Architect Laura Jane Clark reveals how to tell if a house has renovation potential

The three signs that a house has good bones
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  • Home renovations have hit the mainstream, but if you’re still uncertain about where to start when house hunting architect Laura Jane Clark has shared the three ways to tell if a house has renovation potential.

    Related: How much does a loft conversion cost? Your budgeting questions answered

    A new survey by Barclays Mortgages revealed that 79 per cent of properties are bought with the intention of renovating. While the average homeowner said they were willing to put nearly half a million pounds towards their Forever Home, the majority said they would buy with the intention of renovating.

    Renovating a home is no easy task, luckily architect Laura Jane Clark, who has shared her expertise on Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces and Your Home Made Perfect has shared the three things to look for when looking for a forever home to renovate.

    Laura Jane Clark

    Image credit: Guy Levy

    ‘I only ever buy renovations, from my three properties – one was a derelict toilet, the other two were repossessions, so it is my area of expertise,’ explains Laura. ‘I always look for potential, so you’ve got to see past the woodchip walls and gas heaters and things, and look at the area and where you can open up.’

    So what are the three things that show a house has potential?

    1. High Ceilings

    living room with navy feature wall with bookcases

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes

    ‘I always look for high ceilings, not necessarily huge high ceilings, but you can do a lot with them,’ says Laura. She explains that you don’t necessarily need big windows, but high ceilings are a must as they are often missing from contemporary homes.

    ‘A lot of contemporary houses have a lot shorter ceilings so just over 2 metres, and there was a change in planning regulations to stop that,’ she warns.

    You don’t always need planning permission to transform your home, for more guidance take a look at a guide for what you can build without planning permission.

    2. Natural light

    Before investing in a renovation project check where the sun path is. Light is a really important factor in seeing if a home has potential.

    ‘Light for me is a huge thing,’ says Laura. ‘Check where the sun path is. So you can see where you can potentially extend, where you can potentially renovate your house to access that light.’

    ‘It’s working out where the sun comes in the morning, how it moves around the house. Just checking those little pockets of sunlight and whether you have that sunlight in your home or whether you can see it. You don’t necessarily need a big bright living room but it is looking at ways of getting borrowed light in, maybe from the roof, or from the way you develop the house.’

    Laura Jane Clark sketch

    Image credit: Laura Jane Clark

    In a sketch of the perfect Forever Home, Laura has demonstrated one of the smartest ways of getting borrow light into a home via a 90-degree window. It cuts down on storage space but is perfect for lightening a kitchen or living room.

    3. Where the services come into the house

    hanging light fittings in kitchen

    Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd

    On a very practical level, Laura suggests always checking where the services come into a house before investing in a renovation project.

    ‘Those are the things that I wouldn’t touch normally,’ says Laura. ‘I don’t think I have ever applied to get electric mains moved because it is so expensive.

    ‘I would always look to where those are. and if they’re on the outside of the house brilliant – if they are in a kind of weird place inside the house, that’s something to bear in mind that you won’t be able to move them. I always kind of look for the fixed points that you have to workaround.’

    Related: Phil Spencer says this popular home layout has had its day and is on the way out

    However, like Laura says any property can be renovated into a lovely home. You might not even need to go on a house hunt, your current home could be turned into a Forever Home.

    Laura Jane Clark is working with Barclays Mortgages on a new campaign to reveal what makes the ultimate Forever Home, and how this has changed since the pandemic

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