Should you move or improve?

Sarah Coles
Should you move or improve?
Should you move or improve?

Buying a property is such a massive step - at such a huge cost - that few of us are in a rush to do it before we absolutely have to. However, there comes a point when our family has grown too big for the house, or we want somewhere with a bit more space, a garage, or a spare room. The question we face then is whether we need to go through the whole rigmarole of moving house - or whether we would be better off with home improvements.

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There are times when moving is the only sensible choice. If you dislike the area or the neighbours, then you will be keen to move out. Likewise if you want to be closer to work, or in the catchment area for better schools, then changing location is central to the appeal of moving.

Likewise, there may be something you don't like about the property that you'll never be able to improve your way out of. If it's a flat without a garden, for example, and your growing family desperately needs somewhere to kick a ball around, then moving may be the only way forward.

Property prices play their part too, and there are some parts of the country where improvements will never pay. In London, where prices are astronomical, you may be able to spend £30,000 adding £100,000 worth of value. If you live in rural Staffordshire, meanwhile, you may find that spending £30,000 on your property adds £15,000.


In any other situation, you should at least consider whether improving is a better idea. A big part of the appeal is that every penny of the cash you put into the property goes into the property - so there's no stamp duty to worry about it, lawyers to pay, or removal costs.

You will also remain in the same place, so no need to worry about new schools, new neighbours, leaving the community and disrupting the whole household. You're getting the advantages of moving without the hassle.

Of course, anyone pretending that improving a property is free of hassle would be lying. Major work like an extension, loft conversion, new kitchen or new bathroom will require an enormous amount of upheaval. If you can continue living in the property you'll save yourself the cost and stress of renting somewhere else. However, you will also have to live in a building site for weeks - or even months. You'll be sick of the sight of dust, the upheaval of having other people in the house, and the noise.

You also need to think about the money you are spending, and whether you will really be adding to the value of the house. If, for example, you add a conservatory that makes the lounge dark, you could end up damaging the value of the house rather than adding to it.

Plus, of course, not every house is suitable for improvements. If you're in a terrace with a small garden, there's only a certain amount of space you can add by going into the loft. You also need to think carefully about balancing the property as a whole. If, for example, you cover almost the entire garden with an extension, will you ever find a family looking to buy a property with five bedrooms and no garden?

But what do you think? Do you like the idea of starting afresh, or would you prefer to improve a property? Let us know in the comments.