Sharp rise in people undertaking home improvements

Published on
12 August 2021

Estate agents have reported rising demand for homes with gardens, space for a home office, good wi-fi and access to green spaces.

And there was a 25 per cent jump in the number of planning applications for home improvements in 2020, according to Zoopla.

Lewis Benson, a mortgages area manager for The Cumberland, said: “What we saw in the depth of lockdown was a reduced demand from customers to borrow money to improve their homes.

“But since lockdown eased there has been a lot of interest and customers are doing much bigger projects. People’s requirements from their homes have really changed.”

This huge shift towards creating the homes of our dreams has been driven by the enormous amount of time we have spent at home.

Knocking through to create a kitchen diner is still a favourite improvement to make, but many homeowners are planning extensions or converting a garage into an office.

While some people want to put in an extra bedroom, others are keen to renovate the garden or put in a bar.

Home office in a garden

“People aren’t getting the enjoyment from going abroad on holiday and it’s more difficult to go out for a meal, so the benefit of having space at home that we can use has become really important,” said Lewis.

The stock of houses in Cumbria is quite limited, and detached four-bedroom houses are really limited, so many people are deciding to put a bedroom on their three bed semi instead.

While homeowners have funded small scale improvements out of savings made from missed holidays, they often need help for the more ambitious projects.

“We can help customers with home improvements in two ways. Either you have a mortgage with us already and you come to us for an advance. Or you are with another provider, and you re-mortgage to us and at the same time we raise some extra money on top.”

There is another benefit to spending the extra time and money on improving your home which is that it increases the value of your home.

But, which improvements add the most value?

Lewis says: “New kitchens and bathrooms make a property more desirable. But sometimes they don’t add value.

The ones that add value are extra bedrooms. But the downside is that the home improvement might cost more to do than it will add to the value of the property.

Lewis Benson

“I would always advise homeowners to do their homework. Speak to your builder and local planning office and understand how much it will cost, and research how much properties of the same type are selling for.

“There is always a ceiling on what different types of properties can sell for, no matter how much you add to them.”

Simon Dockeray runs Cumbria Home Renovation Services, based in Currock, Carlisle and has also seen more demand for bigger home improvements.

Simon’s top three recommendations for improving your home are adding solar panels, creating a new kitchen diner and adding an extension which brings the outside in.

Simon says: “Even a small extension can make a big difference, with bi-fold doors or patio doors to the outside. All of a sudden you totally transform your living space.”

Nicky Fajardo and her partner Peter Maclachlan turned to Simon and the Cumbria Home Renovations team in 2019 to upgrade their terraced house on St James Road in Denton Holme, Carlisle.

Nicky Fajardo's new kitchen diner thanks to Cumbria Home Renovation Services

In 10 weeks Simon transformed a separate kitchen and dining room and old conservatory into one large airy open space which can accommodate the whole family including sons Bobby, nine and Chay, four.

“We absolutely love it,” says Nicky who is a health worker at The Cumberland Infirmary. “We had talked about doing it for a long time, because we wanted the kitchen to be the heart of the home.

“There wasn’t enough space for all of us in the old kitchen and the dining room was small and we never used it.

“Now we have a real family space and thank god we did it, because during lockdown we spent so much more time in it. Even little things like we had a disco ball and had room to do discos during lockdown. It was totally a life-saver.”