Should I buy a doer-upper or a pre-extended home?

Should I buy a doer-upper or a pre-extended home?

Should I buy a doer-upper or a pre-extended home?


There are many reasons to buy a home with the potential to extend, and just as many to nab one that’s already been extended. We weigh up the pros and cons.

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There are various ways to gain more space in a home, from going up into the loft for a new master bedroom, through to adding a two-storey extension.

But is buying a project home for less and then spending money extending it worth the effort? Or is it a better idea to buy a property someone else has already taken the time to extend?

We look at both sides of the argument.

Why you should extend your own home

1. Opportunity to add value

There’s no doubt that extending a home is expensive. 

A loft conversion, for example, costs £23,477 on average, according to Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). But it could offer a good return on investment.

Most attics can be easily converted and expanding a home upwards offers extra space for growing families. Plus, adding an extra bedroom and additional bathroom is estimated to add approximately 20% to the value of a property, although this varies widely across regions.

Open plan layouts and extended kitchens also offer solid future saleability, according to Mark Hayward, Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark.

“Improvements that add the feeling of space, privacy and a great first impression to a home will increase saleability,” he says.

“Renovating and expanding your kitchen so it is modern and spacious often increases the saleability of a property and will be considered a premium asset, in many instances adding value.”

A non-extended house three-bedroom house in Cambridge on the market for £650,000.

An already extended three-bedroom house in Cambridge on the market for £725,000.

2. Government is making it easier to extend

You might not need to go through the full planning process in order to extend your home. The government introduced permitted development rights in 2013 in a bid to make it easier for people to extend their homes.

Now it has gone one step further, announcing plans to relax planning laws, allowing homeowners to add up to two-storeys without having to gain the usual permissions. 

As always, the devil is in the detail, so it’s important to seek professional advice before the builders arrive on site.

3. Manage your budget

You can pick up a property at a lower cost and take your time planning your extension, rather than paying a premium for a home that has already been developed.

This could also allow you to save up for the renovations – or you could look to remortgage to pay for them.

You may also want to undertake some of the renovation work yourself, even if it’s as simple as painting the interior or fitting storage.  

“Taking on your own project allows you to plan it exactly as you would like,” says Marc von Grunderr, director of Benham & Reeves estate agency. 

“You can secure the property at a lower cost and design any extension to suit your budget, rather than pay a hefty premium on what the previous owner has built believing they are adding value. 

“A low budget doesn’t have to mean low quality and many people can undertake a large degree of the work themselves to keep costs down while still gaining their desired extension.”

_A non-extended three-bedroom house in Walthamstow, East London on the market for £550,000.

A three-bedroom house in Walthamstow, East London with kitchen extension and loft conversion, on the market for £675,000._

4. Extend to suit your needs

If you can’t find a home to suit your needs, you can extend your home so that you can put down roots and remain there for many years to come.

Or you might consider extending the property for sale further down the line, with the likes of bifold kitchen doors and generous dormer windows speaking to the crowd.

Michael Jones, director of houseof, is currently midway through renovating a 1970s three-storey townhouse. 

“It’s important to know exactly what you’re getting yourself in for when you take on a substantial project such as this,” he says. 

“Often it is more inexpensive and less stressful to move into a ready-made home, but you get a huge feeling of satisfaction in overhauling your own home.”

You should make it your own, but also consider the future saleability of any property when making renovation decisions. 

A note of caution though.There is a risk of spending so much money extending a house that the potential sale price can’t keep up.

Why you should buy a pre-extended home

1. Less hassle

Generally speaking, it could take eight to 10 weeks to do a kitchen extension and around four months to add an additional storey. Loft conversions can, depending on the circumstances, take around a month. 

But with different tradespeople coming in and out, dust sheets on the floor and plenty of mess, it can feel much longer. Living without a functioning kitchen is particularly difficult and you may have to move elsewhere for the duration of your build.

“The obvious pro of buying a pre-extended home is that it takes away the headache of undertaking the task yourself, which many often underestimate in terms of physical and financial requirements, as well as the time it actually takes,” says von Grundherr.  

“Lengthy periods of building work can be a real inconvenience if it means delaying your actual move-in date. Also, building work isn’t the best way to endear yourself to your new neighbours.”

Marketing manager Harry Jenkins bought a four-bedroom house with a loft conversion and kitchen-diner extension in Sydenham. 

“My wife was heavily pregnant at the time, so the fact that it was already ‘done’ and was future-proofed for our growing family was a big bonus.

“I’ve always liked the idea of a project but the reality of leading a busy life with young children meant a pre-extended property removed a lot of stress.”

2. Peace of mind

Budgeting for renovations is all very well but it’s impossible to know how much building work will cost until there are holes in the walls. 

A pre-extended property might typically come with a higher asking price, but if the renovation work is done you can feel relatively safe in the knowledge you won’t have to fork out to replace rotten beams or other shock discoveries.

If you buy a pre-extended home, someone else has already dealt with all those headaches associated with a build, says Simone de Gale, chief executive of Simone de Gale Architects. 

“It will typically take up to one year for the foundations and structure of an extension to settle,” de Gale says.

“This means that any cracks and structural movements of a pre-extended property will have already taken place, and a buyer can rest assured the construction is watertight, movements have settled and new decorative work will not be in vain."

3. You can still add value

Even when a home has been extended, you can still make cosmetic or structural improvements. 

With growing house prices making it difficult to move up the ladder, 98% of homeowners have made improvements to their properties over the last five years, according to a survey by NAEA Propertymark.

“With planning legislation continuing to evolve opportunities for further developments even on pre-extended homes remain,” says de Gale.

“This includes opportunities to increase the value of a home in terms of footprint, architecture and innovations in design and construction.”

Jenkins might have bought a pre-extended house but he has still found ways to improve it. 

“We have changed a lot of the cosmetics of the house,” he says. “We replaced the front door and most of the interior doors with period doors I found on eBay.  

“We replaced the kitchen last year, we did the garden shortly after moving in, and I plan to tackle the carpets next. All hopefully adding value for when we come to sell. 

“Because we’re going to be here for a while, I don’t see adding value as a priority right now. We just want to make it the most enjoyable home to live in.”

A four-bedroom property in Lincolnshire ripe for development, on the market at £400,000.

A four-bedroom modernised and extended property in Huddersfield, on the market for £515,000.

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