Is it better to move or improve?

Is it better to move or improve?
3rd May 2023

If you’ve outgrown your current home, you may be wondering whether to invest in expanding and improving it, or if it might be better to simply sell up and buy something bigger. For most people, there will be two key considerations:

  1. Which is the better move from a financial perspective? If I spend the money on this home, will its value increase by at least as much as the improvements cost? If I buy another property, will it cost more or less than any improvements?
  2. Is it worth the upheaval and hassle? Can I continue living in the property while the work is being carried out – and do I want to? Or would it be better to pack up and move to a new home that has the space I need?

Once you have an idea of how much space you want to add, or what kind of upgrades and refurbishment you’d need to carry out to transform your home into something that’s going to suit you for the foreseeable future, the next step is to find out how much it could be worth once the work is done.

One thing to be aware of right from the start is the property ‘ceiling’ in your immediate area, in terms of size and price. For instance, if you have a three-bedroom detached home in a street where there are also four and five-bed properties that are worth significantly more than yours, building a double-storey extension and adding a couple of bedrooms and one or two reception rooms could be a very worthwhile investment.

Before you decide to improve versus move, you need to work out, in detail, how much it’s going to cost you to make the improvements you would like. Will you need planning permission and building regulations sign-off from the council? If so, you need to factor in that it could take months to get permission to carry out the work, and there will be the additional expense of plans and building regulations documentation. Even getting costings isn’t always easy, as we continue to have a shortage of trades people. And then, once you’ve agreed the job, you’ve got to make sure the contractor you employ turns up, carries out the work to the required standards and gives you the correct safety certificates for changes to gas, electrics, windows, etc.

You also have to think about whether the changes will add value to your property. For example, if all the other houses around you are of a very similar size, style and price, it may be the case that no matter how many rooms you add and how much you invest into high-quality fixture and finishes, there’s a limit to how much someone will pay to live in your road or surrounding neighbourhood. Alternatively, there may be lots of larger properties available and fewer three beds, in which case, more bedrooms might not even translate into a higher value.

To help you make a decision about whether to move or improve, local property market knowledge, in terms of average values and price ceilings for each residential area, is invaluable. An experienced local estate agent should be happy to discuss your plans and give you an idea of your property’s potential end value, based on real examples of similar sized properties they have sold recently.

They can help you understand how easy it would be to simply sell your current home and find a new home that meets your future needs - and whether it might cost you less to move than to change your current home. And bear in mind that if you do sell and buy an already improved home, you won’t have the worry and hassle of improvement works - instead, you could just move in and enjoy your new space, especially if it’s a new build property.

Steps to help you decide whether to move or improve your current home

1. Go around your home and write a list of all the changes you need. Is it just small changes, such as adding electric sockets, doing some decorating and creating a new bathroom, or do you need extra rooms and will they require planning permission?

2. Work out the costs of making the changes you need and compare these to the costs of moving. There are lots of useful online calculators and helpful articles that will give you a guide. If you’re thinking of remortgaging to access the funds you need to improve or extend your property, it’s worth talking to a broker such as our sister company Mortgage Scout to understand what deal you could get.

3. Have a look at the cost of properties that would meet your needs locally. Can you find something in an area you like that will give you the extra space you need? If there are new builds available, they will have the added benefit of being energy efficient, so you might find that although you buy a bigger home, your running costs actually go down.

If you’d like to talk through your options, just contact your local branch and make an appointment for one of the team to visit your home - our market appraisals are completely free of charge.

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