House Trade Up Or House Extention?

Doing it up or moving on out?

It’s expensive to move, but the costs of extending may outweigh the price of trading up.

Barry McCall writes for The Irish Times, in partnership with Elephant Click & Store

It’s no longer the morning queue for the bathroom that drives parents of growing families to distraction. It’s the need to find room to work and study remotely as well as space to live together in some sort of harmony where everyone gets at least a degree of privacy.

The question for many of them is whether to extend the home they have or to trade up to a larger residence. But it’s not always an easy or straightforward answer.

“That is a very topical question at the moment and we’ve seen a lot of people looking at it over the past two years,” says estate agent Mark Kelly of Mark Kelly & Associates. “But property values have been going through the roof, especially houses with work already done to them.”

That can make it expensive to move but the costs of extending may outweigh that, he says. “Even if you can get a builder, it’s going to be expensive. Builders are quoting crazy prices at the moment. They are too busy, and they are turning work away. No doubt about it, people are preferring to buy larger properties if they can.”

The other issue he points to is the suitability of the existing home for renovation or extension. “Older housing stock is a lot different from what you have been getting more recently,” he says. “Older houses have driveways, gardens and so on and space to extend. Trading up is probably the best option for people in apartments or modern terraced homes with limited garden or parking space. They have no alternative really.”

For those fortunate enough to have the option to extend and renovate, Colm Doyle of DMVF Architects advises them to be aware of the full costs involved as well as other implications. “I am usually very, very slow to put figures on house extensions,” he says.

“There are numerous contributory factors that can affect the cost. But we are getting a large number of calls from people looking to extend, convert attics, create garden rooms and so on. Attic conversions are good, but you need to think about the use for it – office, bedroom, or storage space. And there are fire safety implications. If it is becoming the second floor of the house, you need to upgrade all doors on the way up to self-closing fire doors.”

He says prices for attic conversions are in the €30,000-€50,000 range at the moment. “Prices have gone crazy over the last little while.”

Garden rooms have increased in cost as well, but he says Shomera has a number of off-the-shelf products that can be quite cost effective. These start at €18,000 and go all the way up to €40,000 for quite a large-sized room.

“Most of our clients are spending €4,000 or €5,000 per square metre on extensions,” he says. “A 40sq m extension would cost €120,000 even at €3,000 per square metre. It’s very important to be realistic about the price from the outset.

“Take good advice and get a quantity surveyor on board to price it. We have a number of clients who did this, then took a look at the market for trading up, and now want to proceed with the project. We published a book a few years ago – Make the home you love. It has a chapter on cost control and how to build a cost plan for the project. It’s still available from O’Brien Press.”

Trader uppers don’t want to do any work on the home, and they are getting a good price for their existing home.

The cost balance is probably still in favour of trading up for many people, according to Jana Keane of Keane Thompson estate agents. “Building costs have gone up and finding builders and tradespeople to do the job is very difficult,” she says. “It’s probably working out cheaper to buy a bigger home.”

The fact that house prices have been rising is not necessarily too much of a barrier for trader-uppers, she explains. The rising market means their equity in their existing home has grown giving them greater scope when it comes to buying. “Trader uppers don’t want to do any work on the home, and they are getting a good price for their existing home,” she adds.

Whether the choice is to trade up or extend, people still have to take storage needs into account while work is being carried out or they are between homes, according to Jude O’Meara of Elephant Storage.We get people who are upsizing, downsizing, extending, everything,” she says. “Our facility is quite unique. It’s like a big hotel for goods. There are pictures on the walls with music playing. You can get a locker for €10 a week and a room big enough to store the contents of a one-bed apartment for €40 a week. We have 40 different sizes and people can cancel whenever they want.

And business is brisk. “Demand is still quite strong,” says O’Meara. “The majority of our private customers are moving home. They have growing families and need space. We are also seeing a lot more people who are extending. They are putting stuff into storage while they extend the house for a home office or an extra bedroom. We are also seeing people who have bought a house to do up.