Which Improvements Add to Your Home's Value?

11 min read
Home Improvements can not only make your home a better place to live in but they also can also increase its resale value greater than what you paid for them. The question is which improvements add the most amount of value (or any value at all!)? The rule of thumb is more living space, more value, however don't forget the costs involved when extending and the formal process required to be followed with planning permission and building regulation approval.

In our table below, we examine which improvements add to Your home's value and compare them in terms of probable return on investment. The caveat is that market tastes never stand still: you should always do as much research as you can about what is currently in vogue and what improvements are likely to stand the test of time.

If you are planning any development works then please get in contact with us and/or read our instructive guides online.

Return on investment (ROI) - Increase in property value Vs cost
If you are completing improvements with the goal of making more money then before starting you should make sure that the amount you are going to invest will be returned with an increase in property's value. The best way to do this is to review the current market in your area and assess what other properties are selling for or are under offer at that are currently in a similar condition and size to what you are looking to achieve.

Which improvements give the greatest return?

Home ImprovementCosts Involved Planning permission
or building regulations
Do these improvements
add value to your property?
Loft conversion Plan drawings & application,
architects (If req) detailed
drawings, building labour
& materials

Planning permission (either
under permitted development
or normal application) & building regulation approval

(single storey, double storey)
Plan drawings & application,
architects (If req) detailed 
drawings, building labour 
& materials
Planning permission (either
under permitted development
or normal application) &
building regulation approval

Wine Cellar Building labour 
& materials
Planning permission &
building regulation approval

Costs to install range
from £10,000 to £40,000, however
this may not add the same value
onto the current market value.

Garage Building labour 
& materials
Planning permission &
building regulation approval
Only a minor affect
as no additional space

Parking space (non-garage)
(Read more below)
Purchase cost for land or
for creating a driveway
Planning permission (viewed
as changing the view of the 

No additional space 

Land purchase Cost to purchase land,
solicitors' legal fees,
land surveyor fees
Depending on the
parcel of land purchased.
(Find out more about
  Land Boundaries )

Change internal structure
(non-extension such as
removal of load bearing walls )
(Read more below)

Cost of structural engineers,
Building labour 
& materials
Building regulation approvalNo
Central Heating including
new boiler and radiators

Building labour 
& materials
Building regulation approval

Double Glazing Building labour 
& materials
Building regulation approval /

Replace kitchen or Bathroom
Building labour 
& materials

Building regulation approval
It doesn't increase the
current market value, it only ensures
that full asking price
is achieved.

A kitchen or bathroom in poor condition
might be used to negotiate down on price.

Internal Redecoration Building labour 
& materials


Pebble-dashing, white-washing etc. Planning permission if changing 
the 'look' or if in conservation area/listed building
Building regulation approval

Often this is a personal taste
and may put some buyers off.

Gardening Plan drawing and application,
drawing if required (architect)
Building labour & materials
Planning permission sometimes
for work at front of house

Decking at front may require planning permission
and building regulation approval
- see below
The increase would be minimal as
often this is a personal taste
and may put some buyers off.

(read more about rewiring here )
Plan drawing and application,
Electrical Contractor labour,
material costs
Building regulation approvalNo
A buyer would expect
the property to have
safe wiring.

New Carpet or 
wooden flooring

A buyer would expect
the property to have
safe carpet/wooden flooring.

Joint owners share the costs of renovation - Who is due the increase in property value?
Where a property is jointly owned and the intention is to share the cost of building works, then any gain in the property value that relates specifically to the repair/renovation work, is shared in direct proportion to the joint owner's contribution towards the works. If the work is undertaken straightway after buying the property then this could be viewed as a Resulting Trust, however if the improvements are made much later than the date of purchase then this may give rise to a constructive trust. The case that best explains this is Drake v Whipp in 1996.

Drake v Whipp [1996] 1 FLR 826 Court of Appeal
Mrs Drake and Mr Whipp left their spouses with the intention to buy a home and live together. They purchased a barn at a cost of £62,500 with the intention of converting it into a dwelling and living in it; £25,000 (40%) was paid for by Mrs Drake and £37,500 (60%) by Mr Whipp. My Whipp was the sole legal owner of the barn and they did not formally set out their intentions in an express deed of trust (read more about a Deed of Trust).

The barn conversion cost £129,000 of which Mrs Drake contributed £13,000 (10%) and Mr Whipp £116,000 (90%). They both worked on the conversion, of which he provided 70% to her 30% of labour. 

Mr Whipp broke up with Mrs Drake and formed a relationship with another women. Mrs Drake bought an action for an order of sale and division of the proceeds in equal shares. The trial judge held that there was no common intention and therefore applied a resulting trust. However, he allowed the respective contributions to the conversion to be taken into account rather than just the contributions to the purchase price. Consequently, she was entitled to a 19.4% share of the property. She appealed contending that the judge was wrong to take into account the contributions to the conversions under a resulting trust.

The appeal was upheld: Mrs Drake was entitled to one third of the beneficial interest. The trial judge was wrong to conclude there was no common intention since both parties intended that she would take a share. She assumed it would be equal, however he was of the opinion it would be in proportion to her contribution. There was no requirement that they had to agree on the extent of the share. Once a common intention has been found the court can take into account a wider range of dealings and is not confined to financial contributions.

To protect yourself from the above you should draft an express deed of trust that sets out your intentions for the property before you undertake any repairs or renovation works. We can do this for you - Call 0333 344 3234 or click on Deed of Trust

For further information, please click on Basic Deed of Trust

Parking space, buying land adjoining your property

The UK is plagued in many areas, particularly urban, by a shortage of parking spaces with people even being prepared to buy standalone leasehold garage space. This means if you convert a space so you're able to park a car in it - it would normally be your front garden - you stand to add to your home's value. How much so - and therefore whether you'd make a return on your investment - depends on how popular parking in your area is.

Buying land adjoining your property can similarly make your home more valuable and this increases in proportion to how much land you buy. Once again, how large a return you'd make on what you buy depends on the behaviour of land prices in your area.

The parking space must be entirely within the boundary of the property to allow pedestrians to pass the car safely. This is especially important for people with pushchairs, wheelchair users, people with limited mobility or blind/partially sighted people. If a car overhangs the pavement (see figure 3) you may be prosecuted.

The minimum size for a single car parking space is 5.0m by 2.5m, excluding the space needed for any swing gates, access to bins etc. Some family cars today are 5m long. For this reason, the Council encourages car parking bays in front of houses that are larger than the above standard.

Also, as referred to in the table above, if you are creating a parking space at the front of your property, if there isn't one in place already, you will have to apply to your local planning department to create a vehicle crossing/dropped kerb and you have pay for your application and the cost of building it. You may also have to pick your contractors from an approved list picked by your local council. If any street furniture, such as street lighting, needs to be relocated as a result of installing your dropped kerb, you will have to pay for this also.

Modifying your home's internal structure (excluding extensions)

You have the option to put in a stud wall to divide up a large room into two smaller rooms. Creating more bedrooms, as long as they are of usable size, can increase your property's value if your area is popular with families. If the area is popular with professionals who don't have children, you would see less of any uplift in your property's value.

You should still consider carrying out this kind of project if it adds to your own quality of life, regardless of potential future returns on sale. The same argument could be made for doing the opposite, i.e. knocking down a stud wall to create one large room out of two smaller rooms. However, if you choose to do this, you need to be sure you don't knock down a load bearing wall without taking the advice and direction of an expert. Click to get a structural engineer's quote for removing a load bearing wall.

Adding central heating, double glazing, rewiring, re-plumbing

These jobs, if done comprehensively for the whole property, will increase the value of your property, particularly if the work counts as necessary modernisation, and the uplift may exceed your outlay. Homes that need these kind of works will be non-modern properties aged more than around 30 years.

Although less obviously value-adding than structural additions, these projects benefit from being less expensive  and you often don't need separate planning permission, although it always pays to check with the relevant local planning authority. 

Doing these projects in small 'dribs and drabs', fitting a radiator here and there for example, is not likely to add to your home's value much but once again, the improvement work may improve your quality of life.

Pebble-dashing, white-washing and so on

The danger of looking at these kind of works as an investment where you'll see an eventual return on costs is that they are very much a matter of taste and tastes change rapidly and unexpectedly. However most experts would agree that having a smart exterior to your house generally helps in getting your house sold so it's worth ensuring that whatever frontage your house has is well-maintained.

Replace kitchen, replace bathroom

Once again, maintenance of these areas will increase your quality of life but the work will deteriorate with time and many people will judge the work as simply necessary upkeep. You also have to bear in mind that many people move into a new property and decide to refit the kitchen and/or bathroom to personalise their home so your work, other than making the place look neat, may not be a factor. We would advise you not to view these works as being likely to give you a return on your costs.

Painting, wallpapering, redecorating

Internal redecoration is invariably more likely to be regarded by potential buyers as home maintenance rather than improvement. You should certainly avoid any redecorating which is too outlandish for average tastes - you risk detracting from your property's value, a lose-lose situation!


Maintenance of any garden spaces is advisable in terms of selling your home at a fair price compared to other comparable properties, all other things being equal. However in terms of cold return on investment, you would be better off converting garden space for use in an extension or to parking space.

Bear in mind that also that although you won't generally ever need planning permission or building control sign-off for gardening work at the back of the house, at the front, planning permission may be required if:

a) rainwater from the impermeable hard surface of front landscaping at ground level has nowhere to run other than into a household drainage system or onto the public highway; or
b) your property is a listed building.

If you intend to install decking at the front of a maisonette or flat, you may need planning permission and if this required, you will almost certainly require building regulations approval as well.

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