Moneywise reveals the 10 most common problems that are likely to impact the value of your home.
For a property-obsessed nation with ever-shrinking pension pots, the value of our homes is understandably high on the agenda.
That’s why more than half of UK property owners have made home improvements over the last year, according to a survey from Halifax.
But equally important is retaining the current value of your home. Here are the top 10 most common things that can devalue your home – and how you can avoid them.
1. ANTI-SOCIAL NEIGHBOURS
According to a survey conducted as part of Halifax Home Insurance’s Peace of Mind campaign, one in five (17%) homeowners encountered serious problems with their neighbours during 2014 – the highest number experienced since 1997.
The most common complaints were excessive noise (49%), rude or intimidating behaviour (23%), and the ‘hijacking’ of legal boundaries (20%).
However, it’s pretty arbitrary, says Trevor Kent, director of Buckinghamshire-based Trevor Kent & Co Estate Agents.
“Firstly the questionnaire has an ‘I don’t know’ option, and secondly, what’s a noisy neighbour to one person is a real hoot to another. This means it would be very difficult for a buyer to take up at a later date, although a handful of cases have gone to court.”
Halifax says that anti-social neighbours can shave up to £31,000 off the price of the average property. So before changing contracts, check your seller’s information form and try to talk to them about their relationship with the neighbours.
If you’ve already moved in and find that your neighbours are being a nuisance, first try to talk to them and if it doesn’t work complain formally to your local authority.
2. ILLEGAL HOME ‘IMPROVEMENTS’
When making major changes or building onto your home, you must adhere to building regulations and, in many cases, seek planning permission.
However, some people don’t bother, says Dean Sanderson, managing director of Manchester-based estate agents, Sanderson James.
“If a property has had illegal changes made to it, new buyers will have to factor in the cost of rectifying the problem.” Visit planningportal.gov.uk to see what is legal – with and without permission.
3. LIVING ON A FLOOD PLAIN
The recent level of flooding is testament to the changing global climate – something homeowners can do nothing about.
“A local authority search will throw up whether a house is situated on a flood plain, so it’s not something vendors can mask,” explains Charles Smailes, former president of the National Association of Estate Agents.
The value that could be washed away from your home will depend on its own particular flooding history as well as measures taken by the local council to prevent it happening again – both of which should be flagged up to potential buyers, he adds.
But, at the very least, sellers should brace themselves for a discount equating to the cost of repairs. According to the Association of British Insurers, the average cost of flood damage is between £20,000 and £40,000.
4. NEGLECTING THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR PROPERTY
Failing to keep up with general maintenance, such as a neat front garden, fresh paintwork, effective guttering and clean windows, can wipe up to 5% off the value of your property, according to experts.
Yet this so-called ‘kerb appeal’ is one of the cheapest measures you can take to retain your home’s value, according to Halifax research.
5. A SINISTER HISTORY
While you won’t have to legally disclose superstitious gossip about your home or if there’s been a death in the house, if it’s common knowledge, it’s a good idea to be upfront about the issue from the start, thereby building trust with a prospective buyer.
Smailes points out, however, that some homes are just unsellable. “For example, if it was still standing, 25 Cromwell Street – the home of Fred and Rose West. You could forget selling a home like that for any price.”
6. SEMI-PERMANENT BAD TASTE
Bad taste and workmanship can wipe between 5% and 10% off the value of an otherwise perfectly good home. “Stone-cladding on the front of the house can look cheap, while nasty-looking conservatories will also put off new buyers,” she says.
The same applies to other semi-permanent changes that are not in line with modern tastes, such as timber panelling, textured walls and Artex ceilings.
7. A SURPRISE DEVELOPMENT
It might be that, soon after you moved into your home, the surrounding environment took a turn for the worse. For example, your garden now sits in the shadow of a mobile phone mast.
While you can campaign and register objections with the local council, in many cases you will just have to swallow the change – which can significantly devalue your home.
If you’re buying, don’t rely solely on the local authority search, advises Kent. “What the searches throw up varies.
Sometimes a buyer will only be told about outstanding planning permissions within a half kilometre radius of the property, while other searches explore further.”
In this case, take matters into your own hands by conducting your own personal search. This can be carried out at the local council offices for a small fee if you make an appointment in advance.
8. AN INCREASE IN CRIME LEVELS
If your area has seen an increase in crime levels it’s not going to bode well for the value of your property.
What’s more, local crime levels are now very transparent – prospective buyers can use websites such as upmystreet.co.uk – so you can bet your bottom dollar this will be factored into any offer price you receive for your home.
Fitting approved locks on doors and windows and installing a working alarm should ease the blow. But most importantly, flag up vigilant neighbours. You could even start a Neighbourhood Watch scheme – which is even more difficult for criminals to negotiate.
9. THE DOG TAKES OVER
An estimated 39% of people in the UK own a dog or a cat and in most cases this will have no effect at all on the value of your home when you come to sell.
However, if pets are smelly, intimidating or simply too many in number, it’s very off-putting for potential buyers. Even if your furry friend is overlooked, you can expect offers of as much as 5% below the asking price.
10. THE NEARBY SCHOOL GETS A BAD OFSTED REPORT
After property, good schools must be the UK’s most popular obsession. It should come as no surprise then, that the performance results of state schools within the catchment area of your property will have a direct effect on its value.
According to the latest report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), buyers will pay an average 8% premium on a home that is located within the catchment area of a so-called ‘good school’.
But this works the other way around too and if the local school gets a bad Ofsted report, you can expect the same amount to be wiped off your home’s value.
RICS spokesperson, Jeremy Leaf, says: “It is quite normal for potential buyers to check the local Ofsted reports before they even read the particulars for their preferred properties.”