Hiscox Home Insurance Header, displays two people renovating their home

The big juggle Home renovations and remote working

With many people now working from home, how can you modify your space at home to accommodate these new ways of working?

The last two years have seen a dramatic change in the way people work.  Employees and businesses began to realise that working from home (WFH) could be just as productive as office-based work, which has led to many people re-evaluating what space they need at home.

With less emphasis on the need to be near the office, a lot of homeowners joined the so-called ‘race for space’ and sold up. 2021 was a record year for property sales, with Rightmove recording the highest number of sales in 14 years. A stamp duty holiday and savings accumulated by some households during lockdowns were other drivers, according to Bank of England analysis.

Whether you are one of those homeowners who has upped sticks or whether you are instead deciding to renovate a new property or make changes to your existing home, it looks like hybrid working and WFH are here to stay. Hiscox looks at some of the important factors to consider with building work, including how often you are planning to work from home, costs, and potential property value increase, plus some of the pitfalls.

1. How much time will be spent away from the office?

survey by the Institute of Directors has revealed that more than three quarters (79%) of UK business leaders are planning to adopt remote working in the long-term. Over a quarter (27%) of bosses expect their organisations to be fully flexible, with a further 39% planning to let staff spend between one to four days a week working from home. Some organisations (13%) will move entirely to remote working.

Whatever model you have decided to adopt for your own business, it could be a good idea to think about future-proofing your space at home to meet your new working style. Once you know how much time you’re likely to spend working remotely, it’s easier to determine how much space you will need to make your own WFH arrangements function more smoothly.

2. Factor in the current costs

Major renovations are expensive and take time to plan and carry out, so you need to have a secure budget in place. Often the costs associated with the work at the start of a project can look very different just a few months later.

The last few years has seen a decline in the number of qualified tradespeople operating in the UK, partly as a result of Brexit but also because of the pandemic. The consequence of this has been heightened competition for work and rising prices.

At the same time, supply chain issues around the world have caused the price of materials to surge. The Federation of Master Builders’ State of Trade Survey Q4 2021, revealed that 95% of members said material costs had risen during the quarter, with 91% expecting costs to go up again at the start of 2022. In turn, three quarters of members had put their prices up.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia has only added to inflationary issues and surging prices.

It could be wise, therefore, to factor unforeseen rises in prices into your budget. Try to be realistic with how much the work will cost and how long it will take, and then give yourself enough leeway in case anything happens to push the costs up further.

3. Make sure the work maximises property value

Whether you want an extension that creates more rooms or a renovation to improve the living space, both can be expensive. And just because some work costs a lot, it doesn’t mean these changes will add a similar amount in value to the property.

A side return extension is popular with many homeowners. This type of kitchen project costs around £1,350-£2,250/m² of new internal space, according to Homebuilding & Renovating. So a 30m² extension could be cost somewhere in the region of £40,500-£67,500 (plus 20% VAT). These extensions will add around 10-15% to the value of a property but won’t necessarily solve WFH issues if it’s all open plan.

If you live in a terraced or semi-detached house with little space to expand, a loft extension could be a better choice. Typically costing around £40,000, says Checkatrade, these usually take less time (between six to 10 weeks if all goes smoothly). The work is also relatively unobtrusive and could add around 20% in value to the property, according to Nationwide. But there are other factors to consider, including whether your home is suitable for a loft conversion, planning permission requirements, and checking the foundations can handle the extra weight.

Something else to bear in mind is whether your house may have already maximised the amount it can be extended, meaning it’s unlikely that you will be able to add much more value. Any money spent on renovating is therefore unlikely to generate much of an increase in the property’s value.

4. Could a garden be the perfect solution?

Making the home a suitable work environment by renovating is going to be costly and disruptive, so it’s important to choose whatever is most manageable. If you have space in your garden, building a garden room that offers a quiet working environment a few feet from the main home could be a good option. They add to the value of properties, are less hassle, and often more economical. This type of work will also be less disruptive noise-wise than renovating the bones of a home when already trying to juggle WFH. According to Housebuilder and Developer, they could add 5% to the value of a property, while other estimates suggest the value added would be around 1.5x the cost of installation.

You could also consider erecting a garden room as part of a bigger garden overhaul. Property buyers GoodMove said giving a garden a makeover is the “most underrated way” of adding value to the home.

5. Weighing up the costs versus the risks

Is the upheaval worth it? There’s always a price to pay on top of all that hard cash. Trying to work remotely while renovations are going on can be testing. It’s bad enough being at home when the neighbours have builders in! Building work can overrun and costs can spiral, so taking the time to properly evaluate our own requirements, do your research and assess the risks can prove to be invaluable.

Builders and contractors can be checked through online recommendation platforms, as well as through other trusted tradespeople in the industry. And it may also be wise to ask several contractors to provide estimates for the work so that you have a number of options to weigh up and can assess if any seem unrealistic.

Inflation and supply chain issues are set to continue in 2022, so materials and labour could prove hard to plan for. There’s also the spectre of the unforeseen, such as flooding, damage, or even total collapse. Research by Hiscox shows the cost of an average property claim last year was £20,000 while building work was ongoing.*

So if you decide to undertake building works, it is important to let your insurer know and to check whether you’re covered against your existing policy. In the event of something going wrong, you will want to be sure that you’ve got the right cover in place.

Hiscox Home Insurance includes cover for renovation and extension projects up to £75,000 as standard, protecting an existing home, materials and liabilities and any new structure.

IoD Members save 12.5% on Hiscox home insurance. To find out more, click here or call 0800 840 2331 to get a quote (Mon – Fri, 8:30am to 5:30pm. Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays).

*Hiscox property claims data Jan – Dec 2021

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