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How to make money on your property


It feels like it’s getting ever harder to find a good deal on a property in this part of the world. Property developers snap up plots, the need to live near good schools creates a panic purchase mentality and prices are already sky high in some areas.

If you, like me, look back on the London property you sold before the housing market went bonkers and weep silently on an evening into your silk kerchief (oh, you don’t have one?) this feature may dry your eyes. Thank you to Victoria Knight at Savills in Henley for the advice, and hope it helps anyone looking to buy or renovate.


Look to buy in up-and-coming areas


It’s expected that Oxfordshire property prices will rise 20% in the next four years, so even in places like Henley, the most expensive place to buy in Oxfordshire, buying property is still a good investment. For those priced out of Henley, Sonning Common is on the up at the moment – it’s only 3.5 miles away from Henley and 2.5 miles from Reading. We’re already noticing a price rise here so I’d start looking fast! Peppard Common is another good option – it’s a pretty rural drive around 5 miles from Henley with good schools and decent amenities.

Reading itself is also becoming a more attractive proposition – the Cross Rail going into Reading is making a big difference I think and also the properties in Reading tend to be in good size plots and are good value – you can get a detached house with large garden for £650k. Plus the schools are very good here and the regeneration in the city is huge.

Another smart buy would be in Lane End. It’s still in the grammar school catchment, on the outskirts of the lovely Hambleden valley, and it’s close to Marlow, but without the price tag!

Moving more towards Oxford, areas that have growth potential are Kidlington and Islip, both benefiting from the new train station at Oxford Parkway, and in Buckinghamshire keep an eye out for Taplow and Burnham (both becoming increasingly popular because of Crossrail) and Penn & Tyler’s Green with their very good state schools.

Finally, the faster links into London from Banbury, plus the arrival of Soho Farmhouse has made that area much more desirable. Those who never considered moving so far north are now seeing the potential.

2. Think twice about the swimming pool


People automatically assume a swimming pool adds value but my advice is don’t do it! If the house is a regular size, it can be seen as a real negative as it costs so much to maintain. Only consider it if you’re lucky enough to have deep pockets and a country pile.

3. Keep the house spec under control

My heart sinks when I go into a house that’s been massively over-specked because often you won’t get that money back. Home owners can get very excited about the lighting, zones, sound systems, techy tricks, but often it just dumbfounds people. They don’t want to go down to a huge plant room when the electricity fuse goes. Not everyone wants a TV in room. Underfloor heating is good investment though, and if you can offer as much parking as possible that’s a good thing too.

4. Invest in your kitchen


A great kitchen will always add value. The houses that sell best usually have a wonderful, light, large kitchen, but keep it within budget – if you spend a fortune on bespoke everything you might not see a return. Also it’s worth toning down any idiosyncratic quirky taste when you go to sell – it might not be appreciated by potential new owners!

5. How many ensuites do you really need?

The idea that you need an ensuite for every bedroom has taken hold, particularly with new builds, but if you’re extending I wouldn’t get hung up on it. For a family of five, three bathrooms – two ensuites and a family bathroom, perhaps in a Jack & Jill arrangement between two of the bedrooms – plus another loo elsewhere is ample.

6. Build that studio


If you’re missing a reception room in the main home, or you’re wanting to offer an option for yourself or potential buyers to work from home, have an extra bedroom, a play area for teens, or a granny flat, a studio build is a great option. But I’d do it through necessity rather than as an investment.

7. Go back to the Sixties & Seventies

A great way to add value is to transform a mid-century house. See past an unattractive exterior, because these places have good light, are usually spacious and often have good-sized gardens. Spend some budget modernising the exterior and you’ll have a great investment on your hands.

8. Bin the basement

A basement conversion will rarely see your money back. In London where you need to get every square foot you can, then yes, but out this way it’s so expensive, and you really need the height to make it work.

9. Beware Zoopla

My heart sinks when I talk to clients who have been on Zoopla and think their house is worth much more than it actually is. A good estate agent will price your house to sell, and consider all the salient local factors to come up with a realistic figure, so try to keep it real!

Savills Henley











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