Home improvements soaring as Brits dig deep

In its August 2017 press statement, the Halifax reported the results of its analysis of planning data for England, Scotland and Wales between January 2012 and December 2016. The mortgage lender suggests a rise in planning applications for home improvements is a bid to circumvent a soaring property market.

The number of planning applications for building extensions to basements increased by 183% (3,064) over the period and there have been over 3,000 applications annually since a peak of 3,867 applications in 2014.

London homeowners are the most likely to burrow down instead of moving out, with London boroughs representing the top 16 local authorities and a 60% increase in planning applications for basement extensions between 2012 and 2016. Barnet received the highest number of domestic planning applications, reaching a high of 51 months in March 2016.

The likelihood of upsetting the neighbours is high and could be dramatic; with the resultant dust, noise and potential subsidence caused by a basement extension, there have been some high profile fall-outs. Queen guitarist, Brian May, described his neighbours as ‘selfish and brutish’ and the piling rig they used an ‘instrument of torture’. And singer, Robbie Williams, famously upset his neighbour, Led Zeppelin guitarist, Jimmy Page, with his plans to add a 3,600 sq ft two-storey basement extension to his London home in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Mr Page has now decided not to object to his neighbour’s latest application for a large outbuilding in his garden, for which the appeal deadline has now passed.

Single storey extensions and loft conversion applications are also on the rise, with a growth of 49% and 43% since 2012.

The Halifax survey observed a variety of regional trends. While conservatories are generally out of fashion, they remain popular in Wiltshire and Cornwall. Cornwall also saw 61% more applications than the next highest authority for garages and car ports, and Derby had the most applications for bedrooms and bathrooms.

Gender also affected the definition of a ‘dream home’, with utility rooms desired by twice as many women than men, and games rooms desired by twice as many men than women. In Humberside, 10% of homeowners would like a ‘man cave’.

Two thirds of homeowners have made improvements to their homes over the last two years, with the average spend between £2,000 and £5,000, and a fifth spending over £11,000. At the top of the wish list, 37% of those wanting an ‘ideal home’ desired a new kitchen, although two thirds of those in homes valued at £500,000 or more did not consider their current house to be their dream home. Damien Hurst received planning permission to create an elaborate basement beneath his Grade I listed mansion home in London. It seems that spending £39.5 million on a house designed by regency architect John Nash was not enough for some to have a dream home without making at least some improvements.

If you (or your neighbours) are considering a basement extension, you are strongly advised to seek professional advice from a Chartered Surveyor. Problems with party walls and subsidence are just some of the issues that can be encountered when digging down. Chartered Surveyors at PropertySurveying.co.uk can provide professional assistance in property buying matters.