Should you do up your home or move?

You’ve been in your house for a while, and you’re still fond of it and the area, but it’s no longer exactly meeting your needs. So, should you do it up and make the most of it – or find somewhere new and move house?

To answer that question, you should first look closely at your finances and work out a) if you can afford to move and b) if renovating it would give you a better return than selling and upgrading.

But outside of that is the emotional attachment you feel for it and whether you’re willing to give that up, because you really cannot put a price on your happiness.

Ask yourself: Do I really want to move out?

Your emotions will have a lot of say in whether you stay or go. Do you like your neighbours? Are you happy with your commute? Does your local café know your order by heart?

Be honest but realistic here. Just because you like things how they are, does not mean they could not be better elsewhere. Use online property portals like Zoopla and Rightmove to see what you could get within your budget. Remember to factor in the added expenses of moving like stamp duty, exit fees, arrangement fees and removal costs.

A fruitless property search (along with today’s unpredictability of the property market) may make you decide to stay put after all. If this is true for you, think about your initial reasons for considering a house move and if they can be rectified by renovating or remodelling. You might use your home equity to pay for the improvements, which lenders generally allow because it increases the value of their investment.

Be sure to budget

Realistic budget planning is critical when deciding whether to make your current home work better for you or to find another one.

If you decide to renovate or extend, make sure you can get planning permission first. There’s no point in devising grand plans for your home if the local planning authority (LPA) will not allow it. Once you’ve applied, it should take the LPA a couple of months to get back to you. Planning permission usually lasts for three years from the date it was granted (not the date you applied).

Remember to think long-term both when you’re considering an extension or if you’re looking to buy. For instance, if you’re weighing up between an extra bedroom or a bathroom, work out what will add the most value to your home when you come to sell, do not just look at your current needs. Similarly, you might want to move from a one-bed to a two-bed flat now, but how long before you grow out of that two-bed? Would a three-bedroom house in a more affordable location work better in the long run?

Most importantly of all, look at how much you can afford plus what you could realistically borrow and budget your next steps within that. Whatever you decide, you should be financially comfortable enough to do it – overstretch yourself and there’s the real danger of falling into arrears with your repayments at which point where you’re living will not really matter at all.

Decided to stay put?

If after looking at the property market and your budget you have decided you like it where you are (or need to stay because you cannot afford to move), there is a lot you can do to make the most of the property you’re in.

  1. Sort through your belongings – get rid of anything you no longer need or want to free up some space
  2. Re-arrange your furniture and optimise your space – now you have more space, do something with it! If you need that second bedroom more as an office than a bedroom, then replace the bed with a sofa bed and put a desk in there.
  3. Update your furniture – upcycle what you have with a lick of paint, or sell it and find quality pieces that work better with the space you have
  4. If you can afford it, extend it! As we’ve said above, think as long term as possible here. Do not just make changes that are specific to you and your needs as you may struggle to sell it on in the future if it’s too niche

Now read: How to boost the value of your home

When it comes to doing up your home, the bigger the project, the longer it will take – we are talking months, not weeks! Particularly if you are making structural changes, be aware that timescales and budgets are almost always exceeded.

Plan for this as much as you can by giving yourself a sizeable contingency fund. If, for example, you are having a new kitchen put in, ask the contractors how long it will be out of action because if you are living in the property during that time, you’ll need to budget for takeaways/eating out costs.

Never lose sight of the area. By this we mean, if you initially bought the property because it was in a somewhat undesirable (yet affordable) neighbourhood, there is little point turning your flat into a super high-end property that appears out of place. This goes back to the long-term thinking we’ve mentioned – when you decide to sell up, you may have “over-improved” the property for the area and therefore struggle to sell it at a price that would yield you a decent enough return on your investment.

Decided to move?

It may be that your home has problems that you consider insurmountable: perhaps you cannot tolerate the neighbours; you might be outside the catchment area for the best schools; the place is just too small; or you may need to relocate altogether.

In any case, you really have just one choice: it’s time to move house.

The process of moving house is much the same as when you bought your current property apart from the fact you now have one to sell too. Thus, you automatically enter in a “chain”, which can make things a lot more complicated.

Generally speaking, it’s better to market and have an offer on your home before you put an offer on the place you’re moving to. In the same way as when you were first looking, estate agents would not take you seriously without an agreement in principle (AIP), sellers will now not take you seriously unless they know you are already in the process of selling your house.

Now read: How to sell your home quickly

Edited by: Sarah Guershon

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Last updated: 28 January, 2019

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