There’s nothing more romantic than an attic, nor more rewarding than converting it into an extra room. With the height, you have the potential for fabulous light; views will often be uninterrupted; and for those thinking of converting the loft in a house, it provides a private place away from the scrum of the living rooms below. And now that it makes financial sense to expand rather than move, more of us are moving upwards.
It makes sense. Converting your loft can be by far the most lucrative way to adapt a property. The space is already there – all you have to do is access it. The Nationwide recently worked out that a loft of 300 square feet turned into a bedroom with ensuite bathroom, adds an average 21 per cent to the value of a house. So popular are loft conversions that in some areas of London, such as Wandsworth and Fulham, it is hard to find houses that haven’t already expanded upwards.
In London, in particular, the owners of narrow, Victorian terrace houses find them irresistible. “If you include stamp duty, removal costs, estate agents’ and lawyers’ fees,” says Hugo Headlam of John D Wood in Wandsworth, “people can spend £100,000 on moving house. It is better to spend £30,000 to £50,000 on converting the loft to create an extra bedroom and bathroom, or two bedrooms and make a house that will be easier to sell. The loft conversion is the easiest and cheapest way to increase value – even better than a new kitchen.”
Headlam is currently selling a four-bedroom, end-of-terrace house in Ravenslea Road, hoping for £1.15million. Its best selling point is that it has a large loft (almost 20ft by 17ft) ripe for conversion. Once converted, the house would probably fetch £1.25million. “But,” says Mr Headlam, “in a quieter market I would say you shouldn’t expect an overnight increase. It is better to stay put for two years to allow the value to mature.”
Building costs in other parts of the country are lower. It is possible to achieve a whole new dimension to your house for between £15,000 and £30,000.
Craig and Sally King live in a house with an oast – a kiln for drying hops or malt – at Sheldwich, near Faversham in Kent, which they restored several years ago.
As an afterthought, Craig decided to convert the kiln roof into a room for his model railway collection. “I had the trains all in boxes, collected over my entire life. I suddenly realised I had this golden opportunity – my wife had land for her horses, so why shouldn’t I have a room for my trains?” he asks. “We put in a proper staircase and windows, in line with the roof.”
They were lucky because this space, where hops were once hung to dry, was built so sturdily that they didn’t need to strengthen the roof or the floor. “It was ideal. We put down a wooden tongueand-groove floor. A lot of people who have trains put boards down in the loft but this was a proper room. This was my sanctuary.”
Craig laid down about 200ft of track on which he can run three trains at any one time.
But now, in their early sixties, Craig and Sally have decided to
move (though Craig says that a new home with a train room is definitely “on the shopping list”). The sixbedroom house, called The Oast, comes with stables, gardens, paddocks and a price tag of £895,000.
“The extra room could make a difference to anyone with an interest – it could be used as a studio or a music room,” says Craig. “It cost little to do and has given me 35 years of pleasure.”
So will the converted loft influence a buyer? “A lot of people want a hobby room,” says Ed Church, who is handling the sale at Strutt & Parker (01227 451 123). “A room like this could be used as a sewing room or a cinema room – an idea that is becoming increasingly fashionable.”
The room provides almost 400 square feet of space – the same size as the drawing room and the master bedroom in this house, so what does it add to the cost? “Around this part of Kent, property sells at about £200 to £250 per square foot,” says Ed. “This adds around 10 per cent to the floor space so it is quite a significant area. But because the property comes as a whole package with stables and land, it probably hasn’t changed the value so much, as just made it more saleable.”
High aspirations: developer Urban Splash pulls out all the stops in its loft conversion project at Royal William Yard, Plymouth, where the living area is upstairs, using to telling effect the timber beams and views. Sales through Marchand Petit (01752...