It’s a common phenomenon in house hunting that when the ideal, affordable property in the perfect location is found, the accommodation is just too small, so we dismiss the possibilities. Yet, whilst our instinct is to dismiss too-small properties at the detail gathering stage, it’s worth thinking again, looking more carefully at the property details and both interior and exterior photographs, before viewing the property and considering its asking price with another option in mind: extending the accommodation with a loft conversion.

The cost consideration

In fact, on cost basis alone, it can often work out cheaper to buy a smaller home and expand into the loft, than to buy a larger house, for instance:

  • Where the price range means that the smaller property is below the stamp-duty threshold and a larger property is above: the stamp duty savings made could help fund a loft conversion.
  • For first time buyers, purchasing a smaller home with a view to expanding later on can mean accessing first-time buyer incentives (particularly those which relate to the property price range or mortgage size).
  • For couples hoping to start a family, buying a smaller property can offer the hidden money-saver of not having to sell up and move again as soon as children come along. Factoring in estate agent, surveyor and legal fees, as well as valuation fees and stamp duty, the costs of converting a loft to make a two bedroomed home into a four bedroomed can easily take a property from couple sized to family sized and saving on all of the fees that go with selling and buying a bigger home can help recoup the costs of the conversion – which averages anything between £20,000 to £55,000.
  • Although finding even £20,000 for a conversion may seem considerable, the cost of taking your accommodation up into the loft space is often off-set by the additional value it can add to the home – an average of 12.5%, up to approximately 20% (Source: GE Money). For this kind of investment in your property though, it’s essential to use loft specialists who will take into account the impact of a loft conversion on the whole home and its future marketability, as well as to ensure that all planning requirements are met and that the work is fully signed off and certified at the end as this is absolutely essential if you will require to sell in the future.
  • Home improvement loans are often easier to access than an increased mortgage, can be secured against the property and can actually be more affordable than taking out a new mortgage, depending on your bank and credit history. All of this could save you money in the long run and make a small home which grows larger a much cheaper option that purchasing a large home courtesy of a large mortgage.

The convenience consideration

Of course, the solution isn’t as simple as finding the ideal smaller home which offers excellent options for converting the loft – another consideration is convenience: this won’t be a home you can just move into without lifting a finger, you will have to ask yourself whether you are willing to move into the property and then have work done. If this is a major concern, reassurance can be gained by finding the right professionals to help, who can make the whole process easier, cleaner and with minimal inconvenience to your family and your work schedules.

Another cost to factor in is the time for a loft conversion. Long projects always seem like a major inconvenience, but it’s worth knowing that professional specialist loft companies can complete projects from start to finish on an average of 6-8 weeks. In terms of the extra years in a home that creating this space can bring, these few weeks are a relatively short time of inconvenience in order to gain the gaining the perfect home.

Final considerations

Of course, buying a house isn’t just about investing time and money, many of us also invest something of ourselves in a home. Why leave the home your babies were born in just because they’ve become loud, proud and large teenagers? It can be more economical as well as life-affirming to convert the loft and grow the space with the family and the memories, than to move house.

Additionally, when you’re weighing up a move which may involve a loft conversion is that converting a loft to create the living and sleeping accommodation which suits you is also a way of making your own stamp on your new home. Viewing this move into a new home and ‘making do’ whilst the loft is converted and accommodation organised as part of the transition period which leads you to your ideal home can make the conversion period as exciting as the house move itself.

In some cases, everything points to a loft conversion being the way to make a prospective home perfect, but issues such as the red-tape required can be off-putting. In such cases, it’s worth knowing that if the property is a house rather than a flat and is not in a conservation area, then “full” Planning Permission may not be necessary if the area for development:

  • Is under 40 or 50 cubic metres;
  • Does not go above the roof line;
  • Affects only the rear of the property (for example, having the window put to the rear).

In all cases, even when Building Regulations or planning is needed, your professional loft conversion company can manage this concern for you.

A view to a conversion

If looking at smaller properties with a view to extending into the roof space seems like a good idea, then there will be a few additional things to note when you are viewing property, so that you can gather as many ideas as possible about the future (as well as the current) accommodation:

  • Take a general look along the street. If there are loft windows in other roof spaces, it’s a good indicator that the potential for expansion is within the home and that conversion is likely to be looked upon favourably by the local planning office.
  • If in doubt, approach the planning office before viewing a likely property, to see which regulations apply within the particular borough and to identify if the property is in a conservation area.
  • If you book a viewing knowing that you will want to see the loft, inform the agents or vendors so that this can be prepared for. It’s also worth asking the estate agents or vendors for the loft-space dimensions in advance.
  • Whilst viewing, also identify possible positions for accessing the loft as a conversion, look for issues such as headroom, staircase position or potential fire escape issues.

Finally, whilst most of us house hunt based on getting as much space as we can for the maximum we can afford to pay, it’s useful to remember that looking at lower costing homes, with smaller but adaptable accommodation can open up your options as a home buyer and can mean the difference between settling for a home that ticks most boxes for now, to creating a home that will tick all the boxes in the future too!