House sales 'reach three-year high'

For saleThe number of homes sold in the UK over the past three months reached its highest level for more than three years in May, surveyors have reported.

Figures also indicated property price rises were no longer confined to London and the South East as they began to spread across the country amid signs of "green shoots beginning to sprout" in the housing market.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said that on average its members each recorded 17.9 property sales over the period, the highest reading since January 2010.

Meanwhile, a balance of 35% more surveyors predicted that they would see more sales over the next three months, up from 26%. It was the highest reading since May 2009.
Demand was also up, with the balance of increased new buyer inquiries rising to 30%, the highest level since October 2009, in what RICS said was a sign that market confidence was gradually being restored.

Further figures showed the newly agreed sales index up to 30%, also a level not seen since 2009.

A balance of 5% of surveyors saw price increases rather than falls, with the upward trajectory spreading across the UK, with an average increase of 1.4% expected over the next 12 months.

There were still widespread variations across the country, with prices expected to go up 4.1% over the year in London compared to 0.2% in Yorkshire and Humberside. But surveyors in all regions were now expecting positive growth in the year, including 0.6% in the struggling Northern Ireland market. An overall balance of 20% forecast that prices would pick up.

Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said: "Most encouraging of all is that stability is not confined purely to London and the South East, as has been the case, but is now starting to extend to areas right across the country.

"There is still a very long way to go until we see a full scale recovery but green shoots are beginning to sprout."

10 top ways to add value to your home
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House sales 'reach three-year high'

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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