Research from Halifax Insurance, Dream Abode, shows that just one in five Brits (22%) lives in their dream home, and higher value ownership doesn’t always bring home happiness - almost two thirds (62%) of those who live in homes worth more than £500,000 say their current house isn’t their dream home.
Yet this hasn’t dampened our obsession with home improvements – anyone reaching for DIY tools this bank holiday won’t be alone with a fifth (22%) of homeowners having spent at least £11,000 on domestic improvements in the last two years. In fact, almost two thirds (63%) of homeowners have done up their dwellings over this period with homeowners most likely to spend between £2,000 and £5,000.
And we are not just making cosmetic changes. The study, which includes a review of local authority data, shows that planning applications have risen by 27% over the last five years. Nowhere is the “simply extend” trend more popular than in Barnet in north London, where the number of domestic planning applications reached a 51-month high in March last year.At the other end of the scale, Scotland’s Western Isles saw just 357 applications over five years.
There are, however, signs that enthusiasm might be cooling: the last 12 months (June 2016-May 2017) have seen a year-on-year increase in planning applications of less than 2%, a significant slowing from the 6% growth seen over the same period a year earlier.
In national terms, and with a 60% hike, London saw the highest increase in planning applications between 2012 and 2016, followed by the East of England (up 31%) and East Midlands (up 28%). Scotland showed the lowest appetite for home improvements, with planning applications growing by just 3% between 2012 and 2016, even marking a fall of 1.3% between 2015 and 2016.
The data also shows how Britain’s ‘dream home’ is changing. While single storey extensions (up 49% since 2012) and loft conversions (up 43%) remain most popular, basements have seen the most dramatic growth in applications, a rise of 183% since 2012, with London boroughs representing the top 16 local authorities. Meanwhile, conservatories and porches are falling out of fashion in most parts of the country, recording a 3% fall in applications over the last five years.
Melanie Backe-Hansen, historian and author of House Histories, said:
“The way we live in our homes is evolving. Take the example of basements and the trend for extending downwards: this is probably down to a lack of space in our cities and towns, and it represents a big shift in the way we think about our homes. If we look back to Georgian and Victorian times, the basement is where you’d have found the kitchen and the servants’ quarters and was certainly not viewed as a space to be used for family life.
“The place of the kitchen has changed dramatically. In this study it takes the top spot on Britain’s ‘dream home’ wish-list, yet in historical terms the kitchen is a relatively modern invention. Where once you’d be lucky to have running water, today it is the ultimate status symbol and where we do most of our entertaining.
“A lot has certainly changed in the last 150 years, but the Halifax Dream Abode study reveals that we will continue to aspire to our dream home.”
Jeremy Ward, Head of Home Insurance, Halifax, said:
“There’s an ongoing desire to improve where we live, as this increase in home improvements shows. It’s encouraging to see that the nation is doing what it can to improve living situations as well as saleability – but in the creative excitement of developing their dream home, it’s important not to forget practical matters like insurance.
“Many people may not realise they need to let their insurer know about works they carry out on their home – just 14% of homeowners say they have notified their insurer before beginning work. It’s imperative to have the necessary insurance policy in place whilst carrying out the work and equally important to update insurance when the job is complete – failing to do so will invalidate the policy. On the positive side, however, having a burglar alarm or CCTV installed as part of home renovations could help reduce premiums, and also provide extra peace of mind.”