What have you got in your garage? Mine is home to lots of spider webs, half used cans of paint, old bicycles and scooters and lots of plant pots. The only things in regular use in the garage are the spare freezer and the lawnmower. Much of the rest of it could go to the tip. The car certainly has never gone in it – we’ve lots of off road parking.
Currently I am thinking about converting my garage into a kind of den for the boy. He has recently become very keen on table tennis and it would make the perfect space for a full sized table. My idea is to keep it looking like a garage from the front. It is an attached, not integral garage so it would look a bit weird – a little bungalow stuck on the side of the house – if it had windows and doors in the front. But it would need insulating and a floor laid on top of the concrete as well as a new door and window at the back and possibly a Velux window in the roof to let in light. There’s already electricity but no heating. And of course it would need decorating and (sparsely) furnishing. I’m thinking of moving the washing machine and dryer out there too to free up space in the kitchen.
Trolling around the internet I reckon it would cost between £10,000 and £20,000 to do which is a lot of money. But, as someone pointed out to me, no-one buys a house these days because it has a garage but they might well be attracted to a fantastic extra reception room. And according to all I’ve read online, adapting a garage could add 10% or more to the value of your home. It’s also far less upheaval than a loft or basement conversion and doesn’t reduce the garden size unlike a conventional extension. The downside is that I’ll still have to find somewhere to bung the lawnmower and perhaps the money would be better spent on knocking through the kitchen and dining room to have the much-desired eat-in kitchen.
But at least a well-converted garage shouldn’t lose me money. Not all home improvements will add value to your home. If I put in a top of the range kitchen – the sort you see in the glossy home magazines- then I wouldn’t make the money back if I sold because there’s always a ceiling price on property. That means if houses in your road go for roughly £300,000 then no-one is going to pay £350,000 for one just because you’ve got a space age kitchen installed. Other home improvements which may not make you money include swimming pools (too much maintenance and the UK weather count against them); tennis courts (too niche and weather again); solar panels and wine cellars. Good things which add value include a new boiler, double glazing, improving insulation and general tidying up and cleaning. But how would you pay for any improvements? Raiding the savings is by far the best idea but if that’s not possible then find cheap ways to borrow – personal loans, interest-free credit cards for example. I would avoid remortgaging to pay for improvements but if you’re happy to do so, there are some good deals around at the moment. Just don’t overstretch yourself: borrowing might be cheap now but it’s unlikely to remain so for ever.