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How to spot property with the potential to add value

Looking to buy a home that you can add value to? Here are 14 opportunities to look out for at viewings.

Guest Author
Words by: Matilda Battersby


It pays to have a little imagination at property viewings. It’s not always easy to look past the bad decor and see what a home could become.

But if you know what to look out for at a viewing, it’s super exciting to think about the changes you can make.

Not only do you get to put your own stamp on it. You can also add value, and make a return when you sell in the future.

There are lots of ways to add value to a home, but you need to know which changes will be worth it.

Here are the key things to spot when you’re looking for a property with potential.

1. How has the home’s value changed in the last few years?

There are some details you can’t get from the listing, or even a viewing. 

So before you check the house out in person, make sure you’re tracking it on Zoopla.

You’ll get a whole world of insight into the home you thought you already knew.

We’ll tell you what we reckon it’s worth right now, and how its value has changed over the last few years.

There’s even insight into the local market, so you can make sure you’re buying in an area that’s got potential.

Ready to find your dream home?

Search more than half a million properties for sale, from brand new homes to period homes.

2. What are nearby homes selling for?

Seeing what nearby homes are selling for is a great way to measure the potential of a property.

If neighbouring homes are selling for less than the home you’re looking at, it might’ve already hit the price ceiling for the area.

On the other hand, high nearby sale prices are a great sign if you want to add value. 

It shows that you’ve found the worst house on the best street, as they say. And you can definitely work with that.

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3. How could you extend the footprint of the home?

Building outwards is a great way to add value to a home.

And there are different ways to do it, depending on the style and age of the home.

Many Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses have a 'side return'. These are dark and often under-used strips of garden, usually alongside the kitchen. 

Side returns are a prime space to extend a kitchen or dining room outwards.

Detached homes with plenty of outside space also offer potential for future extensions. Pay close attention to how much of the garden you’d want to take up, and if it’d still leave a good outdoor space.

Old outhouses and unconverted farm buildings can also give you the opportunity to create a home from scratch or attach an existing home via a link extension.

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And don’t forget to check out the basement, as there may be space for a lower floor conversion. 

Home improvements that don’t need planning permission

Modern kitchen with grey units, white worktops, wooden floors, a skylight and yellow stools

4. Is there potential to add an extra storey?

A home with a loft space that hasn’t yet been converted is ripe for adding value.

Look at the houses next door to see if they have dormer windows or full extensions. 

You’re more likely to get planning permission if other people on your street have done similar work.

With an extra storey, you can add a bedroom or two, as well as a bathroom. These are sure-fire ways to boost a home’s value.

So if the roof’s large enough, a conversion might turn a two bedroom terrace into a four bedroom home with two bathrooms.

If your home already has a downstairs extension, look at whether there’s scope for adding another storey on top.

For this kind of work, you’ll need some expert advice from a builder on whether the existing extension is strong enough to support a second storey. Check with the estate agent to see if you could bring a builder along to your viewing.

5. Explore buying more land nearby

Seen a home you like but reckon the plot’s too small?

Don’t dismiss it just yet.

Check out the possibility of buying adjacent land. If you’re able to do so, it could mean a big increase in the value of the property.

It might be that you could buy a bit of extra land from a neighbour or the freeholder of neighbouring flats.

It’s always worth asking the estate agent showing you around if they have any local intel to share.

6. Look at ways to create open-plan living space

Building an open-plan kitchen-living room is a great opportunity to add value to a home.

Open plan living is always in high demand and knocking through a wall doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be a cost-effective way to boost a property’s value.

Look out for homes with a small kitchen next to a large dining room or living room. These are ready and waiting to be made into an open plan space.

But you’ll need to do a bit of detective work. At the viewing, make sure to ask whether the wall is internal or load-bearing.

They might have investigated knocking it through themselves, so they’ll have the knowledge to share.

If it’s a load-bearing wall, you’ll need to replace it with a structural support. It’s more costly, but can still be worth the investment.

If in doubt, arrange a visit with a surveyor or structural engineer.

Living room with sliding doors opening into the kitchen. Exposed brickwork and warm tones, throws and rugs.

7. Is there scope to improve the layout?

Before you view and while you’re at a viewing of a home, spend time scouring the floor plan.

A bad layout offers huge potential if you can sort it out. 

Can simple changes be made? Is something obvious currently in the wrong place? 

Whether by opening up rooms, reinstating walls, or shifting doorways, most layout problems can be solved.

And think big. Your imagination could really help you to cash in when it comes to selling.

Most of our homes for sale have floor plans included on the listing.

8. Could you refresh tired kitchens and bathrooms?

Pay close attention to homes with dated kitchens and bathrooms. 

They’re two of the most valuable rooms in a property. If you can update them, you’ve got scope to add serious value.

A brand new kitchen with the latest mod cons and oodles of storage is always going to be attractive to future buyers.

The same goes for a sparkling new bathroom with a power shower and a lovely big bath.

It doesn’t always have to be a huge job, either. 

Stylish cabinet handles, a lick of paint and some fresh lino flooring might be all it takes to transform a kitchen and add value.

Or some shiny new taps, modern tiles and cool accessories might take a bathroom from shabby to sophisticated.

Bigger updates to these rooms will cost you money – but it’s still worth considering. You’re more than likely to make it back in the value you add.

9. Is there space to add a downstairs toilet?

A home with space to install a ground floor loo has decent potential to add value.

An extra toilet downstairs will appeal to families with young children, as well as older couples who may struggle with stairs.

Think creatively. You may not need to knock down walls or build an extension to fit a downstairs toilet. 

It may be possible to put a loo in under the stairs, in a large cupboard, the basement, or by partitioning a room.

Plumbing will be the biggest factor, so be sure to ask an expert.

10. Don’t rule out homes that don’t meet your aesthetic

While an ugly home can be a turn-off at first sight, it’s worth looking beyond initial impressions.

If you’re happy to be hands-on, a facelift doesn’t need to cost the world. Paint, wallpaper and stylish furniture can go a long way to add value to a home.

DIY home staging tips to style your home

If the home’s especially old-fashioned, a full makeover might be on the cards. 

New windows, painting, cladding and plants can all make a dramatic difference. 

In value terms, a complete restyle is worth it if the home's in a top location known for good schools or transport links.

Consult an architect for bigger structural changes that can boost kerb appeal.

10 ways to improve your kerb appeal

11. Could you soundproof a home on a busy road?

Many people don’t want to live on an A-road or main street that is full of noisy traffic.

But there are steps you can take to improve the noise. Double glazing, good screening and a change of access can transform a home.

Plus, you can often get a home on a main road for a bargain price. If you improve both the interior and exterior, you can add considerable value.

12. Size up a room in the garden

If a home falls just short of ticking every box, why not see if there's space for a garden room?

It could be used as a home office, gym space or a cosy snug.

A self-contained structure in the garden can add value as it increases the usable floor space.

They're also fab additions for while you're living there, giving the extra room you might be looking for.

If you can install electricity and heating, or a wood burning stove, it can be used throughout the year.

Garden room at the end of paved garden with a higher grassed level, surrounded by large trees.

13. Look for period features to restore

You can add real value to a property by restoring original features.

Loads of period homes have had their original features removed. Adding these back in is a great way to add value.

Restore an Edwardian home to its former glory by putting cornices back and replacing fireplaces. It can add wow factor and resale value.

Wooden beams, original floorboards, bannisters and doors all offer potential to add value. Especially if they haven’t been treated very sympathetically by the previous homeowner.

14. Could you improve the home's energy rating?

You might see a G-rated Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating as a complete deal-breaker.

Think again.

Buyers are increasingly concerned with EPC ratings. It's one weakness that should definitely be seen as potential.

A low EPC rating means dramatic improvements can be made to this property.

It might be a matter of upgrading the heating system, installing a modern condensing boiler and insulating the loft and cavity walls.

You might also add solar panels and ground/air source heat pumps. 

Changes like this will bring a home of any age up to modern standards, and will make a huge positive impact on its value. Your bills will get cheaper, too.

7 ways to improve your home's EPC rating

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.