Thinking of moving? Take advice from property expert Phil Spencer

Homeowners now stay put for an average of 19 years before moving, according to a new report.

Homeowners are staying put for nearly two decades typically. Photograph: Toby Williams

Barclays Mortgages teamed up with property analyst Hometrack to find out how often homes change hands and why people are staying put for nearly two decades typically. Here, TV property expert Phil Spencer, a spokesman for the Barclays Mortgages home improvement report, shares his insight into housing trends, as well as the property pitfalls to watch out for.

Why do you think people are choosing to stay put for so long rather than moving?

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“The cost associated with moving has increased significantly in recent times, with agency fees, removal costs, etc. Without a booming housing market, homeowners perhaps haven’t generated equity in their homes that they would have done in previous decades that would have enabled them to take a step up the ladder.”

What changes have you seen over the years for what buyers are looking for and how sellers are presenting their homes?

“I’ve been involved in the housing market for over 25 years and, as with all things, there are trends. Fashion changes, so be careful of that and don’t go too far out on a limb. There was a trend for open plan and generally opening things out, but I’d say that’s changing again. More en-suite bathrooms have been prioritised recently. They take up more space and don’t always add huge amounts of value when re-selling, so it will be interesting to see if this lasts. Pantries and larders are also on the up, as we crave more space.”

What do home owners need to be mindful of when thinking about making improvements?

“Bad DIY. It’s obvious when something’s been done cheaply. You also need to be realistic with the space you’ve got. Every property has a ceiling price and, as long as you’re aware of that, then you’re good.

“You need to be consistent. I’ve seen expensive bathrooms in cheap houses and it can look out of place. Always match the price bracket of fittings to that of the house. Also, not to make things too personal to you and your taste and lifestyle. If you’re doing it for you, great, but if you want to re-sell be careful. You always need to appeal to the largest possible denominator – there is a reason people use magnolia.”

What should home owners bear in mind when considering whether to move or improve?

“Do the maths and research. Work out how long you would be able to stay in your property if you improved. Is it worth it? What would it be worth having done the work? It’s a big decision, and it’s rare that the answer is obvious. If you’ve done your research, then go with your decision and stick with it.”

Is it worth spending significant money on the garden as well as the home?

“Yes – treat your garden the way you would treat another room. Outside space can be as valuable, if not more so, than another room in the house.”

Do you have any tips for sellers trying to present their home to buyers over Christmas, bearing in mind some may have Christmas trees and decorations around the home?

“Don’t over-decorate. But the chances of serious buyers looking at buying house over the festive period are rare. I wouldn’t take any estate agent photos with decorations, as they will date quickly.”