Will attic conversion still increase the value of my home even if I don't follow the rules?
I'm considering an attic conversion to my current home - a home that we plan to leave in about eight years time so we can move back to where I'm from originally.
Obviously, when I sell the house, I want to get the best price - so I want to be sure that anything I do will add value. I had a builder call round to price an attic conversion. He showed me the size requirements as stipulated by regulations - but it's leaving me very little room, so I think I'm just going to convert it to my own specifications.
Do you think the conversion would still increase the value of the house if I do that? I'm still adding on what essentially is another bedroom so it will go from a three-bed to a four-bed house.
Grainne, Templeogue, Dublin 6W
Any alterations or additions to a house must comply with planning laws and building regulations. There are several exemptions under the planning laws which allow small scale improvements to be carried out to a property without requiring planning permission, such as small extensions of up to 40 square metres to the rear of existing properties - or attic conversions.
However, there are specific conditions under which these types of development are exempted from the requirement to have planning permission, and you should check with your local authority or an architect before embarking on this type of project to ensure you are not breaching any planning laws.
All works carried out on any property, whether exempt from planning permission or not, must be carried out in compliance with the building regulations in force at the time that the development takes place. The building regulations are there for a reason - to ensure that the works being carried out are to a minimum standard and are safe for the occupants.
If you intend using the attic as a bedroom, it will need to meet fire regulations. If it doesn't meet regulations and you are using it as a bedroom, you may run into difficulties insuring it.
You will also need to be able to provide a Certificate of Compliance with building regulations when you sell your property and if the conversion has not been carried out in compliance with the building regulations, you will not be able to sell it as an additional bedroom - which will impact on the price you will get for your property.
Additionally, if your buyer requires a mortgage to purchase your house, their solicitor will have to qualify title to the buyer's bank - in other words, their solicitor must tell the buyer's bank that the property is not in compliance with building regulations, which will at best delay any sale - and at worst prevent it from proceeding entirely.
My boyfriend and I are in the market to purchase our first home. Unfortunately for us, it seems our timing is pretty bad. We were originally hoping for a three-bed semi-detached house somewhere close to Dublin city - but it would appear that this is a pipe dream. The only properties we've really come across that are within our price range of about €220,000 are two-bed apartments.
My partner is keen on viewing these - he thinks it's important for us to just get on the property ladder. I'm not so sure. I'm worried that if we buy now we won't be able to sell it in a few years - because everyone seems to want houses these days.
What should we do?
Cathy, Clontarf, Dublin 3
Apartments have traditionally been the preserve of investors and first-time buyers as they are typically the least expensive property in most locations. It is true that following the crash, apartments seemed to bear the brunt of price falls and fell out of favour with many first-time buyers.
Given that prices and rents have risen in the last three years, and due to the new Central Bank lending regulations, apartments have strongly come back into favour in certain areas. Like any property purchase, location is key - however, this is even more important when considering an apartment purchase because apartment values are strongly linked to their rental yield, which is heavily influenced by their location.
If you are currently renting with your boyfriend, it may in fact be cheaper to buy an apartment than to rent. Many mortgage and property websites, including Bank of Ireland and myhome.ie, have 'Rent vs Buy' calculators where you can calculate what size of mortgage the amount of rent you are currently paying could service. However, bear in mind the additional costs of property ownership - repairs, insurance, property charges and taxes - which are currently paid by a landlord if you are renting.
If the cost of your mortgage and additional property ownership expenses are less than the amount of rent that you are currently paying, this could free up some additional monthly income for you to put towards saving for your next home.
If you do decide to buy an apartment, those which are located in city centres and close to public transport nodes will hold their value better, as will apartments located close to universities and lifestyle amenities such as parks, playgrounds, schools, shopping facilities, cafes and restaurants.
You should consider the maintenance and management aspects of the apartment - for example, are the green spaces and common areas well-maintained? Examine the management company structure and costs and be sure you know what services are covered by the annual service charge. Finally, look for an apartment with a good aspect so that it allows plenty of natural light in, and which also has a good outlook
Keep in mind that making structural changes in apartments can be almost impossible so source a property that has good design and layout from the outset - a simple, functional and flowing layout will be better regarded and more beneficial to you as occupants as well as being more attractive to the re-sale market.
I am building my own house and need to understand the costs over and above the contractor's cost - like architects, other design team members, levies, connection fees and so on. I have mortgage approval but can only draw this down piecemeal as the house gets built. How much would I be looking at for these ancillary costs?
Alan, Hollywood, Co Wicklow
As a general rule of thumb, allow between 15pc and 20pc for ancillary costs. However, bear in mind that levies vary from county to county, so this percentage may change. In particular, cities often work out more expensive for ancillary costs. Don't forget to include a contingency to cover unforeseen costs which may arise during the construction phase. Typically allow around 5pc of the overall project costs to cover contingency. Remember also that you must pay VAT on all costs, other than levies, and that the VAT rate for professional fees is 23pc.
Since the end of last year, you can opt out of the need to appoint an assigned certifier/design certifier under the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (BCAR) - and of the requirement to have staged inspections of the house during construction.
This will reduce the ancillary costs. However, we must advise caution if considering this route as some lending institutions will insist on the more stringent requirements and it also remains to be seen how taking the 'opt out' route will impact on the value of your property in the longer term should you need to sell.
Also, though you'll be drawing down the mortgage in staged payments, you will still start to repay the mortgage on the first month following the initial drawdown - so factor this in, on top of the cost of your present accommodation for the duration of the project.
A quantity surveyor can draw up or sense-check your budget and supervise or sign-off on the contractor's payments. Alternatively, consider employing a project manager to oversee the project if you are not familiar with the construction process as this could save you considerable amounts of money in the long run.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 'Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'.
While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert to answer your query, this column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.
Aodan Bourke is Director at Regency, see www.regency.ie
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