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With the property market still in stagnation, more and more homeowners are opting to stay put and invest in home improvements instead. With this in mind, we ask the question:


What adds most value to your home?


An extension or loft conversion which creates a double bedroom with its own bathroom can bump up the value of a home by nearly a quarter (23%) - and is the single most effective home improvement project which most owners can carry out, says a survey.


Recent research by Nationwide Building Society suggests a 10% increase in floor space adds 5% to the price of a typical home, but that an extra bedroom is usually a more effective use of your money than moving. While moving up from a three-bedroom house to a four- bedroom, two-bathroom property costs an average £40,000 - not including legal fees and other moving costs - a loft conversion or other extension can be accomplished for possibly £30,000 to £35,000. But the extra bathroom is the critical point; an extra bedroom, by itself, adds only 12% to average price.


Nationwide figures show the gap in value between three- and four-bedroom homes widens as buyers come southwards: in Scotland it is £39,107, the North £35,629 and in the North West it is £32,756. In the East Midlands, the gap is the lowest in the country at £31,710. But in London, the price gap is nearly £91,000 - and down here in the South it could be as much as £42,017.


So the more expensive the homes in your area, the stronger the case for home extension - if you have the space and the plans to do it in a way that will impress a subsequent buyer. As the number of homeowners prepared to put their homes on sale is falling, extending an existing home could become increasingly attractive to many.


Builders, short of work, offer competitive quotes, while the 30% surge in remortgages confirmed by the Council of Mortgage Lenders suggests many homeowners could have raised finance for building work.


Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner says: “With housing market demand still very weak, increasing numbers of homeowners may opt to improve rather than move. “Households are happy to pay for more space, and our analysis suggests that, providing the room is usable, adding an extra bedroom can be a good way to increase the value of a home. “While larger properties cost most to buy, smaller ones tend to have a higher price per square metre. This marginal cost falls in part because it is relatively cheaper to build larger properties.”


Nationwide’s report also says energy efficiency is an issue set to loom larger in buyers’ minds, with Government figures suggesting more than 19 million homes (86% of stock) could benefit from at least one of the cost effective improvements recommended through the energy performance certificate now required when a home is sold.


Improvements in this area include loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and better boilers for more efficient heating systems.


22 Life Begins www.lifebeginsmagazine.com


By Jeremy Gates


Rural dwellings cost extra £27,000


Homes in the countryside cost an average £27,000 (16%) more than those in urban areas, says the most recent Halifax Rural Housing Review. The report says the premium for country living has soared 35% since 2001, when the gap was only £20,000. The finding could be used in the debate over possible changes to building regulations, by those who argue that rural areas have an acute shortage of new housing.


According to Halifax, rural property prices rose by an average of £69,170 - equivalent to £576 per month - from £127,146 in 2001 to £196,316 in 2011.


In comparison, urban areas saw an average increase of £62,223 - or £519 per month - from £107,130 to £169,353.


West Dorset is the least affordable rural area in Britain - measured by the house price to earnings ratio - average house prices are 8.0 times local gross wages.


In other rural areas, the average house price to earnings ratio is still an alarming 5.6, against 4.8 in the towns.


Housing affordability is a growing concern in many rural areas, particularly in the South where in all areas those on average incomes will find it difficult to enter the market.


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