Smart renovations that increase the value of your home

Home renovation

Key takeaways

  • Kitchens sell properties but can also be the most expensive room to renovate.
  • Bathroom renovations tend to be fairly low-cost and can deliver good bang for your buck.
  • Loft conversions and extensions can add much needed floor space but need to be carefully planned.
  • Consider the buyer profile of your neighborhood before putting in a swimming pool.

We all want to maximise that precious renovation budget to achieve a better return when it’s time to sell. But if your funds won’t stretch to the entire home and you’re weighing up which rooms to make over, Rhys Dyer, CEO of ooba, South Africa’s largest bond originator, offers advice on what will bring you the best financial return…

1. The kitchen

It’s often said that kitchens sell properties, so pay particular attention to this important room, Dyer advises. “They can also be the most expensive room to renovate, which might be fine if you are DIY renovating for your own enjoyment, but if you are renovating to sell or to rent then you need to be mindful of maximum impact for minimum outlay and look for some cheap kitchen renovation ideas,” he says.

You can save money by using flat-pack cupboards. These come in standard sizes, so plan out the best configuration; there are free online tools that can help. Replacing old door knobs, cupboard handles, tap fittings, and ceiling lights is good for a quick, low-cost revamp while, for the more adventurous, updating the splashbacks with new tiles can give the space instant rejuvenation.

“Avoid fashion colours and kitchen design trends like the plague! They can date the whole house,” warns Dyer. “Of the latest trends in kitchens, it looks like stainless-steel appliances are here to stay, so don’t be scared to invest in them,” he continues, adding, “There is a wide variance in terms of functionality and cost, so be careful not to over-capitalise.”

2. The bathroom

Cheap bathroom renovation ideas can be really effective in lifting a tired or grubby bathroom, says Dyer. “It is usually easy to replace the shower screen, taps, toilet and vanity. Then you could paint the tiles and walls and resurface the bath. If you are doing a bigger renovation, keep the cost down by retaining the location of the existing plumbing.

“If you can fit a bathtub in, do so,” he suggests. “But don’t bother with bathroom design trends and install those tiny ones, or worse still, square baths. Put in a really nice shower instead. In a family home, a bathtub in the main bathroom is always preferable to one in the en-suite. Young families like to have the bathroom close to the kitchen (but not too close) for bathing the little ones at witching hour.”

If you can’t fit two bathrooms into a renovation, Dyer advises trying to put a second guest washroom in somewhere – the laundry can often be a good spot for it. “If you have a four-bedroom place, aim for an en-suite off the main bedroom as well as a family bathroom to add value to your home,” he says, concluding, “It’s all about what’s appropriate. Twin vanities in an en-suite are great, but not if you are tight on space. And forget the spa bath!”

3. The roof

Extending upwards is one of the easiest ways to gain an extra bedroom and bathroom – in fact, a loft conversion can increase floor space in your house by up to 30%.

“The most successful loft conversions are those that appear to be an integral part of the existing property, both inside and out, and in which the home retains a balanced ratio of living space to sleeping space,” explains Dyer.

“You'll need to ensure the pitch of your roof is steep enough to allow the necessary headroom and remember that you will have to sacrifice space on the floor below in order to install access,” he says. “You'll also need to consult a structural engineer to make sure your floor joists can support the extra weight. And you may want to hire an architect to bring your ideas to life and act as an agent to guide you through the required planning permissions and building regulations. If certain conditions are met, you may not need planning permission at all.”

If your loft is unsuitable for a conversion, another option is to extend either to the side or the rear, suggests Dyer. “Generally, similar rules to those for loft conversions also apply to extensions, although the size – and therefore cost – can vary more.”

4. The swimming pool

Flying in or out of most South African cities on a sunny day, you can’t help but notice the suburban landscapes punctuated by the shimmering blue of backyard pools. But will adding a swimming pool add value to your home?

Before taking the plunge, Dyer suggests keeping an eye on the local market. “Are pools in demand from new buyers? While they may be a hit with families, if your area is more popular with downsizers or retirees, a pool could just seem like too much hard work.”

In addition, he points out, how you plan to position and integrate your pool with your home will impact your budget so it’s important to think about the costs involved in decking, paving and other landscaping. “And whatever type of pool you have in mind, you will need to consider the cost of fencing or a net to ensure it’s safe if you have small children,” he adds.

Before you splash out, there’s plenty to think about, Dyer cautions. “Make sure your pool installers (and any other professionals such as landscapers or builders) are legit by always following up on references and get written, fully itemised quotes so you can see that there are no hidden extras. Only then can you decide if a pool will be a rewarding investment when you sell your home.”

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