Millions of home owners in England and Wales improve rather than move, survey finds

Almost two million people in England and Wales can’t afford to move home so have decided to improve their current house instead, new research suggests.

Some 33% have specifically made home improvements with the aim of adding value to their property while 18%, are buying smaller properties than they would have liked as a result of rising house prices.

Overall, the latest Lloyds Bank research shows over 14 million people, 44%, have undertaken major work on their current property, or plan to do so within the next year in order to improve or add value to their home.

As house price increases, almost two million home owners say they couldn’t afford to move, so opted to improve their current house instead.

Those aged between 25 and 34 are most likely to undertake redevelopments in the next 12 months, with 27% planning work. Within this age group, a further 30% already have already completed significant home improvements on their current property.

Improving the look of the house is the most frequent reason for undertaking home improvements, with 40% saying this was key driver. This shows that carrying out work on the house is a decision that is predominantly made to make a house a home, rather than for financial gain.

However, 33% of respondents also said adding value was a reason for improvements, ahead of making improvements out of necessity, for example to accommodate their immediate family growing which accounted for 22%.

When it comes to looking at the function of the new space created by home improvements, creating additional living space is the main priority, with 60% of respondents stating this as an average across England and Wales. New kitchens accounted for 40%, bathrooms 30% and bedrooms 28%.

Some 18%, or nearly six million home owners nationally, have previously bought smaller property than they would have liked as a result of rising house prices. In the South East, this figure rises to 21%. Of those that did buy a smaller property than they would have liked, a quarter did so with a view to extending or improving the property to add value, and a further 18% did so to extend and meet their housing needs.

‘With over 14 million of us opting to carry out large scale improvements, these kind of projects are seen by many as at the best way to make a house a home. Rising house prices are clearly having an impact, with almost one in five buying smaller properties than they would have liked,’ said Marc Page, Lloyds Bank mortgages director, at Lloyds Bank.

‘However, this is giving more people an opportunity to undertake home improvements, whether they are trying to maximise the value of their property, or even make it more sellable in future,’ he added.

The research also found that significant sums of money are also being spent to improve, with 32% of home owners spending between £10,000 and £25,000 on the necessary work. A further 22% of people have spent between £5,000 and £10,000 and 13% of respondents spent between £25,000 and £50,000.

People feel that the amount they invested was similar to the amount of value it added. Some 20% felt that their improvements added between £5,000 and £10,000, 29% felt that their improvements added between £10,000 and £25,000 and 13% felt that their improvements added between £25,000 and £50,000.

Regionally, those in the South East, which includes London, are more likely to undertake large scale home improvements than in any other area. Some 34% have undertaken major work on their current property, and a further 20% plan to within the next year.

In the South East, 38% of redevelopments are to create new bedrooms for the people living in the house. This is significantly above the national average, where 28% of redevelopments are to add bedrooms, and it is also 8% higher than the next highest region. This could reflect the lack of available properties in the South East, meaning people are more likely to look to redevelop. In the North of England, just 20% of work is carried out to add new bedrooms to a property.

By comparison, creating additional living space is not as important for those in the South East. Although it is still the most common reason why people in the region make home improvements with 53% doing so, it is significantly lower than the national average of 60%.

At the other end of the scale, over two thirds of people in the Midlands, 67%, see increase their living space as the priority when it comes to improving their home. In Wales and the South West 19% made improvements in order to sell the property, way above the national average of 7% and a lot higher than the next highest region, the North of England at 8%.

Respondents in this region are more likely to focus their energy towards new kitchens at 55% and bathrooms at 44%, than in any other region, but less likely to add new bedrooms to their property at 23%. This may reflect the desire to make quick improvements in order to sell the property, as work to create new bedrooms can be a more substantial undertaking.

In the North of England, the focus is on enhancing the house for the benefit of the home owner. Nearly half, 46%, of improvements had the goal of improving the overall look of the property, above national average at 40%. Some 17% of people in the North of England said that they couldn’t afford to move, so opted to improve their house instead, which is higher than any other region in England and Wales.