher sale price and hopefully, a quicker transaction when the time finally comes to move on.

Even if you’re not in a position to move just yet, it can pay to look at methods recommended by experts that will actually help to increase the value of your home. But what are the best ways to achieve this?

It’s generally accepted that first impressions are crucial for any prospective purchaser so the front of your property is an important area to pay attention to. Doors, garages and their accompanying accessories can easily be painted or replaced but there are other aspects that you should also consider.

Your front garden, no matter how small it may be is also one of the first things that potential buyers will see and particular care should be taken to bring it up to a desirable standard. It seems however that many UK homeowners are doing just that as a survey carried out by HSBC suggests that we will spend an average of £185.00 per person in improving our own personal outdoor spaces.

The HSBC Gardens Survey has been published just ahead of the launch of the Chelsea Flower Show and it claims that households are not only improving the look of their outdoor spaces for their own pleasure, they are acutely aware of the difference such actions can make for property prices.

“Britain has traditionally had a love affair with gardens but with households facing financial pressures, people have to make difficult decisions about where to spend their cash,” said Peter Dockar, head of mortgages at HSBC. The inference clearly is that more is being spent on gardens than we might have expected.

“The survey reveals that spend on non-essential items has gone down in favour of general improvements, including landscape projects. Improving the general outlook of the garden can not only boost quality of life but also help to increase property value,” Mr Dockar added.

The survey also revealed a big discrepancy in the amount of money spent across the country. In the East Midlands, the highest spend of £253.00 per person is expected in 2012 while at the other end of the scale, those in Yorkshire and Humberside are due to spend just £112.00 on their garden this year.

Overall, however, it seems we are a nation of garden lovers and whether we are conscious of the fact or not, our efforts can help to drive up the price of our property.

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Spotlight on The Party Wall Act 1996

by Sarah Halloran

If you are thinking about doing some major renovations in your home that require a sledgehammer and a party wall, then it might be wise to know a little bit about the Party Wall Act and the legislation that determines what you can and can’t do within your home.

The Party Wall Act 1996 actually came into force in 1997 and comes into effect if somebody is planning on completing works on a relevant structure.  The term ‘party wall’ doesn’t always mean the wall between two semi-detached properties.  It covers the following instances:

A wall forming part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two (or more) properties.

A wall which is common to two (or more) properties, this includes where someone built a wall and a neighbour subsequent built something butting up to it.

A garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building.

Floors and ceilings of flats etc.

Excavation near to a neighbouring property.

As with any DIY or major projects that might affect your neighbours, the polite thing to do is to let them know what you plan to do in the hope of reaching a friendly and amicable agreement.  Resorting to mentioning or enforcing the law should be the last thing on your mind in the early stages of planning.  Even if the work requires a notice to be served, it’s always best to informally discuss what you intend to do and to consider any comments or reservations your neighbours might have.  Friendly discussions at this stage might cause you to rethink your plans and amend them before serving a notice.

What party wall works don’t need permission?

There are many minor works that can be carried out to party walls without any notice being served or permission being granted.  Typically, this type of work includes:

Putting up shelves and wall units

Replastering works

Electrical rewiring works

What party wall works do need permission?

The Party Wall Act was enforced to ensure that all work that might have an effect on the structural support and strength of a party wall or that might cause damage to a neighbouring property, be notified.  A good rule of thumb if you are not sure what effect works might have is to seek advice from your local Building Control Office or a professional architect or surveyor.

You must serve a notice if you plan to carry out any of the following works:

To demolish and/or rebuild a party wall

To increase the height or thickness of a party wall

Insertion of a damp proof coarse (either chemical injection or a physical dpc)

Cutting into the party wall to take load bearing beams

Underpinning a party wall

Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building

Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45° downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building

Serving a Notice

Once you are sure that the work you intend to carry out falls under the Party Wall Act, it’s time to arrange a notice to be served.  This must be issued to all affected neighbouring parties.  The notice must include the following information:

The owners of the property undertaking the work

The address of the property

The names of all the owners of the adjoining property

A description of the proposed work, usually a single line giving a brief description

The proposed start date for the work

A clear statement that the notice is being served under The Party Wall etc Act 1996

The date the notice is being served

If the notice is for excavation work, then a drawing showing the position and depth of the excavation must be included

The process of serving a notice under the Party Wall Act is as follows:

The person intending to complete the works must serve a written notice on the neighbours or owners of the adjoining property no less than two month before the intended work is due to comments.  All neighbouring parties must be informed.  Each neighbouring party then has 14 days to respond in writing giving consent or showing dissent – if a party chooses to do nothing within 14 days then the notice will be automatically put into dispute.  No work may commence until all neighbouring parties have agreed in writing.

So, if you’re planning on knocking down a party wall or arranging underpinning, you’ll need to consider the Party Wall Act and everything it contains.  Being on side with your neighbours is going to help a great deal with the notice process and will hopefully help you to achieve project completion with no problems.

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Quickie Guide to Home Extensions and Planning Permission

by Sarah Halloran

There are many reasons why you might want to consider building a house extension.  If you’re looking to upsize, but don’t want to or can’t move right now, an extension can be the perfect solution.  Building a home extension is also one of the best ways of adding value to your home especially if you add extra bedroom space.  When you do come to sell your home, you will find you make a great return on your investment.  Before you go ahead, it’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about the process especially planning permission.  Many people have jumped ahead too fast and been scuppered by planning permission regulations so read our quickie guide for more information.

Planning an extension can be challenging.  Planning permissions is one of those essential aspects of building a house extension and you really don’t want to overlook it.  If you do, it WILL end up in disaster and could result in your extension being pulled down or condemned.  Why not take a look at our planning permission guide instead and do things the easy and correct way?

The Benefits of a House Extension

Lots of people are taking on home improvements these days and a house extension seems to top the list.  There are some great benefits to choosing a house extension.  Not only do you gain extra space and add value to your home when you come to sell, but if you really couldn’t bear the thought of moving, an extension allows you stay put and avoid the upheaval and stress of that moving home brings.

A Little Bit About Planning Permisson

We’ve all seen some of the eyesores that people refer to as their extension.  Large concrete monstrosities are thankfully a thing of the past thanks to tighter planner permission controls.  It’s important that your extension not only looks good, but that it fits in with the style of other houses in your immediate area.  An extension built without the right planning permission can lower the value for your home and those around you and can result in the demolition of your extension.

The following planning permission regulations apply in the UK:

Terraced, semi-detached and terraced houses require planning permission if the house extension is to cover in excess of 70m² or 115% of the total volume of the property.

You will also need to get planning permission if your property extension is going to sit higher than the highest point of your house.

Planning permission is required for all Grade II listed buildings.

All apartments and maisonettes required planning permission for extensions.

If you plan to increase the volume of your property by more than 115 cubic metres or if you plan to build within two metres of the boundary of the property, you need to seek planning permission.

Before you commence any work, we recommend that you contact your local authority’s Planning Office to find out more about the process and to discuss your plans.  Once you know what is involved you can start your hunt for a builder and get down to business!

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Can’t Move? Improve!

by Sarah Halloran

Research released by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors is showing that more and more homeowners are choosing to improve their homes rather than face the uncertainty of putting their home on the market.  The studies revealed that 48% of chartered surveyor estate agents reported that the current slump in the housing market is causing homeowners to carry out renovations and DIY projects to their existing homes.  Adding extra bedrooms or a new bathroom or kitchen were popular renovations of choice as was the restoration of period features.

However, RICS does warn that the cost of improvements is not necessarily going to be covered by any increase in the property’s value.  Homeowners are advised to avoid over-valuing any improvements made or to expect high returns.  It’s important, especially in the case of extensions for example, to ensure that the new accommodation is balanced and in keeping with the rest of the property.  Most areas have a ceiling price to consider too.  Basically this means improving a poor property in a good location could give better returns than improving a good property in a poor location.  RICS advises checking out prices of houses with additional bedrooms before you go ahead with any renovations so you know exactly how much value you could be adding.

So, which improvements add the most value?  Well, before you consider monetary worth, it’s a good idea to consider how the accommodation will benefit you seeing as you could be staying put for a long time to come.  Think about what you would want from a new property and whether you could carry out suitable renovations to your current property. Obviously, extending the garden is usually out of the question, but there are lots of other improvements you can make.

Adding bedrooms is by far the best way to increase the value of your home and could increase the current value by up to 11%.  When considering an extension to your property it’s a good idea to consider the proportions of your home and to avoid cramming in more bedrooms for the sake of it.  Remember, you will also lose a great deal of outdoor space and renovation works will usually take a long time and cause a great deal of disruption, but the returns could far outweigh any inconvenience caused.

Opening up space within your home could also be a good move.  Kitchen-diners are just one of the ways you could improve the interior of your home and more and more buyers are looking for practical uses of space that allow more natural light in.  Just don’t get carried away and start knocking down walls as you could potentially lower the value of your home with one swing of the hammer!

Fitting central heating is not the most exciting of improvements, but it could add a whopping to 13% to the value of your property.  Central heating is also going to benefit you hugely if you are to be staying in the property for a while.  Investment in a high-efficiency boiler is also a good idea and will attract ‘green’ buyers in the future and also look good on your home energy report when you come to sell.

If you have a limited budget then there are other improvements you can make that won’t break the bank.  For example, creating off-road parking could add thousands onto the value of your property, but could cost you as little as £650. Kitchen and bathroom improvements are also ways you can increase the value of your property and there are ways you can carry out these works on a budget or with DIY projects.

David Dalby, Professional Groups Director at RICS said “Most properties provide some potential for expansion and improvement, but we would advise people to think about how much they are investing and their key motivator before undertaking major projects. It is important to think about the style and age of the property before undertaking any works – remember, what appeals to some people may not appeal to others. Costly disappointments can be avoided by prior planning and research. RICS advise that whatever you decide to do with your home you should seek professional advice and ensure all works are carried out by qualified contractors.”

It can be a struggle to sell a property, improvements or not.  If you really believe your home to be unsellable, Channel 4 would like to hear from you.  A new series is in production that aims to solve common property problems and get the nation moving.  Why not get in touch?  You’ll have access to property experts who will bring in genuine buyers and more interest in your property than you ever thought possible!

Interested?  Contact  – 0141 427 6081 or – 0141 427 6074.

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