Speak to your local council
Although very minor extensions (up to 3 metres beyond your original wall) can usually be undertaken without obtaining planning permission, it is still always best to check with your local council before you commit to extending your property. You could be in a lot of hot water afterwards if your extension flouts the rules and permission is not in place – the council could insist that the extension is demolished, leaving you not only back where you started but also out of pocket, having paid for an extension you cannot enjoy.
Ensure your plans are properly drawn
You might think you know something about extension planning – maybe you were good at technical drawing at school, or you did a course in college. Do you really want to risk the value of your home, though, to save a few pounds on professional planning? Depending on the size and scale of your project, a structural engineer or architect can do a great job for you, offering their expertise. For smaller and more straightforward jobs, your builder should be able to help you with the plans. Don’t forget, there is technical knowledge needed which involves angles, weights and in-depth understanding of materials to ensure the structure is safe – things which you probably didn’t pick up in GCSE Graphics! More importantly, your extension needs to conform to safety regulations which industry professionals will be used to handling.
Look at the loft
You could expand backwards, forwards or sideways, but what if you don’t have the room? Consider building upwards, creating rooms in your loft area. The loft is often a wasted space which houses unneeded junk, and if your roof is high enough, you might not even need to do a lot of building work to turn that unused space into a lovely new bedroom or office.
As you probably won’t be changing the layout of the building significantly, you may not need planning permission – but again, always check to be on the safe side. Your loft conversion will need to meet Buildings Regulations, which take into account safety measures such as fire safety, and the finished work will be checked by a qualified inspector. Don’t let this put you off, though – your builder should be able to advise you of how to ensure that you can meet these regulations, and you can also speak to your local council for further advice. Particularly if your family is outgrowing your house, building into the loft can be a great solution to provide extra space.
Consider the potential to add value
One of the reasons that many people consider extending is to add value to the property. An extension often offers this potential, meaning that the initial cost of building the extension is not lost. You can often, in fact, gain money when you come to sell by having an extra bedroom upstairs or a conservatory on the back.
You need to be canny about your investment, though. Do a bit of research into similar properties on the sales market in your area; if they have had a loft conversion or a kitchen enlarged, for instance, are they being marketed at a higher price that those which haven’t had work done? If the extension isn’t going to add value, then you might want to think again about how you choose to extend; having four bedrooms instead of three is going to make more of a difference to a property’s value than enlarging one room slightly. You might also consider getting a professional opinion from a local estate agent who can give you a potential “before” and “after” valuation for your property, allowing you to determine whether it’s better for you to extend or to move.
It’s worth remembering that extending is usually a cheaper alternative than moving and saves you money on fees like stamp duty, furniture removals and legal costs – not to mention avoiding the stress of moving!
Combine work on your home to keep down costs
Although extending could be cheaper than moving, you are still going to have to find the money from somewhere. If you’re lucky enough to have some cash tucked away for a rainy day, that’s great. But if you haven’t, you might need to think about other options, like reviewing your mortgage, for example, to see if you can liquidate some funds.
Another good tip is to get your money’s worth; you should have as many minor alterations done alongside your extension as you foresee being necessary in the near future, so if you have had a few small jobs piling up, ask the builder for a quote for the whole lot. This way, you can haggle for the best price on both materials and labour, establishing a blanket fee for the works rather than having lots of little jobs done, which could prove costlier.
Find a reputable builder
We have all heard horror stories about disreputable builders who knock holes into your home and then fail to complete the job, or undertake shoddy work which requires repairs within a few months. There are plenty of builders who can be trusted, though – and the best advice to follow is to take a recommendation. Have any friends, family or colleagues had work done on their homes recently? Are there any builders in your extended family? If you don’t have any luck finding someone, then look into the government’s TrustMark scheme, which vets tradesmen before recommending them to consumers.
The government is currently in talks over whether to relax planning laws for a three-year period, allowing people to extend their homes by up to 8 metres without seeking planning permission. The idea is to ease housing shortages by making existing homes bigger and to help create more jobs for the industry. This plan has received significant opposition, however, from local councils who are worried about a “free-for-all” on extensions which could affect the appearance and function of local communities. If you’ve been thinking about extending but couldn’t face waiting for planning permission, though, it’s worth watching this space to see how this story develops!