How can you add value to your home? It’s the golden question, and shows like Location, Location, Location and Property Ladder used to thrive on the idea that anyone with a bit of capital could buy a house, do it up, and then sell it on for a tidy profit. It was always exciting to watch as people experimented with new kitchens and bathrooms, scraped away at woodchip wallpaper and even knocked through walls to create open plan living areas.
And, you’d regularly see ropey old carpets torn out and replaced with sleek wood floors. As the Location, Location, Location star Phil Spencer told The Telegraph, wood flooring is easy to look after and appeals to just about everyone when it comes time to sell.
Does that appeal still hold true, and does it translate into pounds and pence? Well, the answers are ‘yes’ and ‘most likely’. Philip Nachten is director at Cross & Prior estate agents in southwest London. “Wood flooring is an excellent feature, but whether it adds to the value of a property is a different matter,” he says. “They’re certainly more desirable but I’ve never gone into a place and thought, ‘Well, it’s got engineered wooden floors, we’re perhaps going to add £10,000 to the asking price.’”
The truth is that wood flooring is part of the package when you’re selling your home. Nobody who values properties will give you a formula saying what return to expect for each pound spent on wood flooring, but nearly all professionals in the industry agree that it will help you sell or let a place. “Saleability would definitely be the buzzword,” says Philip. “Wood floors are preferable because of the easy maintenance, less dust and lower allergens. Most of our European clients won’t even look at properties with carpets. They insist on wood floors before they even make the viewing.”
Practical issues aside, it’s often argued that wood floors add a burst of beauty that’s hard to achieve with other floor coverings. But when it comes to enhancing value, what’s important is that the floor works in continuity with the overall scheme. A shabby dining room with a nice wood floor is still a shabby room and will lack appeal. On the other hand a well-considered combination of layout, decoration and wall colouring with lovely wood flooring will make a big impact on potential buyers.
The aesthetic edge
“It’s all about the refurbishment level,” says Rory Woodhouse at Scott Fraser estate agents in Oxford. “If you’ve gone and done a really high quality refurbishment with an amazing wood floor, that will increase the value more so than if you did a refurbishment and then put in a cheap floor. If you’re going to create a high quality space, you want to focus on every aspect and the flooring is part of that.”
Whether and when you install a wood floor can be an important decision. In heated markets where city centre property is in high demand, putting in a new floor in order to sell probably doesn’t make sense. Location, location and location are the only important factors for buyers, and wood floors often go down when they move in rather than being added beforehand as a selling point. The most effective way of adding value in areas like this is through extensions and loft conversions – something that increases the number of rooms. And then, of course, the quality of the extension matters. “You’d want everything to be of a really high standard because of the location. You don’t want to have a shoddy floor, so you want to go for a nice quality wood,” adds Rory.
Modern features, traditional looks
Watching people agonise over paints and floorboards on property shows makes the finishing seem like such a daunting task – particularly if you want to add value. But it really isn’t. One of the reasons wood is so popular among interior designers is because of its flexibility. It bridges the gap between the modern and the traditional.
Libby Crew is a designer at Etons of Bath, a city full of grand old properties but where people want modern comforts. “Engineered wood floors with underfloor heating gives a modern solution without enforcing a modern look,” she says. “The beauty of wood floors is that they can be antiqued to look old, or can be completely sleek and contemporary. It can do both worlds and with the right maintenance can look good for a long time.”
For Libby, wood floors add more value than floor coverings like carpet or artificial surfaces because they are viewed as an integral part of the structure. Tying the décor together well can really nail down that sentiment. “There’s a lot of parquet going on, where you’ve got decorative inlays and borders,” she says. “I saw a nice floor the other day with a brass inlay as a border rather than wood, so mixing metals in the floor is quite a cool, funky thing to do at the moment. If you do the border then it’s nice to have some sort of connection with the furniture, setting off the flooring with other finishes in the room.”
What buyers want
It used to be that new homes in the UK came with carpets, but today many new-builds are specced with wood floors. When developers and estate agents review the finishing options, estate agents are telling them that wood floors will sell far better than stone, tiles, carpet or artificial floor coverings – mainly in the entrance, living space and kitchen areas, but often throughout the property.
“Basically, it’s what people are looking to purchase with a new house,” says Paul Davies, an architect and surveyor with Carter Hughes Davies. “I’ve done hundreds of schemes for new-build housing. Not many of them insist on stone floors. Pretty much all of the developers and their advisors say they want timber.”
Numerous articles on the topic still quote a survey carried out by the National Wood Flooring Association in the United States over five years ago. It found that 99% of real estate agents believed that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell, 82% believed they sell faster, and 90% said that they’d sell for up to 10% more money. It’s hard to tell how relevant these figures are to the UK market today, but professionals throughout the industry certainly aren’t betting against wood.
When people view a house with wood flooring, they know it’s going to be durable, easy to maintain, warm underfoot and they love its natural qualities. It’s a selling point, and within the overall décor scheme, it’s a factor that will influence their offer. As the estate agent Philip Nachten pointed out, saleability is the buzzword.
“You can’t really put a value on it but what it does is it enhances,” concludes Paul Davies. “Things come and go in style, but wood floors are always a good quality finish.”