Haringey sees largest rise in number of home owners improving rather than moving


renovation - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Many Londoners are opting to enlarge their property rather than move, with Haringey seeing the biggest rise in owners applying for planning permission, according to a new report. But is expanding your home always the right decision?

An increasing number of Londoners are choosing to improve the home they are already living in rather than upgrading to a larger property, according to research published by Portico, a residential estate agent.

In Camden, the number of planning applications for household developments is up 7.2 per cent, while the volume of sales is down 21 per cent since January 2014.

The biggest rise was in Haringey, north London, where planning applications increased by 38 per cent, followed by Greenwich (34 per cent increase) and Ealing (30 per cent increase).

The number of planning applications from households to enlarge their home has gone up 13 per cent across all London boroughs, while house sales are down 14 per cent.

Westminster and Islington, however, have seen a slight drop in the number of planning applications alongside a stark decline in the volume of sales, which are down 28 per cent and 21 per cent.

The report comes in the wake of news that London house prices have reached unprecedented highs.

The trend to enlarge is most observed in residential areas, especially towards the outer zones, which are increasingly in demand, rather than in central London, which has been historically favoured by investors and oligarchs.

Robert Nichols, Managing Director at Portico, said: “London has become a city of home improvers not movers. Our research shows that although the number of transactions continues to plummet, householders in all but the most expensive central London areas are making significant improvements to their homes as they choose to stay put.

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Yet renovation comes with its own set of challenges. Alice Brown, principal of AAB Architects in north London, questions whether building works are always the best choice.

“People are trying to squeeze more out of their spaces. Most people want an extra bedroom or a bigger bathroom. There’s a tendency to extend but you can end up with dark spaces and awkward rooms,” she said.

“There are a lot of terraced houses in Camden that don’t give you many options to make changes.”

With property at a premium, trying to shoehorn in that extra room when you can’t afford to move can be tempting. But Brown warned that this is not always the most cost effective choice in the long term.

“Building in London is not cheap. You’ve got to weigh the price of moving against the price of doing works. Sometimes it’s just easier to move.”

If you’re set on remodelling your home – or simply can’t afford to move to a larger property – consider the roof rather than the basement.

“It’s easier to go up than down,” said Brown. “You’ve got to be imaginative and work with what you’ve got. We’ve built spaces into roofs, but in places like Hampstead there are restrictions as to how much you can change.”

London’s prime property owners seem to have taken note. Once a shorthand for planning application wars and mega basements, the strong pound and increases in Stamp Duty have dramatically cooled the market and led to a loss of confidence in prime central boroughs, with fewer applications to extend and renovate.

Nichols said: “in Prime Central London we have seen plummeting sales volumes and very little appetite from existing homeowners to make major home improvements.

“It may be that we are seeing the beginning of the end of basement developments in the wealthy, inner boroughs.”