London property values are already significantly higher than elsewhere in the UK. Whilst this is good news for you if you already own a home in the capital, the downside is that if you are outgrowing your London home and considering increasing your accommodation by moving to a larger property, then the asking price for a property of the next size up will also have risen. With any gains in your own asking price being cancelled out by this relative increase, along with the added (and rapidly increasing) costs of actually moving home in the capital, many London homeowners are caught between too-high moving costs and too-small living space.

However, there are ways to increase the living space of your property whilst also adding additional value to your home – wherever you are in the UK but particularly in London. So what might you consider to compromise on the cost of moving whilst gaining both space and value for your London home?

Create your vision – and value

A Nationwide report (2014) outlines three main things a homeowner can do to add value of up to £74,000 to a property of average price £200,000:

  • Loft conversion
  • Rear extension
  • New kitchen

Now although a new kitchen can usefully improve existing domestic facilities and add some value, it may not create the extra living space required. To gain enough space for additional accommodation, the other two options of an extension or loft conversion offer far more potential for actually increasing square footage. In terms of London property values, increasing square footage generally increases property values as well as allowing you to realise your living space vision.

However, as outside space also comes at a premium price in the capital, whilst a ground floor extension may increase your value in living space this gain may be negated by sacrificing part of the outside space for the extension itself. So let’s consider the value of a London loft conversion.

The value of additional accommodation

Although the costs of a loft conversion can be less than an extension, it is still a considerable investment, and of course the primary deciding factor in the type of loft conversion design you choose will be your actual accommodation needs. However, it’s worth being aware that there are specific types of accommodation and living space which can see the best return on this investment of your money. The Nationwide study identified that a loft conversion comprising of a master bedroom and en-suite could cost around £30,000 but could potentially increase a home’s value by around 21%, which can be broadly broken down as follows:

  • 10% extra floor space = 5% extra value
  • Extra bathroom = 5% extra value
  • Extra bedroom = 11% extra value

Lofts in London

Although 21% is significant, an additional London-specific Abbey Lofts study conducted using data from Rightmove identified that the average increase in value for properties extending by having a loft conversion was 24.5%. This trend varies across the London area but still exceeds average value increase for the UK generally:

  • West London +27.75%
  • East London +21.99%
  • North London +24.77%
  • South London +23.86%

Average price for a loft conversion

As no two properties or loft conversions are alike, prices for the conversion works will also vary. However, there are some general guidelines for prices across the different types of loft conversion, assuming the services of a professional loft conversion company are used:

Basic loft conversions are those where you are literally constructing a room in the roof, with a general cost of around £15,000. Basic options would include standard construction elements such as:

  • Floor reinforcement
  • Skylight windows
  • Insulation
  • Staircase
  • Electrics, light and heating
  • Fire safety measures (such as fire-resistant flooring, smoke alarm and fire doors) to ensure compliance with Building Regulations

Dormer loft conversions includes the basics, but with the additional work of installing dormer windows into the loft space. As dormers create additional headroom, this increases the design options for the loft room, for example more possibilities for stair placement. The average cost of a dormer loft extension starts from around £20,000.

Multiple room, multiple use conversions

Conversions which create multiple rooms obviously require considerably more construction than that of the single room in the roof. This is often both because of the extra work involved, and because multiple rooms can have different uses, which may involve extra construction requirements, for example, additional plumbing to create a master suite of bedroom, dressing room and ensuite, all of which would cost around £35,000 – £40,000.

Complicated conversions can also be more expensive as creating usable accommodation in non-standard lofts  (for instance having a low roof space or conservation area specifications to meet) will require different design and construction techniques, such as removing the roof completely and rebuilding this to a higher level. The average cost of even a basic room in the roof would start at around £40,000 for complicated conversion and for conversions where the roof is removed and a prefabricated roof room is then craned into position, the cost is around £55,000 although the work is completed much more quickly.

Value variation

As well as the cost of the loft conversion offering relative considerations to the current and potential value of your home, there are other significant factors to consider:

  • Conversions have to pass all relevant planning otherwise, despite technically adding value to a property, a sale on the property (which would release the monies gained) be difficult to achieve without the signed off conversion. As such, professional design and planning advice should always be sought.
  • As well as meeting any required planning requirements, loft accommodation has to have a dedicated staircase and meet fire regulations, otherwise the room cannot be counted as additional living space. Without being counted as extra square footage, the room cannot realise any increased value from this.
  • The level of finish to the loft conversion can make the difference between added value and potential value, so it’s certainly worth investing at the loft conversion stage by using professional services to maximise the enjoyment of the accommodation and the value it brings to your property.

Finally, it’s worth quoting TV’s property expert Phil Spencer whose wise statement “it’s cheaper to build space than it is to buy it” should be something which really resonates with space-strapped London homeowners. To find out more, speak to a loft conversion specialist to ensure that the loft conversion is not just a space gain but a value gain project for your London home.

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Daniel Peacock

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