Bungalow 'doorstep' sells for £500,000

An ancient moss-covered stone used as a bungalow doorstep has astounded its owners by selling for more than £500,000. The eight-foot Buddhist relic - previously valued at £30,000 - had previously been rejected by Sotheby's and the BBC Antique's Roadshow.

In fact, the artefact, nicknamed 'The Pebble' by its owners', was a Buddhist temple step thought to be up to 1,300 years old.
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Half a mill

Ex owner Bronwen Hickmott originally inherited the three quarter tonne granite lump from her parents - who had themselves been gifted it it by a returning tea planter from Sri Lanka - deploying it for doorstep duty at her bungalow home in Exeter, Devon.

Pre-auction estimates for the ancient Sri Lankan artefact - a moon-stone, in fact - originally came in at around the £30,000-£50,000 mark. But bidding was strong and the stone ultimately fetched £553,250. In fact, Hickmott - who'd spent 10 years trying to interest auction houses in the relic - was amazed when bidding hit more than £40,00.

"When it reached more than £40,000," she told the Sun, "my jaw dropped to the floor. We are just overwhelmed."

No clue

"We did not have a clue what 'The Pebble' would sell for," Hickmott also told the Mail. "It was very exciting and as the amount increased we were left speechless and holding our breath. I have loved 'The Pebble' virtually all my life. I always knew it was something special - but never knew how special."

Such sales are rare of course. This moonstone, called a sandakada pahana, is thought to be have been created during the ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom; they were usually placed at entrances to Buddhist temples.

A bigger sale was made recently at a Sotheby's auction in London. Art detailer Giuseppe Eskenazi paid $2.225m for a rare Chinese bowl - thought to date from the Northern Song Dynasty - despite it earlier being bought for just $3 at a yard sale.

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Bungalow 'doorstep' sells for £500,000

Of course with all these things, the value it adds depends on the property you have to start with, and the kinds of improvements you make, but Which? estimates the cost of a new kitchen at £8,000 and HSBC calculates the added value to your property at £4,500 - which is a clear loss.

This has been done by 41% of people in the last three years, and 29% of people plan it in the next three. It's cheaper than a kitchen, and Which? estimates the cost at £3,000. This is roughly the same value that HSBC says it will add to your property - so you'll break-even.

It may be difficult, but getting your property ready for sale means depersonalising it. 

Clutter can distract viewers and more than half (60%) of the property valuers who took part in the 2012 HSBC Home Improvement Survey said that the number one way to increase a property's chance of selling quickly, and for a good price, was to de-clutter.

This has been installed by 31% of us in the last three years, and 15% plan it in the next three. Installing central heating is a disruptive job, and according to WhatPrice it will cost you around £3,235. However, this is the first of the top ten to actually pay off. Property expert Phil Spencer says it will add £5,000 to the value.

A quick splash of paint can work wonders on tired-looking walls, and sticking to neutral tones is the safest bet.

Keeping the colour scheme simple, fresh and inviting will help potential buyers to see themselves living in your home.

Some 18% have added one in the last three years, and 30% will in the next three. This is another huge job, but with more people struggling to move and deciding to improve instead, it's increasingly popular. The amount it costs will depend on an enormous number of things, from the area you have to work with, to the size of the extension. However, assuming you add a single room you could spend around £20,000. HSBC estimates it will add around £15,500 to the value of the property, so you are unlikely to gain as much as you spend.

According to Halifax valuers, loft conversions - which require lofts with a roof height of at least 2.4 metres - are a good way to increase the potential sale price of your home.

Be sure to stick to your budget, though. The average loft conversion will cost between £10,000 and £30,000, while HSBC's figures show that they typically add £20,876 to the value of a property.

Putting in new windows adds around £5,265 to the value of the average property and can reap big rewards when it comes to energy efficiency.

It is, however, sensible to ensure that your new windows are in line with the style of your property to maximise the added value - particularly as putting them in can set you back about £5,000.

Off road parking or a garage can be especially advantageous in areas where parked cars line both sides on the street.

Nationwide's figures show that adding a garage, which can cost anything between £8,000 and £25,000, can increase the value of your property by 11%.

Outside space is just as important as inside - especially when people are seeing your home for the first time.

While 63% of the HSBC survey expert respondents said that repainting or varnishing a front door would make a difference, only 23% of homeowners recognised this. Peter Dockar at HSBC said: "It is often the smaller jobs like painting the front door that can make all the difference when looking for a sale."
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