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New report reveals large leap in home renovations as market slows

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A new report by insurers Hiscox lifts the lid on home improvement trends across the country, and reveals that a subdued property market has driven a five-fold rise in renovations in five years.

Drawing on insight from homeowners, UK-wide estate agents and over 400 local council planning permission records, the Hiscox Renovations and Extensions Report highlights the growing number of homeowners who are choosing to invest in home renovations and the profits and pitfalls they’re facing as a result. 

Rise of the renovators: The number of homeowners choosing to improve instead of move has risen five-fold in the past five years. In 2013, just three per cent of homeowners took the decision to improve instead of move, but fast-forward five years and this figure has increased to 15 per cent, further rising to one in four (26 per cent) amongst millennial homeowners (those aged 18-34).

Driven by an impenetrable property market: The subdued and costly property market has been a clear catalyst for this trend. When questioned, homeowners cited prohibitively high property prices (25 per cent), stamp duty (13 per cent), a sluggish property market (15 per cent), potential interest rate rises (eight per cent) and even the uncertainty caused by Brexit (eight per cent), as reasons for investing in their current home instead of looking elsewhere. 

Cash really is in the attic: UK local councils have seen a near one-third (29 per cent) rise in the number of planning permission requests made by homeowners over the last ten years. Requests for loft renovations have seen the greatest increase at 114 per cent from 2008 to 2017, closely followed by living room extensions (113 per cent). There has been a steep decline in planning applications for conservatories over the same period (-74 per cent).

Demand is by no means uniform: In the London boroughs of Redbridge and Harrow (the UK hotspots), one in every 28 households made a planning permission application last year, compared to the coldspots of Weymouth and South Ayrshire where this figure falls to one in every 700.

Garden renovations are blooming: Overall, bathroom and kitchen renovations are still the most popular, but garden renovations are now the third most common home improvement, and the renovation type that’s seen the most growth.

Renovating for returns: According to estate agents, adding a bedroom does the most to boost the value of a home, with the average bedroom extension delivering an 11.2 per cent increase (£25,383 in today’s property prices). A loft conversion (10.8 per cent) and extending with a new kitchen-diner (10.8 per cent) are estimated to add similar amounts.

Sticking to a budget and schedule proves problematic: Today’s renovators typically set a budget of £16,100 per project and allow five months for work to be completed. But the experience of past renovators (projects completed 2008-17) suggests this may be optimistic; two in five (40 per cent) overspent by an average of 20 per cent (or £3,200 in today’s budgets). Delays also bedeviled 35 per cent of past projects, with the average delay lasting three months.

Biggest renovation challenges: Living in the property whilst work was carried out proved to be the biggest challenge, according to 40 per cent of those who’ve completed renovations (40 per cent). That’s followed by finding the right tradesman and experts (34 per cent) and staying within budget (25 per cent).

Renovations spark neighbourly disputes: Looking at previous renovation projects and those currently underway, just under one in six (17 per cent) has sparked some form of neighbour disagreement. Issues include neighbours officially (through the council) and unofficially (to the homeowner) complaining about the project and are most prominent in London where two-fifths (39 per cent) of projects result in some form of dispute.

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