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45 PROPERTY


When budgets are tight and the property market is sluggish, the


answer could be to improve, not move. Doug Morrison reports


Home improvement


Susan Clark, of Susan Clark Interiors, is on hand to help people spruce up their homes


Rising numbers of property owners are remortgaging their homes to release money in what has become an austerity-era trend to improve rather than move. There may be a continuing squeeze on new mortgages but when it comes to remortgages the latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders reveal there were 31,200 loans worth £4 billion in November 2011, up 6 per cent by number and 8 per cent by value on October. This marked the 11th consecutive monthly


increase in remortgage lending, suggesting that though householders may not have enough equity to finance a move, they are taking advantage of the low interest rate deals on offer to help pay for a loft conversion or extension. The trend was underlined in a survey published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) last year, when 78 per cent of people believed that refurbishing or improving a property was better than moving. The study indicated that the desire to


“improve rather than move” was most prevalent in


areas where the property market was most depressed. But according to the RICS, even in more buoyant areas such as London, buyers are facing high property prices, which are also prompting them to stay in their homes. This appetite for home improvements is evidently a symptom of a slow sales market and is destined to continue for the foreseeable future amid the eurozone gloom and uncertainty over jobs. Project manager and interior designer Susan Clark says she is busier than ever providing householders with a “one-stop shop” service on major home improvements through her Greenwich-based business, Susan Clark Interiors. She says: “People are getting frustrated because they haven’t got the funds to move house, but equally they don’t quite know how to take their house into another dimension; or if they have got ideas, they’re not sure how to execute them.” The prize is a refurbished home that suits their domestic requirements and is – hopefully but


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