Alex Lomax made the national news in September when she told the story of a home viewing that she endured in Clapham in London. Home is actually a strong word, for when Alex arrived at the property with a view to renting a room she was not quite prepared for the truth; the ‘room’ was actually a cloakroom with a mattress on the floor. For that privilege the 23-year-old would be expected to pay £500 a month, plus another £60 a month on bills. Lovely.
London almost exists in a separate ecosystem to the rest of the UK, where rents hit more than £1,500 on average earlier this year. Of course, people have the right to try and make some money from spare space, but there are barely rooms big enough for pets to sleep in, let alone humans.
Renting out a home can often be a case of simple economics - the more rooms you have, the more money you can make. That might mean splitting an existing room into two smaller versions. It might mean converting a garage into a bedroom, or building an extension.
The creation of a ‘granny flat’ might be rented out or perhaps given as a room for children or relatives, and there are tax advantages for doing so. The government is doing everything it can to create new housing space, and one way is to invite families to live together in one home rather than elderly relatives ‘taking up’ a whole home on their own. According to the Daily Mail annexes for relatives have risen by a third in the past two years, creating thousands of households in which three generations reside.
Whatever you’re planning to do, consult the local authorities to ascertain if planning permission is needed. If you wish to build an outbuilding for any purpose (sauna, kennels, enclosures, etc) you’ll need to adhere to a number of conditions – your new building needs to be single-storey, with a maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres, otherwise permission is needed.
And if the new room is intended for permanent residential use you’ll definitely need to contact your local authority, so plan ahead before you build.
One of the tricks of the trade when selling a home is professional staging, which is designed to create an illusion of extra space in a room by taking pictures from certain angles, or moving furniture into a certain spot. Research from the United States suggests that home staging can reduce a listing’s time on the market by up to a half, and could boost the price by up to 20%.
So why not use similar techniques to create space, even if you have no intention of moving? Try shifting chairs and tables into different corners, or removing them altogether. Mounting the TV on the wall and removing the TV unit will free up space, while strategic alcoves could actually reduce clutter such as children’s toy boxes, ornaments, books and other objects scattered across the home. And if you really want to go for it, remove a wall between a lounge/dining room and kitchen – and open up a whole new range of opportunities.