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.
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.
Most viewed property of the year
Most viewed property of the year
This unassuming three-bedroom detached house in Martins Heron in Berkshire doesn’t immediately look like the kind of property to draw the crowds. However, the fact it was used as Harry Potter’s home in the first of the films means we were intrigued to see inside this £475,000 property that was ideal for commuting.
This was an impressive seven-bedroom home in Upper Denby, on the market for £1.3 million - with plenty of rustic charm and a wood-burning stove. However, we all know the real reason this made it to the list of the most-viewed properties: it’s the enormous play area complete with pirate ship that you can just catch sight of through the lounge window.
This five bedroom relatively newly-built mansion has every whistle and bell you could wish for - from a cinema and games room to a gym, swimming pool, and a dining room that’s big enough for a grand piano in the corner. It’s still on the market for £1.05 million, and is right next to Lincoln Golf course if you fancy playing a round.
Unsurprisingly, this development project on Chadwick Road in East London has been snapped up. At just £1 million you got 13 rooms over four floors - with off-street parking for three cars. No wonder it was the seventh most popular home for us to look at, and dream that with a bit of elbow grease we could have a huge London property... and we could finally park somewhere near it too.
This is a home that comes with a dream lifestyle. For just £1.4 million, you can get an incredibly swanky five-bedroom farmhouse in seven acres of lovely Welsh countryside. You also get a two-bedroom barn conversion - either to house visiting family, or to run as a holiday letting business. The house is still in the market - so that dream could still be yours.
Ever fancy your own posh lakeside hideaway with its own jetty just over an hour from London - for just £2.8 million?
For just £545,000, this 6-bedroom house in Donaghadee could be yours. The property itself is very recently developed in an elegantly rustic New England style. There's plenty of room, and a dream bathroom. But possibly the reason it features so high up the list of most-viewed houses is that it comes with a paddock and stable - perfect for anyone with horsey aspirations.
It’s easy to see why this pretty £375,000 cottage is in such high demand. First is the fact it has been rebuilt from reclaimed stone, so combines old world charm with handy modern features (like a good-sized kitchen and fancy bathroom). Then there’s the location - right in the centre of the village of Holmfirth - best-known as the setting of Last of the Summer Wine.
This impressive house in Bromley in Kent has footballer written all over it. From the pale grey colour scheme, to the acres of space, and the enormous patio for entertaining, there's plenty for a footballer to love. At just £1.7 million it’s pocket-change for them too. For the rest of us, there’s the chance to dream of a mansion within commuting distance of London for the price of a flat in Notting Hill.
There was a time when a semi-detached five-bedroom home in Hampstead Garden Suburb was the sort of thing that ordinary families could aspire to. Now it's the kind of thing we spend our time daydreaming over on property websites: marveling at a 90 foot garden and the fact it has a garage. The price tag of £2.25 million means it's the kind of house we can only ever afford to look at online - which is probably why it's the most viewed property of the year.