Basements gain ground as Brits strive to achieve their dream home

23 August 2017

Home improvements such as converting a basement are gaining popularity while building a conservatory is falling out of favour, as only one in five Brits says they are living in their dream home.

Halifax Insurance’s study of local authority planning data, together with a poll of 2,000 homeowners, found that basement conversions are becoming more popular, with a 183% rise in planning applications since 2012.

Meanwhile, building new conservatories and porches are no longer so in demand, with the data revealing a 3% drop in applications in most parts of the country over the same period.

Single-storey extensions and loft conversions are also firm favourites – with planning applications up by 49% and 43% respectively over the past five years.

The insurer reveals that more than a fifth (22%) of homeowners having splurged at least £11,000 on home improvements, while 63% have spent between £2,000 and £5,000 in the past two years.

The study found that planning applications have increased by a quarter (27%) over the past five years. However, this may have reached its peak, as in the year to May 2017, year-on-year increases in planning applications were less than 2% - down from 6% growth a year earlier.

Londoners have been the keenest home improvers with a 60% increase in planning applications between 2012 and 2016. In contrast, Scotland saw planning applications grow by just 3% over the same period.  

Researchers also found that living in a pricier property is no guarantee that you will achieve your ideal home – almost two thirds (62%) of homeowners living in properties worth more than £500,000 admit that they don’t currently live in their dream home.  

Improvements that add value

When it comes to home improvements that increase a home’s ‘saleability’, a new kitchen came top (cited by 37% of homeowners), followed by larger rooms (22%), extra bedrooms (19%) and extra bathrooms (17%).

Top 10 features on homeowners’ wishlists


Larger rooms


Extra bedroom(s)


Extra bathroom(s)


Separate utility room


A garden or outside space


Swimming pool


Loft extension


Bi-folding doors that bring the outside in


Garage for car


Melanie Backe-Hansen, historian and author of House Histories, says: “The way we live in our homes is evolving. Take the example of basements and the trend for extending downwards: this is probably down to a lack of space in our cities and towns, and it represents a big shift in the way we think about our homes.

“The place of the kitchen has changed dramatically. In this study it takes the top spot on Britain’s dream home wishlist, yet in historical terms the kitchen is a relatively modern invention. Where once you’d be lucky to have running water, today it is the ultimate status symbol and where we do most of our entertaining.”

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