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Why Are So Many People Converting Their Lofts in North London?

It’s official – homeowners in North London have increasingly been converting their lofts instead of moving, part of a trend which looks set to continue into 2017.

This notable rise began to be evident at the start of 2016 when, back in February, the Evening Standard reported that the increasing number of planning applications for extensions, (including loft conversions) almost correlated with the decrease in homes being bought and sold in London.

Going up

Rather than this being a passing trend, there are plenty of sound, economical reasons why increasing upstairs space instead of increasing the mortgage has become popular in North London boroughs, including:

  • Value added to property
    The Abbey Partnership report on the value added to properties in London offers plenty of good news insights for London residents and certainly seems to offer reasons why residents of North London boroughs such as Barnet, Enfield, Haringey, Camden and Islington explore extending their current homes to create bigger ones rather than exchanging their existing homes and mortgages for something at least one bedroom larger. Certainly, the report showed that an average two bedroom home in North London, extended with a loft conversion to become three bedroomed, has an approximate average increase in value of +35%.
  • Cost-effective improvements
    Not all home improvements are cost effective, but are carried out reasons which are for remedial, cosmetic and aesthetic or even down to personal tastes. A loft conversion may of course be carried out for any of these reasons too, but tends to be mostly carried out to improve the size and quality of living space. With the increase in property value afforded by a loft extension far outweighing the very reasonable costs for standard (and even high-end) specification loft conversions from professional loft specialists, loft conversions repeatedly prove to be extremely cost-effective home improvements – from both the additional space achieved for the household and the value bonus when the time does come to sell.
  • Avoiding the cost of moving
    Average house moving costs are now approximately a staggering £31,000 – a rise of around 14% since 2015. For homes in North London specifically, Stamp Duty tax is one of the main culprits for this huge cost, as this alone can add costs of around £22,000 to buying an average family home. In many cases, an average standard loft conversion can actually be less than this, so by staying put and extending with a loft conversion, many households are actually saving rather than spending money on moving costs.
  • Trends and styles
    Once upon a time the purpose of an average loft conversion was to create extra space for one of the kids, or as a hobby room for one of the adults, either way, it was notorious as something dark and chilly which was still stuck up in the roof space, away from family life. Fast forwards to 2016 and loft conversions now create stunning accommodation which is very much incorporated into family living spaces. From master bedrooms with en-suites, home offices to reduce commuting costs and stress, to family hobby rooms such as home gyms, the modern emphasis is on family life, mod cons and superb style.
  • Advantage of area
    Being in a good North London location close to well-reputed schools is one of the main search criteria when seeking a next home in London. For families already living in such areas, finding a new home in the same area so that children do not have to be uprooted from schools where they are flourishing and successful can be an additional headache. With a loft conversion, a growing family can be easily accommodated whilst all the advantages of being located in a particular borough of North London are not compromised.
  • Easy (-er) does it
    The traditional expectation of extending your property is that planning headaches will ensue. Now, whilst no project can be guaranteed to be planning problem-free, the Government’s proposals in 2016 look set to improve planning processes, for example by changing existing planning restrictions to allow up to two additional levels to be added to a property, where this takes it up to, but not beyond, the roofline of an adjoining building. It’s proposed that these ‘light touch’ planning application processes will make the whole process quicker and cheaper and may mean that work may be started within weeks, rather than months of initial submission – another reason why many families are now considering moving up instead of moving out.
  • Risk reduction
    With most parts of the UK, including major cities such as London, being squeezed by the housing crisis and uncertainty in the property markets, many homeowners consider it easier and less risky financially to stay put and extend their homes rather than to try selling and upsizing in an uncertain market. As well as the problems associated with finding a buyer who is in a position to proceed, and a next purchase which fits the (inexhaustible) requirements of both family and mortgage lender, additional risks in the 2016 property market include lenders withdrawing offers of finance, buyers getting cold feet and the practice of gazundering (attempting to strong-arm sellers into accepting a lower offer just prior to, or even on, the day of exchange). These additional risks have increased since the last election, and then some since the Brexit outcome (Telegraph, 2016) and now look additionally threatened by the outcome of the US Elections. Even some areas of London, which have long enjoyed a property boom, are now caught in a slump where the low (but lucrative for buyers) practice of gazundering is making an increasing appearance.

As such, and with almost 1 in 3 property sales in England, Ireland and Wales now falling through, buying and selling property has become very costly in terms of time and stress, as well as money, another reason why it’s more cost-effective for financially conscious families in North London to extend rather than move.

Getting on

A final consideration is the fact that when it comes to going large with the family home, families just want to get on with it in as stress-free a way as possible, so one of the reasons why the decision between moving or extending can be a close call is certainly the stress-factors involved in each process.

When it comes to the house sale and purchase process, even without the time-consuming keeping the house tidy 24/7, accommodating viewings and then trailing around the city in search of the suitably sized and priced next home, the legal and financial aspects of selling, buying and moving home are also extremely stressful. In contrast of course, undertaking a loft conversion can also be stressful, as it may involve considerable upheaval and inconvenience to the home, depending on the household and existing home layout and access.

However, whether selling and buying or staying and extending, stress can certainly be reduced by carefully choosing the right professionals to work with, to steer the project through and get on with delivering results in as stress-free a way as possible. Whilst the right estate agents, solicitors and removal professionals will certainly aim to do this for those choosing to make a move, wild-card factors such as the position and personalities of your own buyers, vendors of the next property and of fickle financial services can significantly add to the stress and timeline of a move.

On the other hand, the right professional loft conversion company can take actually remove some of the stress – through good communication and consultation, with much of the work actually taking place outside the house (up on the roof) and by managing all aspects from design, to build and finish, all with reference to the homeowner at every step of the process. With Abbey Partnership’s professional services being readily available to homeowners in North London boroughs, this is yet another reason why so many people are having high-quality loft conversions in North London.

Want a free loft conversion consultation and quote? Get in touch today.