Friday 9 December 2016

Improve, don't move

The experts’ guide to adding value to your home

Published 04/09/2016 | 02:30

Trick of the light: To brighten the space, Dulux Diamond Matt emulsion is used throughout, while the kitchen counters are high-gloss Silestone.
Trick of the light: To brighten the space, Dulux Diamond Matt emulsion is used throughout, while the kitchen counters are high-gloss Silestone.
Space and Light: In this small city home, Amanda Bone added a folding door to open up the space, improve the flow between inside and out and introduce more light. Rubber floors as used here are durable and soak up sound in open plan rooms. Paint decking to match the shade of the interior floor and create the illusion of a smooth transition from inside to out.
Custom-made joinery provides perfect hidden and display storage. Rich colours create a warm and cosy environment.
Old v New: These before and after photos of the same view of a renovation in Ranelagh show the dramatic transformation that Roisin Lafferty and KLD achieved: They excavated the basement and removed the second floor return to increase head height and maximise light. A salvaged spiral staircase was customised to suit the space. Natural, polished limestone was used on floors and skirting to bounce back light A double-height conservatory, designed by KLD, adds space and brings in light through to the basement kitchen beyond.
Amanda Bone likes to paint her interiors white or grey to act as a backdrop for furnishings and art. The wall art here was bought at an NCAD graduate show, a good place to spot up-and-coming talent.
Old v New: These before and after photos of the same view of a renovation in Ranelagh show the dramatic transformation that Roisin Lafferty and KLD achieved: They excavated the basement and removed the second floor return to increase head height and maximise light A salvaged spiral staircase was customised to suit the space. Natural, polished limestone was used on floors and skirting to bounce back light A double-height conservatory, designed by KLD, adds space and brings in light through to the basement kitchen beyond.

In a market where houses for trader-uppers and downsizers are in short supply, where seeking mortgage approval is like hunting the Holy Grail, and where savings on deposit are earning little or no interest, many homeowners in search of a little more elbow room are choosing to stay put and invest in renovating instead.

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But how to spend your hard-earned cash so it brings you the best return - both in terms of a better living space and a more desirable property when you eventually come to sell? As financial expert Sinead Ryan says: "Making the decision to refurbish or add to your home is so momentous that, even when you secure the cash to do it, you can be left with a dilemma - wondering whether you're doing the right or wrong thing and even wondering whether sticking to one room will suddenly 'show up' the rest of the house when you're done." To guide you through the pros and cons, we asked six experts for their advice on how to spend your renovation budget wisely, whether it is €10,000, €50,000 or €100,000.

There are some perennials: good kitchens and bathrooms always help to sell a property, says Brian Dempsey of DNG, while chartered building surveyor Val O'Brien adds some more sensible advice: "Try to get pay-back from any spend. For example, if you upgrade the insulation standard of the house you will get pay-back in terms of reduced heating costs. This will apply to replacing windows, insulating your attic, or upgrading or replacing your boiler to get a more efficient system and therefore more economical running costs." If you do decide to upgrade your energy efficiency, you may be eligible for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grant (see panel).

But for many homeowners who are staying put, it's about stretching the footprint of the house by adding an extra bedroom in the attic or building a ground-floor extension. It's the number one use of the Home Renovation Initiative (HRI) scheme, which launched back in October 2013. The scheme has proved hugely popular with 60,863 works carried out at 42,033 properties at an average value of €15,689 and a total tax credit of €954m. Sinead Ryan advises you to "start by seeing if you can claim it - once the spend is over €4,000 (up to €30,000). It's definitely worthwhile but unless it's extended in the October budget, you'll need to be done and dusted by 31 December."

Finallly Val O'Brien adds a word of caution: "If you are spending money purely to facilitate a sale, be careful, you may not get it back. You will not be able to guess what a purchaser wants and very often purchasers will want to put their own mark on your property." Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to invest in changes that will make your home a better place for you to live right now.

What The Interior Designer says

Roisin Lafferty is founder and director of Kingston Lafferty Design (KLD) and a well-known television presenter.

On a budget of €10,000

For this amount, you will get a quick revamp. Look at what you have and maximise it. It's about thinking creatively to make the most of your money.

Paint your rooms, update your soft furnishings, reupholster sofas and chairs, upgrade pieces of furniture or your ironmongery or sand and repair your flooring. Don't invest in buying too much because a new sofa and a couple of chairs will eat that budget up. Painting is a cost effective way to make a big impact and can add value, especially if you're considering selling your home. Painting and just clearing out the clutter will give the impression of space. It's also one of the best ways to be brave and make a change. You can take a lot more risks with a strong shade and it's not too expensive if it turns out to be a mistake.

In the kitchen, painting your existing units and joinery is a very dramatic way to make a change. If you put in a new kitchen, you could pay anywhere from €10,000-30,000, but paint it, change all the door knobs, perhaps revamp the counters and it will look and feel like a new kitchen but at a fraction of the price.

Watch the cost of details though: the material you use - whether it is hardwood or has real timber fillers - the drawer mechanisms and hinges can all add to the cost. Zara Home is a lovely place for knobs and accessories that will allow you to personalise a standard kitchen. You can get a gloss paint finish in a colour that is very much on trend for a few hundred euros. But it's important that it's done correctly - sanded down well with a really good primer so that it doesn't start chipping a month later. If you're good at DIY, Ikea are great, they've got a wide range, that's good quality, and a guarantee.

Look at your floors. Replacing a floor can be expensive - a lot of homes have good quality pitch pine but it has that yellowy orangey tone that people don't like. Sand it down and re-stain it and it can feel very different and improved for not that much money - depending on the size, €1,000 or so. In terms of what's in vogue, I like both really dark and really light tones but always add a grey tone to take out the orange or yellow. For example, opt for walnut rather than mahogany because mahogany has a reddish tinge and can look cheap if not stained properly whereas walnut has a nice charcoal base to it.

Artwork is a good way to add colour and personality, particularly oversized artwork. Art can be expensive but prints are generally cost effective. One of my design secrets is shutterstock.com which sells really high-res images that make the perfect artwork. Add a frame you've found in a market or jumble sale and you have a great way of adding personality. Oversized prints give the drama of colour but are portable - so you can take them with you if you sell.

Invest in soft decorative items like rugs. Ikea has amazing, big rugs that are cost effective and can transform a space.

On a budget of €50,000

First, make sure the space is working for you because you don't want to spend €50,000 on making it look pretty when the space is still not functional.

Storage is key. Ask if you have enough, where are the problem areas for your family - where does clutter build up? Organise customised storage under the stairs or in a cloakroom in the hallway or wherever there can be a clutter build up - and let's face it, if you have small children, there can be a lot of clutter zones. Spending on getting a carpenter in and designing to suit you is a very good use of your money.

You could also upgrade your kitchen which adds value to the house. We tend to work with our own joiners to design our kitchens which are custom made so they fit the space properly. But if you want to stretch your money as far as possible, stick to a standard kitchen and personalise it as much as you can so it doesn't look like you went to one shop and bought everything there. That's why I'd apply the same rules from the €10,000 budget and personalise with different doorknobs and a different splashback.

You can think long term and spend a bit more to have really good quality countertops that will stand the test of time, won't mark and are heat resistant. Stone countertops are money well spent but quite expensive. Another option is Silestone, which we use a lot. It is manmade so comes in repeated patterns rather than natural variations but you can get different finishes. Corian is also good but it is very, very plain and more like a pored finish. I absolutely love concrete.

Look at your bathroom layout. A lot of people prefer double showers or a walk-in shower or wet room spaces. If your house dates from the 1950s to 1970s, you might have a separate toilet and bathroom so reconfiguring that to make it one bigger, more functional space would be beneficial. You don't necessarily need to re-plumb but opening it up will make it seem clean and fresh. And remember, when it comes to selling, bathrooms, living rooms and kitchens are key areas for potential buyers.

We're seeing a trend for replacing baths with big showers but for resale value, estate agents count baths specifically when totting up how many bathrooms you have so it can be a good idea to keep one. I'd also encourage young families to keep a bath for bathing children.

Sanitary ware needs to be good quality and in keeping with the style of your house but you don't need to spend a fortune as long as it has good guarantees and you have a good plumber. Recommendations are key, especially if you have a restricted budget because things can go wrong with plumbing and electrics so make sure you're confident about your labour.

Tiling allows you to be expressive and fun. Prices can vary hugely but you can definitely have a bit of fun with different textures and different patterns, maybe having a simple rectangle for a parquet effect on the bath or bringing in some marble even if it's just on one wall for drama. Try Halo Tiles in Camolin, Wexford, who have an endless range of brands.

Many people opt for an attic conversion. Just be careful - fair enough if it is to add to family life but if it is to increase value of the house to sell it, be sure that the attic can actually be classed as a functioning bedroom. A lot of attic conversions are too small or don't follow building regs so when they are sold they can't be considered an extra bedroom.

On a budget of €100,000

You can dramatically change your life in your house with this amount. A lot of semi-detached houses have quite small rooms with wasted spaces or junk rooms and then cramped and smaller living spaces. If you have enough space but it's not used correctly, you can reconfigure on this budget and it would allow for adding some structural beams and working with an engineer.

Implement the changes under €10,000 and €50,000 budgets, add storage, a bathroom and kitchen refurb and then look at finishes and flooring to enhance that. We always start with the space as the foundation of everything and get that right and then materials can enhance the space.

Should you extend? Often if a house isn't working, people think lets extend but often the house is a sufficient size, it's just poorly configured. If you look at the footprint of the building first, you can do so many creative and unexpected things.

With an extension, for me, it's about having as much detail as possible decided before you start anything on site. Price everything down to the details so there is no vagueness going on. Take the time beforehand and get it right and you'll have a better result at the end.

What The Architect says

Darragh Lynch is founder of Darragh Lynch Architects and the Chair of the RIAI's Sustainability Task Force

On a budget of €10,000

Insulate the attic and draft proof your windows

Cost: €800 to €1000 (SEAI grants available)

Why it would add value: This is like putting a hat on your head on a cold day. Heat rises and insulating the attic is the low hanging fruit in terms of keeping the heat in your house. Mineral wool is good, but sheep's wool or wood fibre is better from an environmental point of view (and you don't get itchy after coming down with the Christmas decorations). However, it is a bit more expensive. The insulation performance is proportional to the thickness of the insulation so make sure it doesn't get crushed. Put boards down where you will walk and where you have things stored. You also may need to put plastic pots over recessed light fittings to prevent them from over heating.

Change all the bulbs in your house to LED bulbs and improve your heating controls

Cost: €500 to €1,000 (SEAI grants available)

Why it would add value: LED bulbs burn about 10 times less energy and they last about 10 times longer. Better heating controls will give you more scope to control time and temperature and also the different zones that you are heating. All of this means you save energy.

Upgrade the boiler in your house if it is more than 10 years old or if you have a hot water cylinder, install a factory insulated hot water cylinder that can be converted in the future into a solar buffer tank.

Cost: €4,000 to €6,000 (SEAI grants available)

Why it would add value: New boilers are far more efficient. If you install a Combi boiler you will have no hot water sitting around in a tank getting cold (Combi boilers just heat the water as you use it). This will improve the output of your heating system, make your house more comfortable and save you money. If you have a new boiler and an old cylinder, replace the cylinder or at least make sure you have a decent lagging jacket on it.

If you have a cavity wall, pump your cavity with beaded insulation.

Cost: €1,000 to €2,000 (SEAI grants available)

Why it would add value: When you insulate your wall correctly your house will stay at a steady temperature and will be much more comfortable using a lot less energy.

On a budget of €50,000

Replace your windows if they are more than 15 years old or if they are in bad condition. I recommend triple glazed alu-clad timber windows with a U-Value of about 0.8. Make sure the windows are sealed to the wall from the outside and inside.

Cost: €15,000 to €20,000

Why it would add value: Windows are the most expensive part of the walls and they let most of the energy out. Getting good windows is a great long-term investment in your comfort; no drafts or condensation.

n Improve the insulation in the walls of your house. You can insulate inside if you have a nice brick finish outside or you can insulate outside and avoid redecorating inside. The external insulation is better if you can afford it. Plastic-based insulation is good (anything with 'poly', 'ane' or 'ene' in the name). Wood-fibre insulation is better because it is a sustainable product, however, it is a bit more expensive.

Cost: €10,000 to €15,000

Why it would add value: Warmer walls make a more comfortable house. It will heat up more quickly and stay warm longer and it will save energy. The objective is to have your house at a stable comfortable temperature all the time. Get good advice on the levels of insulation to avoid too little and too much, because you can overheat the house as well.

Upgrade your boiler as above and install a solar hot water system.

Cost: €10,000 (SEAI grants available)

Why it would add value: Typically, the solar panel would provide all your hot water during the summer and you would be saving energy and saving the planet at the same time

Install a whole house ventilation system.

Cost: €2,500

Why it would add value: If you have good insulation and no drafts, you need a system that will provide fresh air and avoid smells, stuffiness and mould. Get good advice on the design.

On a budget of €100,000

After completing all the work set out above, I would build a modest extension of about 20sqm.

Cost: €50,000

Why it would add value: This extension will only add value if it connects the rooms you spend most time in to improve the flow between the rooms (kitchen, living and dining spaces). This extension should improve the access to the outside and capture the south and west light as much as possible. If it is designed well, you will have a bright and beautiful space to live in that stays at a comfortable temperature the whole year around and will be healthy and efficient.

Consult a registered architect when considering any changes to your home. You can find an architect on riai.ie, the registration body for architects in Ireland.

The Estate Agent

Brian Dempsey

Brian is a partner with DNG Property Advisors, Senior Vice President of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers and a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

On a budget of €10,000

Upgrade/replace: Given the first eight seconds are make or break for new impressions in a house, start decluttering at the front and work back. De-clutter so much that you cannot find anything. It also costs nothing.

Show homes are a great place for ideas on colours and furnishings. Paint those skirtings and cornicings so they sparkle again in white and the new carpet, tiles or timber floors that you fell in love with while drooling over the showhouse are now affordable. Any leftover change could be spent upgrading that kitchen or even the bathroom. Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses and this small spend would future proof your investment.

There's a trend to replace baths with showers, but my advice would be not to replace it with a shower only. Young families need baths for their kids and others like a bit of luxury on a Saturday night. Removing the bath does not change the value of your house, but it can be a negative topic of conversation for those who like a bath once a year.

On a budget of €50,000

Upgrade/replace: this is an ideal budget as the importance of reducing our carbon footprint becomes more obvious. For most homes, this amount would allow you to wrap your home in insulation, re-wire, re-plumb, replace those drafty windows and doors and do a décor revamp. While a good energy rating isn't the most important wishlist item for most buyers yet, we are becoming more and more in tune with the savings that can be made. In fact, the SEAI tell us that the annual running costs of a typical three- or four-bed semi of c100sqm with a BER of A1 is just €190. However, if the same house had a BER of G, the cost would be roughly €4,000 a year to run. The initial investment of €50,000 would soon wash its own face and by the time you came to sell, attitudes will have changed and buyers will demand better Building Energy Ratings.

On a budget of €100,000

Upgrade/replace: Attic extensions are great for giving extra accommodation but if you have room to extend elsewhere, that would be the preferred option. If you are extending or converting, make sure you get an engineer's Certificate of Compliance or Exemption as this will be required further down the line. Remember an attic conversion must meet certain requirements to be considered a habitable room, such as bedroom or study. These includes certain ceiling heights, distance of window cills from the floor, access onto the roof or secondary exit, fire doors and stairs width along with other Building Regulation requirements. Attic rooms that do not comply should only be referred to as attic rooms or stores. Anything else leaves you open for renegotiation after the sale agreed stage which is not nice and easily avoided. And be warned, in many instances a converted attic does not add value to your home.

However, a well thought-out extension, which does not distract from the existing accommodation or gardens, is always welcome and, in most cases, it would be fair to say will bring a return greater than or equal to the amount invested in the first instance.

All in all, if you are staying in your home for the foreseeable future and the proposed extension does not dramatically affect the structure of your home or the size of your garden, then I would always recommend adding one. You will get many years of enjoyment from it and it will pay for itself when you eventually come to sell.

What The Building Contractor says

Ian Hart is a construction project manager and provides expert construction advice in his role as the foreman on RTE's Room To Improve

On a budget of €10,000

Consider opening up ground floor rooms to make larger living areas by taking out walls, joining kitchens into diners or that little-used 'good' room into a larger more useful living space. You won't necessarily require an architect to draw plans, but a structural engineer will be required from the start to specify structural elements.

Cost: The knocking through stage would cost in the region of €6,000, the balance of the budget could be used on finishes such as flooring, painting and so on.

Why it would add value: Open plan living is currently all the rage, making homes feel larger and more contemporary

On a budget of €50,000

Do an attic conversion. It would be advisable to get architectural plans drawn up as attics can be quite complex, especially the design of the access which calls for a new staircase. You would also need to make sure that any conversion complies with current building regulations. An engineer would also be necessary to deal with structural elements. Also, some attic conversions are simply not possible with the pitches of some roofs.

Cost: For this budget expect to get two bedrooms, one bathroom, dormer window and/or skylights, electrics, plumbing, plastering, painting etc, a staircase and making good of all finishes where the breakthrough into the attic occurs.

Why it would add value: It's a great way of creating more liveable space within the existing footprint of your house

On a budget of €100,000

Add a ground floor renovation with a 20-30 sqm single storey extension. Why would you have to get the complete ground floor renovated if you are building an extension? The extension shouldn't be built in isolation to the rest of the home as it needs to work with the entire ground floor to make the best use of the light and space. There is little point in just adding square metres to your home if it doesn't flow into the rest of the building. Done properly this can add huge value to your home

What The Chartered Building Surveyor Says

Val O'Brien is a chartered building surveyor, a member of the SCSI and a technical director with McGovern O'Brien Chartered Building Surveyors

On a budget of €10,000

While this is a lot of money, it is limited in terms of what one can do to a house. Spend wisely - a stitch in time saves nine. For example, decorate timber windows thus maximising their life expectancy. If external decoration is ignored, this could give rise to decay and a shorter life expectancy for the products. Repair the roof and replace slipped or broken slates rather than waiting for damage to show up internally.

The following works done properly and carefully planned will add value and make it your home look better:

Essential repairs such as replacing fascias and soffits

Repairs to roof and external decorations

Do up a room in the house

Upgrade the electrical installation or heating installation

On a budget of €50,000

This will allow a good upgrade on a house to include modernising electrical, plumbing and heating services and a complete redecoration and new floor coverings - it might even stretch to cover new windows depending on the size of the house. Try to get benefit/payback from any spend. For example, if you upgrade the insulation in your attic or upgrade your windows, you will get payback in terms of reducing your heating costs. Clearly the house will look a lot better but remember that your tastes may not suit the purchaser's when you come to sell. The primary focus of expenditure of this nature should be for your own benefit but with an overall recognition of the potential sale.

A budget of €50,000 will also get you a small-to-medium-sized extension to the rear of the house which would add value in terms of the extra floor space.

On a budget of €100,000

This will allow you to do a very comprehensive overhaul and modernisation to include new windows, new electrical, plumbing and heating services and a complete redecoration. It may also get you a converted attic and/or a small sunroom type extension. Clearly this will add value but remember that the primary value will be in the comfort and personal benefits that this brings to you and your family.

What The Estate Agent says

Brian Dempsey is a partner with DNG Property Advisors, senior vice president of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers and a member of the RICS and SCSI

On a budget of €10,000

Given the first eight seconds are make-or-break for first impressions in a house, start decluttering at the front and work back. De-clutter so much that you cannot find anything. It also costs nothing.

Show homes are a great place for ideas on colours and furnishings. Paint those skirtings and cornicings so they sparkle again in white. The new carpet, tiles or timber floors that you fell in love with while drooling over the showhouse are now affordable. Any leftover change could be spent upgrading that kitchen or even the bathroom. Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses and this small spend would future-proof your investment.

There's a trend to replace baths with showers but my advice would be not to replace it with a shower only. Young families need baths for their children and others like a bit of luxury on a Saturday night. Removing the bath does not change the value of your house, but it can be a negative topic of conversation for those who like a bath once a year.

On a budget of €50,000

This is an ideal budget as the importance of reducing our carbon footprint becomes more obvious. For most homes, this amount would allow you to wrap your home in insulation, re-wire, re-plumb, replace those drafty windows and doors and do a décor revamp. While a good energy rating isn't the most important wishlist item for most buyers, we are becoming more and more in tune with the savings that can be made. In fact, the SEAI tell us that the annual running costs of a typical three- or four-bed semi of c100sqm with a BER of A1 is just €190. However, if the same house had a BER of G, the cost would be roughly €4,000 a year to run. The initial investment of €50,000 would soon wash its own face and by the time you come to sell, attitudes will have changed and buyers will demand better Building Energy Ratings.

On a budget of €100,000

Attic extensions are great for giving extra accommodation but if you have room to extend elsewhere, that would be the preferred option. If you are extending or converting, make sure you get an engineer's Certificate of Compliance or Exemption as this will be required further down the line. Remember an attic conversion must meet certain requirements to be considered a habitable room, such as a bedroom or study. These includes certain ceiling heights, distance of window cills from the floor, access onto the roof or secondary exit, fire doors and stairs width along with other building regulation requirements. Attic rooms that do not comply should only be referred to as attic rooms or stores. Anything else leaves you open for renegotiation after the sale agreed stage which is not nice and easily avoided. And be warned, in many instances a converted attic does not add value to your home.

However, a well thought-out extension, which does not distract from the existing accommodation or gardens, is always welcome and, in most cases, it would be fair to say will bring a return greater than or equal to the amount invested in the first instance.

All in all, if you are staying in your home for the foreseeable future and the proposed extension does not dramatically affect the structure of your home or the size of your garden, then I would always recommend adding one. You will get many years of enjoyment from it and it will pay for itself when you eventually come to sell.

What The Architect says

Amanda Bone is an award-winning architect and member of the RIAI and runs a Dublin-based practice

Recommending the type of work you could carry out for the three different budgets depends on the type of property and its condition. There is a difference between what can be achieved for the same budget in a single or two-storey artisan dwelling or former council house of c60sqm compared to a four-bedroom semi-detached suburban house of c120sqm.

Assuming the property is in relatively good condition though, here are examples of what could be feasible/ obtained within each of the three different budget for some different types of properties.

But keep in mind that the suggestions do not address specific site conditions or brief or specification issues. Nor do they include the cost of design team fees.

On a budget of €10,000

In a small 60sqm house, you could replace an existing kitchen with a small galley kitchen of approximately 9sqm.

Upgrade/replace the windows for double-glazed timber, aluminum or alu-clad type windows, depending on number and size of windows.

Upgrade/replace the heating system for new boiler, pump, hot water cylinder, allowing for five new radiators and builders' work, including re-plastering of walls and making good to floors and redecoration.

In a 120 sqm modern house, you could upgrade doors and windows and enlarge an existing door/window(s) to the garden with sliding or folding doors.

Upgrade/replace the existing floor with new flooring throughout the ground floor. Allow for new engineered timber flooring at €150per sqm for 60sqm.

On a budget of €50,000

In a small c60sqm house, you could upgrade/change the ground floor, including new flooring, kitchen, electrics, plumbing and heating and drylining insulation to the internal walls.

In a c120sqm modern house, you could convert the existing attic/ roof space into a habitable space or additional storage area/ non-habitable space, at a cost of €25,000-€50,000 (this might require planning permission).

Alter the existing layout of the house by opening up/enlarging two rooms into one, add a new kitchen, flooring, doors and windows as well as a new garden terrace.

On a budget of €100,000

n In a small c60sqm house, you could refurb the ground and first floor including allowing for internal reorganisation/ opening up of the internal layout to provide an open plan space on the ground floor and allowing for the alteration/ widening of one door or window.

n In a c120sqm modern house, you could do a complete refurb of ground floor only, adding a small extension of c25sqm at a cost of approx € 62,500 ex VAT.

Sunday Independent

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