Planning an Extension...where do I start? Tips from the Experts

We're living in an age of house proud renovation enthusiasts. We all know someone who's planning to or is in the middle of changing their house (you will always find an ongoing project in my house!). Well, we're the experts and this is a quick guide aimed at helping you get started with a house extension or renovation.

This is a guide in helping you to decide what you want to do to your property, get started with an Architect and choosing a Builder who you feel confident working with for the 6-20 weeks the project will take to finish. It is well known that having a load of trades people you don't know invading your house every day is extremely stressful. You may be living in the mayhem with children, trying to keep on top of the dust and working everyday from home (thanks Covid!). Be prepared for this or plan to do the work during a time when you can go on a holiday or rent a local property/stay with family.

Where do you Start?

It's important you know what you want from your final project. There is no shortage of places for inspiration for your finished design - Pinterest, Instagram, magazines, builders websites.....but you need to be realistic and match your requirements to your budget. Make a list of everything you'd like to achieve and choose an Architect to help you from the beginning.

How do you know what you need?

This is the most important question of all because if, at the end of the build, you've sacrificed your requirements for some fancy bi-fold doors then what have you accomplished? When asking yourself this question, you should think about how long you plan to stay in your property. If you don't already have children, are they something you are considering in the future? (downstairs toilet, large porch or garage for buggies) or are your children soon going to be fleeing the nest (that 4th bedroom could become a home office!). Make a simple list of your requirements and think about where these things would fit in your house.

Will this work add value?

This is something which many people don't consider when starting work on their property. Remember, no matter how amazing your property is, there is a ceiling price for most properties on your street (check this on Zoopla). Even though houses will often go up in value, you can't depend on this when opting to spend £80-£100k on a rear kitchen extension.

There are certain things which sell a property...location (not much you can do about that!), a nice kitchen, extra bedrooms and nice bathrooms. They are also the most expensive items in house developments so consider this if you're planning on renovating to add value. There is a fine balance between the aesthetics/finish and added value and there is also a balance between the size of your current property and the value you will add with additional floor space so make sure you get this right.

In our property, even though I desperately wanted a new open plan kitchen diner, we did the loft conversion first so that we added the 4th bedroom to our property as this added instant value. When we finally undertook our kitchen/diner knock through, we did get planning to extend the kitchen out by an extra 2 meters but when we looked at the additional cost for the amount of value it would add to our property and for the amount of time we wanted to stay here, it didn't add the additional value so we simply stuck to the same footprint and saved £30k but it will add the same value to our property.

Your Budget

You should have a clear idea of your project how much money you have to spend. Working with your Architect will help you create a realistic plan. This is the most important thing you can do to start with. You should also allow for additional costs to crop up throughout your build and you need to allocate money in your budget for this now. For example, unexpected finds (unstable foundations, a full rewire, additional surveys, boiler needs to be upgraded), changing your mind, spending more money on your kitchen, additional electrical requirements and....changing your mind!

You need to consider if you're going to live in the property when the work is being completed or if you need to budget alternative accommodation costs at this stage. Additional insurance may need to be taken out if you're planning a huge renovation and it's also worth noting that if you're working on a period house, costs are often a lot higher because of specialist equipment and the skilled labour required and Be Realistic! just need to find the best Builders (ahem....JMA Construction!) and get your work started!

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