Property News

Phil Spencer's top 20 ways to add value to your home

From extensions and kitchen upgrades to soft furnishings, Christopher Middleton hears Phil Spencer's tips on how to set your house apart from all the others - and get it sold.

If anyone should have an idea where the property market is heading, it’s

Phil Spencer.

For the past 10 years, he and the unstoppable

Kirstie Allsopp

have been finding and buying houses in the full glare of national television, as presenters first of Location, Location, Location and later Relocation, Relocation.

He’s seen prices soar and he’s seen prices plummet; so which way does he see them going next?

“It is very difficult to fathom what is going on at the moment,” he says. “One set of stats says the market is going up and another says it’s going down.

“Clearly, the market overall is not going to be rising by 10, 15 or 20 per cent a year, like it has done in the past, but I do believe it will rise by small amounts, maybe two or three per cent a year.

“What this means, of course, is that owning a home is not, in itself, going to earn you enough money to move up to the next price bracket, to the next rung on the property ladder. You can’t just sit back and wait for your house to make you enough money to move on. You are going to have to take active steps to

create that extra value

for yourself.”

And here’s how Phil suggests you do it:

1 Go for a

loft conversion

The easiest way to get an extra bedroom and bathroom. Not particularly disruptive, either, as most of the work can be done from outside. The key thing is to make sure access to the loft is easy and that the conversion fits the rest of the house, rather than looking grafted on. You will have to strengthen the floor joists, which will raise the floor level, so make sure you leave yourself with sufficient ceiling height to stand up in. Spend £20,000 on a loft conversion and you can add £40,000 value to your house. I am always wary of quoting figures, but for the purposes of this article, I am using a survey of 110 estate agents, carried out by mortgage lender GE Money, which concluded that a loft conversion adds an average 12.5 per cent to the selling price.

2 Build a


Extending your living space is always a good idea, but the danger is that your conservatory ends up looking like something just bolted on the back. Make sure the conservatory matches the style of the rest of the house. Don’t make it seem as if it’s in any way separate, with its own entrance, for example. You can enhance the feeling of space and flow by installing the same flooring throughout your downstairs living area. It leads the eye on and ensures that the conservatory feels part of the rest of the house. A conservatory (cost £5,000-£30,000) can add around 7 per cent to the value, while a full-blown extension (£10,000-£30,000) adds 11 per cent.

3 Install a

basement conversion

The most expensive form of extension: it costs £200 per sq foot to do the digging, and another £100 per sq foot to do the fitting out. So unless your house is worth £300 per sq ft, you won’t see your money back. It is also the most serious form of extension, as it is going to affect the structural load of your property. Not to be undertaken lightly, or without careful consideration, then. You will need to hire specialists to do the design and the installation, and you will almost certainly have to move out of the house for several months.

That said, you can create fantastic spaces underneath your home, and extending your house like this means you can stay in it for longer, enjoy it more and sell it quicker when the time comes. I have just had a basement put in at my home in south-west London. It cost £300 per sq foot to dig and fit out, but houses in the street sell for between £700 and £900 per sq foot, depending on condition – which, in theory, means that for every £1 invested into the house, potentially £3 was added to its value. Also, when I bought the house it was 2,200 sq feet and now with basement and kitchen extension it is 4,000 sq feet – so it has virtually doubled in size. As I say, the real value lies in increasing your living space.

4 Get rid of

the garage

And turn it into living space. The fact is, 90 per cent of British garages don’t contain a car. They are a wasted asset. Cost: about £10,000. To calculate value added, multiply square footage gained by local price per square foot.

5 Take aim at your target

Work out who is your most likely type of buyer and present the property accordingly. This will determine whether you present a spare room as, say, an office, a play room, a gym or a study.

6 Pave over the front garden

If you live in the countryside, and garden aesthetics are an important feature of the property’s presentation, keep the flower beds. But if you want to add value in an area where parking is at a premium, then it is concrete every time. You may need planning permission, and may have to spend £10-£20,000, but added value could be £50,000 in an expensive urban location.


Paint the house

If you are selling, you have to get buyers through the front door, which means you need to have the outside as spick and span as possible (cost £100-£1,000, but could add £5,000). If nothing else, your house should at least look better than your neighbours’. Clean those dirty windows, clear the driveway, unblock the gutters.

8 Change the windows

But only if they don’t match the house as it is now. I am a big believer that whatever you decide to do should suit the age and style of the original property. If it was meant to have wooden windows, then put wooden windows in. If metal, then put in metal. Otherwise, leave well alone.

9 Refurbish the

front door

Does it look smart? If not, buy a new doorknob (£35), brass letterbox (£25) or a stainless steel house number (£5-£25). When we were redesigning the front of our house, we cycled around the area and took photographs of other people’s front doors. You get some great ideas that way.

10 Hang



the hall

The hall is the first thing the buyer sees, yet it is often narrow, cramped and full of prams, bikes and trainers. A mirror on either side of the wall makes it seem magically bigger.

11 Concentrate on

the kitchen

If you are only going to improve one room, make it the kitchen. This has now become the showpiece area of the home. We don’t just cook in it, we do homework in it, we watch television in it and hold dinner parties there. The number one priority is creating a handsome and efficient work surface and ensuring easy access between the three points of the kitchen triangle, that is, the sink, fridge and cooker (high street kitchen firms have got surprisingly good at drawing up designs).

Install equipment that is as up to date as possible, so it won’t look outmoded in 10 years. And make sure the price bracket of your kitchen matches the price bracket of your house. There is no point putting a £25,000 kitchen in a £250,000 house; you won’t see your money back. Equally, put a £10,000 kitchen in a £1 million house, and you will drag down the value. Typically, a new kitchen will add 4.6 per cent onto the value.

12 Knock down the walls

Those that aren’t load-bearing, anyway. Buyers are more interested in the amount of usable space, rather than the number of rooms.

13 Do the



This is the other room that has really taken off lately. The secret is to keep things simple. You don’t need to do a lot with the room, it’s all about the features that you put in, such as a set of new taps (£20), a heated chrome towel rail (£50), a big new shower head (£20), a power shower (£250-£750), a glass screen (£100) or glass door (£125) instead of a shower curtain. A new bathroom puts 2.88 per cent onto the house value.

14 Put in

central heating

If it’s not already there. You’ll spend £1,000-£3,000, but will add £5,000 to the value.

15 Don’t bother with the bedrooms

Apart from a few soft furnishings here and there.

16 Look above your head

You can never have too much


space, and one of the best ways of increasing it is to use the ceiling voids.

17 Bring the garden into the house

Not literally, but make it accessible and enjoyable from the house.

Glass doors

are a good idea, as is outdoor lighting. View the garden as another room; install decking (£250 up to £5,000) and you can add two per cent to the house value.

18 Apply for planning permission

Even if you don’t have the money to build an extension or a conversion, you’ll make money purely by having secured permission to do so: you’ll spend £1,000-£2,000 on survey, design and planning processing, but you’ll elevate your property into a higher league. It removes a big element of doubt from a buyer’s mind, if they know the council have already said yes to expansion.

19 Phone a friend

Having someone recommend a


is like gold dust. Let’s face it, the odds of probability are heavily stacked against the builder-client relationship being a happy one. Building work takes time, it is expensive, it disrupts your house, so it is great when the home owner has good things to say about the builder at the end of the job. That is what attracted me to the Master Builder of the Year Awards, which I am presenting next year; it’s not the building trade that nominates the builders, but the customers. That’s something special.

20 Take a view on timescale

Get a big builder in and they will probably do the job quicker, but for a higher price. Hire a smaller builder and it will probably take longer, but be cheaper. You have to work out your own time-versus-money equation.

  • For chapter and verse on all this, see Phil’s book Adding Value To Your Home (Vermilion £12.99)

Local Surveyors Direct

can help with architects, surveyors and much more to make the home improvement process easy.


Outgrowing your street

  • If houses in your street cost £250,000, don’t build an enormous extension and ask £400,000. People looking for a £400,000 house won’t want to live in a £250,000 street.

DIY bodging

  • If you make a very visible mess or bodge-up, it raises all sorts of questions in the buyer’s mind about all the more crucial bodge-ups they can’t see, for example, electrics and plumbing.

Replacing all the furniture

  • There is no need. It may look nice, but will it add a penny of value to your house? No, it won’t.

Too big a television

  • I have seen far too many living rooms that have been overpowered by the size of the plasma screen.

Too many bedrooms

  • There’s a substantial difference in price between a two-, three- and four-bedroomed house. After five, though, there’s hardly any.

Click here to consider a secured homeowner loan to pay for improvements...

Source: by Christopher Middleton,,

“Phil Spencer’s top 20 ways to add value to your home”, 23 July 2010

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