Making the most of space: Loft Conversions – part 1

Converting a loft is a favourite solution for Londoners looking to make more space for themselves – that is if you’re lucky enough to own a property that has a loft. We thought it might be helpful to take a look at what’s involved in converting your top-of-the-building ‘dead space’ into something more hospitable and useful. So what are the options… 

Loft conversions come in all shapes and sizes, just like the homes they are part of. But if you’re contemplating making a room at the top the house, there are plenty of pros, cons, tips and traps that are worth knowing about.

First off there’s the cost. The typical price for a Loft conversion is between £20,000 & £40,000, so you need to have a bit of wear-with-all before making such a big financial commitment. It usually means a finance deal of one form or another and with few of us earning banker style bonuses the most common way of financing building work is to remortgage. 

It’s worth doing the maths here. You might think that adding an extra room would balance out the financial outlay by increasing the property value – that the money you’ve spent would still be there – simply tied up in your bricks and mortar. The average house price in London is £475,940 (yes, the average). Speak to the experts and they’ll tell you a loft-room can add up to 10% to a property value. For the average house that’s up to £48,000. It’s not hard to see that you’ll be doing very well indeed if you see your investment completely maintained in the additional value your loft improvement brings to the property.

On the flip side – whilst it is unlikely that you’ll see all your money back, that’s only in the short term. Most experts agree that if you are improving your property because you are intending to stay put, you will see that back on the natural property value increase. There is another plus-side too – the extra room will make your place much more saleable, so if and when you do decide to move on, you should be able to make a sale more quickly.

Second up, is Planning Permission. New rules in 2011 mean that – provided you keep your loft space within its current confines you’re likely good to go. Change the dimensions of the property however and you’ll almost certainly need to consult your local authority and, most likely, apply for permission. That can take a while and adds to the cost – so the tip here is to work within what you’ve got. Failure to do so will likely result in you having to revert it back – as Stella McCartney’s infamous rooftop shower in Notting Hill demonstrated.

The Planning Portal has all the info you’ll need to work out if you require permission.

Thirdly, Building regs. They’re different to Planning Permission. They dictate the specifications that any conversion should be carried out to. Those specifications depend on the use of the room. If you’re making living space then they’re much tougher than if you are just converting for storage. They cover five key areas; structural stability, fire resistance, weather resistance and energy conservation, access and means of escape and ventilation. It’s wise to  choose to get professional help in your design here, or consult your local authority. At the very least choosing to use reputable and qualified tradesmen who understand the regulations can save you creating a living space that can’t actually be lived in.  

A loft conversion should be about the improvement it brings to your quality of life, not for any financial reward on you property value. So if all of that seems like a fairly average business case for converting your loft, bear this in mind… Even if you were spending a relatively modest £25,000 to convert a loft space into a flexible storage room that same £25k could rent you a storage unit with us for many years with us, you wouldn’t be burdened with debt and you can choose to leave whenever you want.

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