Advice on home unimprovement – or how to devalue your house

Some practical advice on what NOT to do when trying to improve your home for selling.

  1. Japanese Knotweed – while not illegal, the plant is such a thug that the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 was amended because of it. The plant spreads by rhizomes and can quickly develop into a major problem.  If you are found failing to stop the spread, your resulting ASBO can cost you up to £2,500.
  2. Disputes with neighbours – if you are moving house because of problem neighbours, you are required to declare this. What constitutes a ‘dispute’ might be debatable, but new owners have been known to prosecute previous owners for not telling them about particular neighbours.
  3. Illegal home improvements – major changes to your home may not always require planning permission but, even if permission isn’t required, you must adhere to building regulations. New buyers can factor in the cost of rectifying any problems.
  4. Flood risk – the average cost of rectifying flood damage is between £20k – £40k, and sellers must allow for this to reflect in the value of their homes. A local authority search will reveal the risk to buyers, so it isn’t something that can be hidden.
  5. Bad taste – ‘fashionable’ additions to your home may add to its value this year, but in ten years’ time you might find they do the opposite. Remember that stone cladding and woodchip wallpaper were de regueur, in their time.
  6. Pets – they may be part of your family, but pets can make homebuyers nervous and can suggest the need to do some serious cleaning and repair work before moving in. You are obviously not going to get rid of your pets to sell your house, but removing them from the home during viewings can help.  Clean up feeding areas and ‘accident’ stains, and use odour-neutralisers to clear any lingering odours (not air fresheners, which can affect allergy sufferers).
  7. Relocating bathrooms – moving the downstairs bathroom to upstairs might seem a good idea, after all it’ll be nearer your bedroom for night-time visits, and you won’t have to walk through your home in a towel after a bath. But removing a bedroom can seriously devalue your property, so consider carefully before doing so.
  8. Bad DIY – take care not to take on more than you can handle when tackling DIY jobs. Installing a kitchen or tiling a floor is a serious undertaking for most of us, and don’t underestimate the hidden problems that can be revealed when making alterations to older property.  Most importantly – make sure you finish what you’ve started!
  9. Poor kitchen – good kitchens sell houses, and this can often be the most important room in the house when it comes to selling. Replacements are costly so an attractive, clean, well-designed, functional kitchen can add value to your home – while a bad one can quite do the opposite.
  10. Cluttered rooms – although it sounds unlikely, even a cluttered children’s bedroom can devalue a property – by up to £8,000, according to one study. De-personalise spaces wherever you can to give viewers the opportunity of visualising their own ‘stuff’ in the space available, and hide anything that isn’t either essential or beautiful.

For advice on buying or selling property from Independent Chartered Surveyors, contact