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If you cannot move, improve

Ongoing uncertainty within the economy means that many people either cannot raise the finance needed to move house or are afraid to take on the additional financial responsibility. However, if you do have some capital to hand, there are ways in which an existing property can be improved and its value increased; making the property both more comfortable and/or cost-effective for the existing owners and more attractive to purchasers in years to come. Furthermore, such improvements may not involve as many administrative hurdles as might initially be expected.

Loft conversions

Loft conversions have become very popular in recent years, with many firms specialising in their construction. In many London suburbs, it is rare to see a street without at least one house with a converted roof space. Since 2005, an owner of a freehold property will generally not have to apply for planning permission for a loft conversion as long as the extended roof space will not exceed 40 cubic metres (in a terraced house) or 50 cubic metres (in any other) and any enlargement extend no more than 20 cm from the eaves of the original roof. In these circumstances, householders will be saved the time and expense of making a planning application, as well as removing the period of uncertainty (usually 8-10 weeks) whilst the planning authority considers the application.

A loft conversion - as all building work - will require building regulation approval, which ensures that the works are done to acceptable health and safety standards. Any reputable builder should be fully aware of building control requirements, involving the council early in the process. In addition, in terraced or semi-detached properties, it may be necessary to serve party wall notices on the neighbour(s), for which reason it is sensible to give them advance warning of your plans.

Where a property is listed, in a conservation area and/or leasehold, planning permission may be necessary and specialist advice should be sought. With flats or maisonettes in particular, you should check that the roof space is included within your lease and also ensure that permission is sought from the landlord, if your lease requires it.

Rear extensions

Depending on the nature of your property, it may be possible to build an extension to the rear - for a conservatory, perhaps, or an extension to existing accommodation. Put simply, a single storey rear extension will not require planning permission as long as the extension does not extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than 4m (for detached houses) or 3m (in other cases) and its height does not exceed 4m (or 3m where the extension is within 2m of the boundary of the property). Planning permission may however be required for a larger or two storey extension or where the property is listed or within a conservation area.

For both loft conversions and extensions, it is important to research potential firms carefully, obtaining several quotes and viewing their previous work. Building work done well can greatly enhance the value of a property, but shoddy workmanship can be costly to remedy!

This article was first published in Coutts Woman March 2012.

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240 Blackfriars Road
London
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DX 53 Chancery Lane

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7629 7411
Fax: +44 (0)20 7629 2621
Email: bh@boodlehatfield.com

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