Property experts warn sellers of the improvements to avoid if they want to make their money back

The birds’ dawn chorus is a sign that spring is nearly here – but this year there may be other noises too: the sounds of hammers, saws and drills.

Building work is likely to pick up as homeowners wanting to sell make final preparations before potential buyers look in, with the housing market tougher than it has been for some years.

But if you’re planning on sprucing up your property, don’t inadvertently slash its value by making the wrong updates, as features such as wine cellars and pools are not as tempting to buyers as you may think.   

Buyers’ preferences have changed in recent years and not all of the new trends during the pandemic have survived into 2023.

‘We’d advise people to take their time and conduct thorough research before committing to any major improvements,’ says Ettan Bazil of property maintenance service Help Me Fix.

A wine cellar might seem like a cool idea but it won’t actually add much value 

A garden office is a tempting idea but tastes have changed since the lockdown

A garden office is a tempting idea but tastes have changed since the lockdown 

He says some improvements actually take value off a home, while others are so expensive that any premium on the price won’t cover the cost of the work.

He adds: ‘You might find that smaller, more basic improvements such as a new boiler, fixed roof or double-glazing will actually prove better long-term investments as well as putting less immediate strain on your finances.’

So what are the improvements to avoid?

Never Lose A Bedroom

There’s a temptation to create a children’s play area or a garage from a ground floor bedroom, or make a permanent study out of a bedroom upstairs. Both trends took off during the pandemic but estate agents now say it’s critical not to reduce the number of bedrooms you have.

Wine Cellars

They look great but cost around £35,000 on average, yet for a typical home would add no more than £30,000 according to Help Me Fix.

An Expensive Kitchen

Agents advise that the kitchen is the one room that almost every buyer makes their own, no matter how much has been spent by the seller just before the property was put on Rightmove.

‘I viewed a house where the owner spent £25,000 on an Italian range but the first thing any buyer will do is rip it out. It’s a classic mistake. A nice kitchen can sell a house but space and the way it’s designed is more important; too many £100,000 kitchens are chucked in a skip,’ says Robin Gould, director of buying agency Prime Purchase.

Reducing Outside Space

Gardens have never been more valuable, in every sense of the word. Research by estate agency Benham and Reeves revealed that prospective buyers in London pay a £64,000 premium on average to have access to a garden. And ‘garden’ remains one of the three top search words used by would-be buyers scouring Rightmove.

Josephine Ashby of John Bray Estates, a Cornish agency, says: ‘A key driver for purchasers since the pandemic is good outside space, so one of the worst things an owner can do is overdevelop at the expense of garden. This has always been a mistake but in current times it is likely to severely affect saleability and price.’

Spending big on a kitchen isn't the best way to make a house stand out anymore

Spending big on a kitchen isn’t the best way to make a house stand out anymore 

If you have an outdoor pool and are looking to sell experts suggest you fill it in

If you have an outdoor pool and are looking to sell experts suggest you fill it in

The Garden Office

The Office for National Statistics says only 16 per cent of the workforce are now based exclusively at home.

Daniel Nash of the Nash Partnership, an agency in Hertfordshire, says: ‘Spending £20,000 on a luxury garden cabin is unlikely to add £20,000 to the sale price. It may well only add a few thousand pounds and for a potential buyer who doesn¹t work from home, it may add zero.’

Replacing Baths With Standalone Showers:

Statistics from the Bigbath-roomshop website suggest the country is split, with 56 per cent of people preferring a shower to a bath. But do you want to exclude 44 per cent from considering purchasing your home?

Help Me Fix says for many buyers a bath is a non-negotiable so in addition to slashing an average 2 per cent off the asking price, this ‘improvement’ will sharply reduce the potential market for your home.

Smart New Windows

‘Double-glazing is a good improvement, especially in these days of stratospheric fuel costs, but the wrong type can be detrimental,’ says Nick Wooldridge of Stacks Property Search, a buying agency.

What DOES add value?

– Make small rooms into an open plan space

– Create a downstairs loo

– Smarten the kitchen with new unit doors

– Landscape the garden

– Convert a loft to an extra bedroom

– Decorate

– Get planning consent for an extension

Cheap PVC in a period house can look terrible, especially if the original windows would have been sliding-sash and they have been replaced with storm-fit, top hinge windows.

Outside Swimming Pools

A flamboyant seller with large grounds and £100,000 to spare may think this a cool idea but experts suggest it’s a huge turn-off. Few buyers want the maintenance cost and the hassle of removing leaves in return for just a few days a year when the weather makes a pool an asset.

The National Association of Estate Agents doesn’t mince its words and advises: ‘If your property has an outside pool, especially one that’s run down, you might want to consider filling it in.’

Blingy Decoration

Alex Lyle, director of London agency Antony Roberts, says: ‘Sometimes sellers try too hard to make an impression with garish wallpaper which isn’t cheap and simply leaves the buyer with another job changing it when they move in.’

He continues: ‘Avoid boldly coloured kitchens and bathrooms as neutrals really are always best. Likewise expensive flatscreen TVs in bathrooms – sellers may think they will impress prospective buyers but they should save their money.’