home improvements

add value to your propertyMaking additions or improvements to your home can not only make it more comfortable for you and your family as you live there, but it can also increase its value when you come to sell. However, some improvements or additions will add more value than others. If you’re planning to make an investment in your home it’s important to find out how much you’re likely to add to the value of your home before you begin.

Adding space
Creating more space in your home will not only improve your lifestyle but is also a good investment. There are different ways that you can achieve more space and some are more costly/time consuming than others.

An extension is a good option if you have enough garden space. According to a recent report, extensions can give around a 70% return on investment; however, the downsides are that an extension requires more planning, finance and disruption than other home additions.

Loft conversions and garage conversions are two other great ways of creating space that require fewer structural changes to your home, however, you will need to consult with an expert, such as KJ Hill, to see whether your property is suitable. It’s possible that you could make a 50% profit on a loft conversion as the number of bedrooms is a big factor on house values.

A conservatory is one of the best value additions to a home that you can make, sometimes delivering 100% profit or more. They don’t require a large investment, they’re quick to complete, look stylish and can greatly increase the downstairs footprint of your home. Modern conservatories can provide a very comfortable living space as the right design, glazing and ventilation can maintain a steady temperature. This means that a conservatory can be multi-functional and used as a study, living space, dining space, gym, play room or an extension to a kitchen.

With all of these options, the key is that the changes need to enhance your home and be of good quality. An ugly extension is unlikely to increase the value of your home. A conservatory that’s poorly installed or a garage conversion in a street where parking is a major problem could detract from the value of your home, so as always it’s vital to take the advice of relevant experts.

Making changes
If you are not in a position to create extra space in your home then you can make other changes that will add value.

Energy efficiency is really important, both for the environment and for keeping fuel bills down. If you don’t have double glazing in your home then I would suggest installing it should be your first consideration. It will lead to a warmer and more comfortable home for you and your family, reduce your energy bills and will bring it in line with most modern houses.

A new kitchen or bathroom will really smarten a home up. Fashions can change quite rapidly and whilst many buyers are willing to overlook a shabby living area, an old or unsuitable kitchen or bathroom can put buyers off, unless they’re looking for a project. Updating a tired kitchen or bathroom can potentially give you a 50% profit on your investment, however, I would advise staying neutral in order to appeal to a wider variety of potential buyers. You also need to take into consideration how long you intend living in your home after the re-fit if you’re looking for return on investment rather than a nice new kitchen for your family to enjoy.


Sell your homeIn our blogs we talk about making changes to your home to make it work better for you, but for some people this isn’t possible or maybe it’s the location that you don’t like? So, you’ve made the decision to move, but how do you get your home ready to sell? Here are our top tips…

Improve the outside and boost kerb appeal
Stand at your gate and look at your home. What do you see? Peeling paint, dead plants, weeds, grass in need of cutting? These are simple things to address but will mean your potential purchasers will be walking through your door excited to see if this is the home for them. A poor exterior is likely to make them wonder if the inside is just as bad.

Time to tackle those repairs
You might find that dripping tap or squeaky door easy to ignore, but a prospective buyer will notice it, and it might start them wondering what else you’ve failed to maintain. Getting on top of these small jobs will mean that buyers aren’t detracted from seeing the best that your home has to offer.

Too much clutter makes your home feel smaller
Before putting your house on the market, why not visit a show-home on a new development. Notice how tidy everything is and how little clutter there is. It’s easy for them, they don’t have a family living there, but in reality, that could be your competition. Take a walk around your house with a critical eye. What do you have out that could be put away, or even into storage? Remember that your potential buyer is trying to imagine themselves in your home, so leave them some space!

Create a homely feel
If it’s cold outside, make sure your house is warm; light a fire if you have one. If your house doesn’t have much natural light, turn all the lights on before any potential buyers arrive, also brew a pot of coffee and put some bread in the oven – they’re old chestnuts, but they work!

I think that dogs and cats can be great companions, but not everyone agrees. Some people think they’re dirty, smelly and flea ridden. Now, yours obviously aren’t, but your potential buyer may not realise that, so if you have the option, when they’re due to visit, why not get someone to take Fido for a walk, or suggest to Tiddles that she plays out in the garden. It goes without saying that smelly litter trays should be removed and the room well aired.

Updates worth considering
If you’re home décor is tired and your garden overgrown, consider spending some time getting them “sale ready.” Inside your home, consider redecorating and adding new carpets – neutral is the look you’re going for. It means that people can move in and take their time adding their own touches, rather than feeling that everything has to be done immediately. This can be off-putting to the average home buyer.

Externally, low maintenance is key. Most people love a nice garden, but not everyone wants to spend every weekend keeping it looking that way. Your local garden centre can advise you on which plants require little or no maintenance – some of these, along with a nice lawn (if it’s a family home) and maybe some herbs and you’re ready to go.

It really is worth making some of these updates if you want to achieve the best possible price for your home in the shortest amount of time. Good luck, and do remember us when you find your new home and are considering any work. We can help you with garage and loft conversions, re-plastering walls, extensions or indeed new builds.


Planning ObjectionsWhen you’re planning some form of building work on your home, such as extensions, garage conversions or even a new build, it’s an exciting but stressful time. You can have all the plans together to create your dream home, have that extra room for a new baby or adapt your home to a change in life style, however, if planning consent is required then there’s always the risk of planning objections.

First things first, do you need to obtain planning consent? Not all extensions such as loft conversions, garage conversions, outbuildings, conservatories and porches require planning permission. To find out if what you’re planning does, go to the Planning Portal for guidance.

If you receive planning objections, then how you deal with them will depend on a variety of different factors, such as the nature of the objections, the number of objections, the ambitiousness of your project, your relationships with your neighbours and also who you are, your personality

I’d like to give you my view on dealing with planning objections, but it’s just a view. If you search the web you’ll find other views too, so if you are in this situation, I would urge you to do some research and find a route that you’re comfortable with.

Prevention is better than cure
The first step to dealing with planning objections is to try to avoid them altogether. This will save you both time and money. The best way to do this is to communicate openly with your neighbours while you’re in the planning stage. If you’re planning a lot of renovations or looking at building extensions that could affect your next door neighbour, go and see them and find out if they will take issue with any of your plans.

When you visit your neighbours you may find that your plans will be blocking out a view, or invading their privacy, which could give them cause to object. It‘s far better to find this out before you submit the planning application, giving both you and your building contractors time to redraw the plans.

It’s also common courtesy to discuss the plans with your neighbours and they will appreciate your openness, making them more likely to be supportive. Damaging relations with your neighbours can turn your dream home into a living nightmare, as you could be living next to these people for many years to come.

However, although this is what I’d advise you to do, it might not work. Sometimes, despite being open and upfront with your neighbours, the first you hear of an objection is when they formally object to your planning application. The important thing here is to stay calm. Maybe they didn’t feel confident enough to talk to you directly and this option was open to them, so they took it…

Planning objections will slow the process as the planning committee has to review them, however, many objections are not justified and will be dismissed straight away. You can consult your local authority for the full list of reasons to object, but they tend to include reasons such as infringing on a neighbour’s privacy or designing a building out of step with the local character. A neighbour not liking you or worrying about their own house price will not get very far if there is no real cause to object.

As planning is very much in the hands of the local authority, you have to go to them to find out about the planning regulations and the planning procedure. Once the planning authority has received your planning application and initially approved it, other agencies such as the Highways Department and Environmental Health will be informed if it is deemed relevant. The Parish Council will also be informed and any neighbours that the local authority thinks will be affected.

If a justified objection comes in then this is the time to start finding out every detail about the local planning regulations. You may need assistance with this to find out if there is any way that you can still get your plans put forward.

The local authorities may hold a public meeting about your plans, it’s important that you attend so you can have your say. If you’re certain that your plans don’t go against local planning regulations then you need to voice this with evidence in the meeting. Don’t forget to inform the council beforehand that you intend to speak, so they will allocate you a slot in the agenda.

If your plans are objected to and it looks like they’re justified and likely to be rejected, don’t take it personally, even if you suspect that it is a personal attack. Find out who has objected and try to open up communication with them.

Remember that you want to get your home conversions completed as quickly and as cheaply as possible and repeated planning applications and objections are not the way to go about this. Stay calm and find out what the person doesn’t like about the plans and see if you can find a way to change the plans to avoid further objections and keep the peace.

It can be very disappointing, but work with your building contractors to create something that abides by the regulations and is close to what you want.

Dealing with objections can be time consuming, stressful and expensive, so stay rational and ensure that you stick within the rules and work closely with your neighbours and planning authorities to minimise the risk of further objections.


MeditationIt’s widely reported that the top 5 stressful life events are:

  1. Death of a loved one
  2. Divorce
  3. House move
  4. Major illness
  5. Job loss

As I was pondering these life events I realised that some of them are inter-related. Anyone that has ever moved will know how stressful it can be. Couples splitting up and divorcing after moving house isn’t as uncommon as you might think. The stress of any of these could be enough to bring on a major illness. A job loss could result in down-sizing and necessitate a house move. The death of a loved one might result in any of the other four. It’s easy to see where a downward spiral starts and it could so easily happen to any of us.

Sadly we can’t help with four out of the five events, but we do have some suggestions for how to avoid a house move if your current home isn’t suiting your current needs.

So you have been in your present house for a few years but now children (or more children) have come along – or your lifestyle has grown to include entertaining groups of friends. Your present location suits perfectly – the schools are great, commuting is minimal, you like (perhaps love) the area – you don’t want to move – and anyway to do so would cost a fortune.

Why not use the money you would lose on a house move – solicitors, tax, removals, redecorating and refurnishing the new property etc. etc. – (not to mention the stress) and simply adapt your current property. Well OK, it may not be that simple – but in the hands of a good builder it could be more do-able than the moving option.

These options include extending the main house, e.g. alongside or upwards, converting a garage or loft, knocking through rooms, putting in larger windows or ceiling light guides, adding a conservatory, opening out a room or rooms to the outside world with big sliding patio or bi-fold doors.

Not only does the money go into your property rather than outside agencies, but you also get to stay in the location that you know and love. What could you do to your house that would make it work better for you?



ConservatoryAt this time of year we all begin to look forward to spending more time outside our homes. Gardens are beginning to show signs of life and we relish the thought of summer BBQ’s, relaxing in the sun and long summer evenings.

Garden Centres are vying for our attention and custom as they approach their busiest time of year, but unless you have a big budget to play with you really need to plan how you will spend your money. In larger gardens you can have a hefty bill in the garden centre and then hardly notice the difference when you’ve planted everything out!

If your garden is basically OK, I would suggest you focus on one area to really make a difference.

A decked area can make a huge difference to your garden and the possibilities are endless depending on your budget. If your garden and budget is big enough, multiple levels of decking can work really well. Each level can have its own purpose and if you combine this with bi-fold, patio or sliding doors, you will be blurring the lines between home and garden which is wonderful in the warmer weather.

A good way to plan any changes to your garden is by using tracing paper. If you place this tracing paper over an A4 picture of your house and garden, you can then draw the changes to see what they would look like, and make changes until you’re happy with the result.

In terms of wood, you have two options, hardwood or soft wood.

Soft woods are cheaper, but they need more preparation. They must be pressure treated and cuts should be sealed with an end-grain sealer.

Hardwoods are more expensive to buy but are extremely durable and also look really good.

Which option you choose will depend on several things.

  • Who is fitting it – fitting costs are likely to be cheaper with hardwoods than soft woods. Not an issue if you are fitting it yourself.
  • How long you are likely to keep it for – if it’s a long term structure then hardwood will look good for longer without the upkeep that softwood will need.
  • Environmental concerns – hardwood is less renewable. Hardwood trees grow very slowly and it can take hundreds of years to replace them, compared to tens of years for softwood trees.

With British summers being unpredictable, maybe you’d prefer to use your budget by moving your indoors outdoors. I know that sounds strange, but a conservatory can be a great compromise. A fully glazed conservatory that you use as a dining room can be used all year round. Or maybe you’d prefer to relax in a “sheltered garden” – well a lounge that has a fully glazed conservatory extension can give you that outdoors feel all year round.

Modern ideas of integrating the garden into the home frequently lead to the need to knock down walls and open out doorways. Sometimes this can involve a degree of structural re-working, other times not so much – either way it needs careful planning and thought about what can be achieved and how, with due consideration of the wider implications.

Generally this integration of home and garden will seek to open the aspect from inside with extra wide windows so blurring the boundary or even enabling it to be completely removed by use of lengthy runs of bi-fold doors or sliding patio doors.

Consultation with a trusted builder at an early stage can avoid problems later by foreseeing possible difficulties which can often be simply worked around for an optimal and cost-effective solution.


Problems and SolutionsIf you are lucky enough to be in a long term relationship and have decided to either renovate, or self-build to create your perfect home, then you have an amazing and exciting journey ahead of you. However, as there are two of you then at some point you’ll realise that your shared dream varies slightly and you may have lively discussions over some of the details of your project. Negotiating a settlement that pleases both of you is difficult but essential. Here are a few things to consider:

Limited budget
Almost every decision you make on your project will have to conform to your budget. If you blow your budget then the happy ever after in your new home won’t be so happy at all, as you will be busy trying to pay off your debts.

Before you even start your project ensure that you have sat down and worked through the budget together. You both need a very clear understanding of how much money you can allocate to each part of the project and how much all the essentials will cost.

This will give you both a framework in which to work and set your limits. If one of you wants something that will blow the budget, it’s best to have the conversation early on. There’s often a compromise where you will get the benefits that you want at a cost that you can manage. For instance, maybe a conservatory or garage conversion instead of an extension will be more cost effective, or a loft conversion instead of a double storey extension. All of these are options that can be considered and costed in advance to determine what works for you and your budget.

Roles within the household
Although you should both be happy with all the details of the project, remember to give priority to whoever will be spending most time using the finished result. If one person does the lion’s share of cooking then their opinion will count more when it comes to deciding the kitchen layout and what work surfaces you choose. However, practicalities and budget still need to be considered, and if one of you has big ideas, unless your budget is big enough, one of you will need to be the voice of reason.

If you are including a study, or gym that will be mainly used by one person, then that person can add very personal touches to the room in order to make it their own.

For families that are considering including a play room then even get the kids to help out when it comes to picking a colour scheme and decorating. It will help them to cope with some of the upheaval and involve them in the process.

Keep your decisions practical
When you’re debating how to complete a part of the project always go for the most practical decision, rather than the one that looks the best. Aesthetics are very important, but you are creating YOUR home, not a “show” home.

A wonderful, large and airy bedroom that doesn’t include storage won’t look as good after a couple of weeks of wondering where to put all your clothes. A beautiful floor that isn’t suitable for the area of the home will soon spoil and you will be left wanting to replace it.

You can improve the aesthetics of a room with some superficial finishes, but any debates between looks and purpose should always end with the most practical choice.

Remember why you started
If you really do end up at loggerheads with your partner about details of the project, remember why you started in the first place. It wasn’t to have big arguments, but to create a home for you to enjoy your life together. When things get tense take a break from it all for a day before going back to negotiating.

You can always change your mind
Once you have completed your project it doesn’t have to stay the way it is for eternity. You can try things out for a couple of years and then change it. That’s why you should spend the most time deciding on the framework of your house and not worry too much about the finer details. Loft conversions, garage conversions and extensions are long term decisions, the merits of wallpaper over paint aren’t.

Decide what it is that you, your partner and your family most need and complete your project. Then, once you have tried it out for size you can slowly add the things that you have decided you want as and when time and money allow.


Make your house clutter-freeSpringtime heralds new beginnings as we slowly begin to throw off the inertia and general hibernation that winter brings. One way to encourage this is to clean our homes and tidy all those areas where “stuff” accumulates. I know that this can feel like a massive task, but the benefits go way beyond a tidy home.  Feng Shui practitioners believe that clutter is stagnant energy and if you have clutter in your home, you will also have clutter in your mind; so clearing your home of clutter will free you up mentally. I know that I feel clearer and more energised when my home is tidy.

If you’d like to take on this challenge, I’d like to give you a few practical tips to help you start your de-cluttering mission…

I’m assuming that like me you’re busy, so don’t tackle this all in one session. Start by walking around your house with a note pad and writing down every area that needs attention. Depending on how much time is available this could be the kitchen drawer or maybe the entire kitchen.

Once you’ve got your list, why not prioritise so you can make the biggest impact straight away and give your motivation a boost.

Here are some tips for you as you address the problem areas in your home.

If you haven’t used it for 6 months and it isn’t beautiful or serves a practical purpose, get rid of it.

Have 4 piles for things you no longer need:

  • Sell
  • Re-cycle
  • Donate to charity
  • Bin it

If it all feels a bit daunting, why not set yourself a 3:3:3 challenge. Every week locate 3 items to throw away, 3 items to donate and 3 items to return to their correct place. That’s 9 items every week, or change the numbers to whatever suits you.

If you take up this de-cluttering challenge we’d love to see the results. Tweet us or post on our Facebook page.

As always, please give us a shout if you’re thinking of doing any work in your home. I’m afraid we can’t help you to de-clutter but we can help if you would like to convert your garage or loft, remove unnecessary partitions or maybe you would like an extension as all the de-cluttering in the world isn’t going to make your home fit your growing family!


Financing home improvementsToo many times I see people embarking on a home improvement project without thinking it through. The first thing I would suggest you do is to get your finances sorted. An architect is likely to cost you £600 – £1,000, which is money wasted if you then can’t raise the money to fund it.

How about approaching it this way instead?

  • Check your savings and contact your lender to find out what you can borrow that’s affordable for you to pay back.
  • Once you have a budget in place, then it’s time to speak to a reputable builder, such as K.J. Hill in Bedford. Call them in and tell them what you would like them to do and ask for a ball park figure.
  • If this ball park figure is within your budget, and you’re happy with the builder, ask them to recommend an architect.
  • If this ball park figure is over your budget, explain this to your builder and you can then start a discussion that will show you what they can do within your budget. It’s about finding a compromise that will give you what you need, at a price you can afford and your builder is able to work with.

If you’d like to start these talks with us, then please give us a call on 01234 765050