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4 December 2007

The new trend is moving down

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by Kay Mitchell

The new trend is moving down

Those who don’t have space to move outwards or upwards can now expand downwards by converting their cellar. Whether you’ve set your sights on a new bedroom or an office, the new trend is moving downwards.

The trend has been popular in London but is catching in cities such as Manchester and Leeds. Unlike lofts, cellar conversions are closer to other communal areas and can be more versatile living spaces that suit modern lifestyles.

Victorian and older-style properties that have timber-suspended floors are often ideal for cellar conversions as you might be able to dig from the outside and continue to live in your property while the work is carried out.

Before carrying out any cellar conversion, it is important to comply with all legal requirements and inform your insurer of all changes to the property.

Before carrying out any cellar conversion, it is important to comply with all legal requirements and inform your insurer of all changes to the property.

It appears now that homeowners are going one better and creating second underground floors or sub-basements instead of the standard single cellar conversions. These are made habitable by using lighting technology such as fibre optic cables that carry down daylight.

However, foundations can become more complicated the further you dig. The layers of earth below ground can be more moist and fragile and foundations two floors down may need better support than a single basement.

Maggie Smith at The London Basement Company says that her client base has increased by around 40% over the last 5 years.

She explained that the decision to extend underground is driven by the property market. My clients say it’s largely due to the cost of moving, taking into account the price of a larger property, stamp duty and moving fees.

The value of houses after a basement construction has been shown to make a return of between 30%-40%. Plus, houses in the next size range often aren’t available. Extra living and leisure space is what most people are looking for, along with swimming pools, spas and gyms.

Cellar conversions are cropping up all over the place. Since 2005, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has given planning permission for 167 such projects, with almost a third more being granted this year than last.

It is advisable to check if your conversion is cost-effective with several estate agents. It can cost between £80-£100,000 to convert a 40–50m2 of basement.


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