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Homeowners opting to improve rather than move

Friday 23 March 2018

The number of homeowners choosing to stay put and invest in their existing property instead of moving has soared in the past five years, according to a report from specialist insurer Hiscox.

In 2013 just three per cent of homeowners took the decision to renovate their property instead of move house, but fast-forward five years and this figure has increased to 15 per cent - rising further to one in four among millennials.

The Hiscox Renovations and Extensions Report draws on insight  from homeowners, UK-wide estate agents and over 400 local council planning permission records to highlight the growing number of homeowners choosing to invest in home improvements and the profits and pitfalls they’re facing as a result.

When questioned as to reasons for investing in their current home instead of looking elsewhere, homeowners cited prohibitively high property prices (25 per cent), Stamp Duty fees (13 per cent), a sluggish property market (15 per cent), potential interest rate rises (8 per cent) and even the uncertainty caused by Brexit (eight per cent).

Supporting the conclusion that we’re becoming a nation of improvers, UK local councils have seen a near one third (29 per cent) rise in the number of planning permission requests made by homeowners over the last ten years. Requests for loft renovations have seen the greatest increase at 114 per cent from 2008 to 2017, closely followed by living room extensions (113 per cent).

In the London boroughs of Redbridge and Harrow (the UK renovation hotspots), one in every 28 households made a planning permission application last year compared to the coldspots of Weymouth and South Ayrshire, where this figure falls to one in every 700.

Overall, bathroom and kitchen renovations are still the most popular, but garden renovations are now the third most common home improvement and also the renovation type that has seen the most growth.

According to estate agents, adding a bedroom does the most to boost the value of a home, with the average bedroom extension delivering an 11.2 per cent increase in a property's worth. Not far behind is loft and kitchen-diner extensions which boosts the value by 10.8 per cent.

Typically, today’s renovators set a budget of £16,100 per project and allow five months for work to be completed. But the experience of past renovators (projects completed between 2008 - 2017) suggests this may be a little optimistic. Two in five overspent by an average of 20 per cent (around £3,200) and 35 per cent found past projects had an average delay of up to three months.

Looking at previous renovation projects and those currently underway, just under one in six (17 per cent) sparked some form of neighbour dispute. These include official and non-official complaints, and are most prominent in London, where two fifths (39 per cent) of projects result in some form of disagreement.

Head of direct home insurance at Hiscox UK & Ireland, Phil Thorn, commented: “The decision to improve instead of move is a new normal for homeowners whose lifestyles are evolving. People are looking at ways to adapt their existing homes to meet their changing needs, whether that’s a growing family or the beginnings of a new home business. Many view home renovations as an easier or more economical alternative to moving, but our report highlights that these projects are often underestimated in both cost and scale.”

Architectural designer and television presenter, Charlie Luxton added: “There’s been a generational shift resulting in more and more of us feeling empowered to change our houses rather than move. We need to renovate and improve our aging housing stock and if we can nudge people to make sustainable, as well as spatial improvements, this can only be a good thing. It also means people stay longer in their homes, which is usually beneficial for both community spirit and engagement in local issues.”