In the future - Staying put - and improving, avoiding excess stamp duty

Moving, even within fairly modest price ranges, is likely to add up to a fair sum: probably in the region of £12,000 to £13,000 (or more) if you're making a move in the £130,000 to £150,000 bracket.

It is not surprising that taking this expense into account, especially in a situation where mortgages are hard to get, many people choose instead simply to stay put and improve their existing place -saving the moving fees and devoting the cash to installing central heating, for example.

Major improvements -for example adding a third storey in the loft or building an extension at ground level -are likely to require approval from the requisite authorities and outside finance.

Planning permission

The Department of the Environment produce a useful leaflet called Planning Permission: A Guide for Householders, which should probably be your first reading. The ground-rules, roughly speaking, are as follows:

1 If you are contemplating an extension (including garages), anything that adds more than 15% to the building's existing volume (10% in the case of terraced houses) requires planning permission. If the extension is over 4 metres high, or within 2 metres of an existing boundary, planning permission is required whatever the size.

2 New external walls must conform to thermal insulation and fire resistance standards laid down by the Building Regulations.

3 All new rooms must have a ceiling height of at least 7 foot 7 inches and ventilation (e.g. an opening window) equal in area to at least 5% of the new floor area.

4 New floors should have a damp-proof course, and new drainage work must conform to the Building Regulations.

Loft conversions are unlikely to need planning permission (unless they are large enough to come under rule 1 above). If you have a ground-floor extension which is visible from the front of the house, you will have to seek permission.

It's likely that the planners will require it to be in a style to match the current building. If you live in a conservation area, you will probably face even tougher rules on what you can and cannot do.

For major improvements, you are likely to need finance from an outside source. The good news is that it's likely to qualify for tax relief. The bad news is that it may cost you more than the straightforward mortgage you took out to buy the property in the first place.

In the future - The move Stage One

Once you have successfully found a buyer for your property and another place to buy, and assuming that nothing slips from cup to lip, you'll be ready to move. You will, of course, have sorted out very precisely with your buyer and seller what you are respectively leaving and getting in the two properties.

Then you must decide whether to use a professional firm of removers to do the job for you which case you must ask for several estimates whether to cajole or entice friends and relations to help you do it yourself, with undefined threats or offers of drinks.

Stage Two

The second stage, which is in my experience utterly inevitable, is deep despair and panic when you realise that you have . . .... see: In the future - The move Stage One

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