Renovations to add value

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According to the FNB Property Barometer the number of alterations and renovations undertaken by households has dropped by about 10% in the last two years – from 1.23 million square metres completed in 2016 to just 1.1 million square metres in 2018.

The decline in renovations has taken place mainly in the Western Cape and Gauteng. However, in KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of the provinces combined there has been a surge in the scale of renovations and alterations.

“The completions data from Stats SA captures formal renovations, typically involving structural alterations. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that households could be favouring smaller scale informal home improvements,” says FNB economist, Siphamandla Mkhwanazi.

“It appears consumers prefer to hold onto their home and make improvements rather than buying new. This is not surprising in a depressed economic environment, and appears to be replicated in other big ticket items as well, such as passenger cars. Vehicle sales are declining, but more equipment for car maintenance purposes is being sold, which shows that households are holding on to their cars a little longer.” It seems Gauteng and Western Cape households are favouring informal DIY improvements, whereas those in smaller provinces still prefer the large scale kind of renovations.

One possible reason for this is that the cost of living in the bigger metropolitan areas has finally caught up with households. Fixed costs like water and electricity as well as property rates have risen far above incomes and headline inflation, and households in metropolitan areas tend to be disproportionately affected.

Building costs may also have played a part, as the average cost of building tends to be higher in bigger provinces than smaller provinces.

So, how do you decide whether to renovate or to rather sell and move to a bigger home? And which renovations are most cost effective?

Renovating is the better option if:

  • You are happy living in your neighbourhood.
  • You don’t mind living in a construction site – or it’s feasible to move out of your home while contractors are busy.

Moving to a new home is the better option if:

  • Renovating would be over-capitalising the property, which means it would be overpriced for the area and possibly difficult to sell later on.
  • You would prefer living in a different area.

If you do decide to renovate, green renovations make the most sense. They enable you to be comfortable even during water shortages and power outages, and they make your home more appealing to prospective buyers when you do decide to move on.

Consider the following:

  • Ceiling insulation will help lower the cost of heating and cooling your home.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs to reduce electricity usage.
  • Install motion sensor lights for outdoor security, instead of leaving lights on all night.
  • Install tap aerators and low-flow shower heads, designed to reduce the water flow while still giving you a great shower.
  • Install dual flush toilets to reduce the amount of water for each flush.
  • Install solar water heaters or heat pumps – or a combination of the two – to reduce the cost of heating water.
  • Install a closed-combustion wood stove or fireplace.
  • Replace existing appliances with modern energy-efficient equipment.

Other than these energy-efficient options, making some small but clever changes can make a substantial difference to the look – and value – of your home.

Here are some suggestions:

  • If your walls aren’t looking great, a new coat of paint can make all the difference. Before repainting, prepare the surface carefully, repairing any chips, mould or bubbling from damp.
  • Replace any chipped floor tiles, and ensure carpets are clean and in good condition. Wood laminate is a cost-effective option for areas of floor that need attention.
  • Replace Formica counter tops in the kitchen with granite and swap dated doorknobs for stylish brushed stainless steel or crystal.
  • In the bathroom, make sure grouting is clean and in good repair. Tiles may not need to be replaced, but a good tile paint can give the room a new look. Also consider fitting modern mixer taps instead of outdated individual taps.
  • Clever lighting can make your home look bigger than it is. Use LEDs or CFLs for energy efficiency. A large lantern, an oversized pendant or a striking floor lamp will provide a strong focal point. Floor lamps will also light up dark corners that natural light can’t reach. A dimmer will allow you to change the mood and brightness of your lighting.
  • Hang curtains in lighter colours that will allow sunshine to spread throughout the room and an outsize mirror placed opposite.


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