As London's ever-escalating housing market continues to outpace the rest of the UK, investing in property in the British capital has become an increasingly attractive option. The streets of the city's most desirable areas, such as Westminster and Hammersmith, are lined with timeless Georgian and Victorian homes, many of which have been tastefully restored by world-leading interior designers. Local councils are adamant that the historic structures of these buildings remain in place, implementing stringent planning regulations forbidding alterations to the façade and upward extensions. With space at a premium, those seeking to increase their townhouse's square-footage have to think creatively. As a result, many are choosing to expand downwards.
Initial reports on these 'iceberg homes' appeared in the British media in 2012, and the trend has only gained momentum in the years since. Although some boroughs, including Kensington and Chelsea, have now banned the creation of new subterranean developments, many such homes have already been created. The number of applications between 2003 and 2013 increased by 500%, and in several other boroughs, the practice continues unabated. If you think your home would benefit from an underground extension, read on to learn more about the impressive results achieved by other homeowners, and how to overcome the potential obstacles.
Modest extensions may add a single room, perhaps for a sauna or wine cellar, while grander projects have installed vintage car garages, a two-storey climbing wall, bowling alleys and private cinemas. Although colossal excavations of this kind are not common, they illustrate that when you're planning a basement in the right area, the only limit is your own imagination.
Add value to your home
These projects come at a significant initial cost, around £250,000 for even a modest build, but the investment soon pays off. In addition to the extra pleasure you and your family will reap from the new development, Stephen Merritt, managing director of pioneering dig-down company London Basement, estimates that every square foot will add double its cost to the value of the house. Many investors who have chosen to install underground extensions have down so instead of simply purchasing a larger property, calculating that this is in fact the more cost-effective option.
Dig with diligence
Implementing living trends that require significant construction does necessitate careful forethought. Noise and dust could be an issue for neighbours, and without proper planning, the dig can weaken surrounding structures, as a Belgravia homeowner discovered in 2010 when their project contributed to the partial collapse of the adjacent street. It's therefore crucial to select a company with verifiable experience, excellent recommendations and a large portfolio of successfully completed works. Ensure that the firm you choose offers a guarantee on the work and on their waterproofing, providing you with comprehensive cover throughout and after the build.
If you're considering entering the London property market, Engel & Völkers can assist you in your search. Our portfolio includes stunning inner-city properties that can be converted to meet all the professional and recreational needs of your family, without compromising on location.