adding space & value

Selling your home quickly and for the right amount is about giving your property the edge over others. Online Estate Agent NI looks at ways of breathing life into your home.

Major conversion projects, such as excavating basements or building conservatories, take time and money but they can yield excellent returns. Loft conversions, for example, can add up to 15 per cent to a property’s selling price. But there are other smart tricks that cost very little and can considerably enhance your property’s “kerb appeal” – giving it that wow factor when prospective buyers pull up outside your house for the first time.

Here are 10 ways, ranging in cost, to boost space and value:

Lick of paint
It might sound cosmetic but a coat of new paint (keep the colour neutral) can make a house feel clean, hygienic and cared for. While you are at it, update the front door furniture if it’s looking tired, replace any rotting window timbers or loose tiles and give the front flower beds a weed. First impressions count.

Add some parking
If you have a tatty front garden and you live in a town or city, it could be worth converting the space into an off-road parking area. Depending on the surface, this can be a cost-efficient way to add value, particularly if other properties in your street can’t offer the same.

Get planning permission
A property that comes with planning permission can often tempt buyers who have long-term ambitions for the property. Pay an architect to draw up plans for an extension, spend a bit of time getting them through planning and you could find yourself with a very desirable property (allow at least £2,500 to cover architect and council planning fees). Again, it’s about giving your property an edge over others.

Convert the garage into an office
A lot of today’s garages are no longer fit for purpose, having been designed when cars were smaller. They have become dead space and can easily be converted into another room. Before you do anything, though, find out what buyers are looking for in your area: is it houses with lots of bedrooms (families), or properties with an office (young professionals)?

Convert the loft
Loft conversions are not cheap or always straightforward but they can add considerable value to a property, particularly when space is at a premium. According to recent research by Savills, a good loft conversion can add 10 to 15 per cent to the value of a London home (valued at £1million to £1.5million) and five to 10 per cent in the rest of the UK (for homes valued at £500,000 to £1million).

Make sure you don’t eat into existing living space and remember to tell your insurer if you are using the space for another bedroom. Costs vary but a small conversion will set you back £15,000; a large one up to £40,000.

Add a conservatory
The key to a successful conservatory is to ensure that it flows from your existing rooms, rather than looking as if it’s just been tacked on to the outside. Savills suggests a good one could add as much as 12 per cent to the value of your home in London, five per cent for the rest of the UK and give you a lot more living space (at the expense of your garden, though). Expect to pay anything from £5,000 to £15,000.

Install a new kitchen
The kitchen is what most house-hunters will look at first. Sparkling work surfaces and new appliances can woo a wavering buyer. Kitchens are also what a lot of buyers strip out as soon as they buy a property, so don’t waste your money on something new but tasteless. An average new kitchen costs £8,000 and can add six per cent to your property’s value, according to consumer watchdog Which. The current trend is for open-plan living, so make sure your kitchen has a sense of space.

Side return
Converting a side return into a useful space is often an easy way to create an airy, open-plan kitchen or reception area but it can cost more than you think. Victorian town houses are particularly prone to having a dingy passageway running down the side of the property and this can be a good way to utilise the space. It can certainly add the wow factor and help properties to sell quickly. It can add five to ten per cent in city locations, according to Savills, but is less of a draw in the countryside.

Add an extra bathroom
Bigger houses need more bathrooms, particularly family homes. Nobody likes to queue in the morning. “The view is that more value is added relative to cost in a bigger property where a good bathroom count is really important,” says Robin Chatwin, Head of Savills, south west London.

Make sure all your existing bathrooms are spotless, too – it sets the right tone. According to, the average cost of a new bathroom in the UK is £4,500 – but expect to pay a lot more. “One of the simplest ways to upgrade a family bathroom, if space allows, is to install a separate shower cubicle next to the bath,” adds Chatwin. “Increasingly, when given the choice, people would far rather have both and will pay a small premium – and cubicles are relatively straightforward to fit, too.”

Dig out a basement
It’s not cheap but in cities where the price per sq ft is high, returns can be considerable. Work on the basis that it will cost £300 to £500 per sq ft to dig out and fit a basement and then see how that figure compares with your area. Alternatively, waterproof an existing basement space, paint it, and install some lighting and use it for storage or as a utility room. Much cheaper.

Whether you want to spend money on a basement, or are only prepared to fork out on a tin of new paint, there are lots of ways to add value and space to your home. And if you really don’t want to spend anything at all, you could do worse than decluttering your property. It’s amazing how much bigger a space can feel when all the stuff we don’t need in life is removed.



first time buyer

One of the largest criticisms of the sharp rises in UK house prices is that it has put home-ownership beyond the reach of younger would-be buyers.

The Government keeps an eye on age First Time Buyers.

At first inspection, these numbers might seem to pour cold water on the idea that younger people are being priced out of the housing market.

In 1990, when data was first published, the average age of a first-time buyer was 33… today it’s 32.



Property hot-spots

The Lisburn & Castlereagh district has been revealed as Northern Ireland’s top property investment hotspot, with house prices in the area predicted to rise by 16% over the next five years.

This is according to research from the newly-released Barclays UK Property Predictor. The Barclays UK Property Predictor provides a three-to-five year forecast of investment hotspots in the residential property market, revealing the areas across the UK and Northern Ireland where house prices and rental incomes are expected to rise.

The research uses factors including rental trends, employment levels and commuter behaviour as well as current house prices to create an index of property hotspots. Research revealed that Northern Ireland’s largest increase is expected to occur in Lisburn & Castlereagh, partially due to the area’s predicted population growth (4.8% by 2021), which in turn fuels housing demand, driving prices up. In recent years this area has already witnessed a steady rate of house price rises, with an increase in average house prices there of 24% between 2011 and 2015.

Another clear factor influencing house prices is the consistent and growing rate of employment. Over 2017-2021, Belfast is expected to experience short to medium term employment growth (1%). This will fuel additional demand for housing in the area and with limited city centre housing, house prices in Belfast are expected to increase by 13.7% by 2021, a close second to Lisburn & Castlereagh, which is now a major commuter belt for city workers.



ulster uni

The overall average house price in Northern Ireland has significantly increased over the year, yet only marginally increased over the quarter, according to Ulster University’s latest Quarterly House Price Index report.

Ulster University’s research is produced in partnership with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Progressive Building Society. Analysing performance of the housing market between January and March 2017, it reveals an overall average house price of £153,448, up 5.9 per cent over the year and less than 0.5 per cent over the quarter.

The University research indicates that the volume of house sales for the first quarter of 2017 is lower than the final quarter of 2016, however it suggests this remains at a reasonably healthy level. The research points to seasonal impacts on the market as cause of this negative adjustment. It suggests that increased uncertainties arising from Brexit and the current political impasse locally may have also contributed.

Lead researcher, Professor Stanley McGreal from Ulster University said:

“This research is designed to provide a useful analysis tool for those wanting to buy or sell residential property in Northern Ireland.  The main finding of this report is that the overall housing market is experiencing some positive growth over the year, but over the quarter growth appears to be more static.

“As part of our research, we gather insights from estate agents across the region. We found there was a general feeling of uncertainty from agents concerning the performance of the market during the first quarter.

“Along with agents concerns around political instability and Brexit, they indicate an issue of supply in terms of good quality affordable homes. Agents are pointing to a demand, especially from first time buyers, that is potentially being curtailed by the lack of new build starter homes. In the opinion of many, there needs to be more new build activity to help boost sales.

“Our research shows that in terms of annual performance, all property types have increased in average price, however over the quarter it indicates that performance was more variable. At a regional level a number of areas saw an increase over the quarter, including North Down, East Antrim, Londonderry and Strabane, Antrim and Ballymena, Mid and South Down, and Craigavon and Armagh.”

Michael Boyd, Progressive Deputy Chief Executive and Finance Director added:

“The Northern Ireland housing market has performed well over the last year and while uncertainty has played a factor in reduction in growth between Q4 2016 and Q1 2017, this is a seasonal period with lower transaction levels in the market annually.

“These latest figures reflect the affordability there is in the housing market in Northern Ireland and despite political upheaval, the economy has shown its resilience with activity having grown by 2.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2016 and unemployment falling.

“Looking forward, the economic fundamentals remain firm for house buyers with affordability, low mortgage rates and unemployment. Political and economic stability will further support market progress.”

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which funds the research, has also commissioned Ulster University to research the performance of the private rental market.

Karly Greene, the Housing Executive’s Head of Research and Equality, commented:

“In spite of continued uncertainty associated with various local and national issues, the latest House Price Index survey and the most recent report on the Performance of the Private Rental Market in Northern Ireland suggest that both the house sales and rental markets remain relatively stable.

“This research is also consistent with the preliminary findings of the NIHE 2016 House Condition Survey, which were published in March 2017 and confirmed that the private rented sector continued to grow over the last five years, albeit at a slower rate.

“It is vital that we continue to monitor trends and developments across the housing market in order to gain a clear picture of the dynamics at work and inform planning and future policy.”