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Sunday Tribune

The trend for adding an extension is gathering pace in Ireland, particularly in our cities, as soaring house prices and rising interest rates are forcing many of us to abandon plans to move to a bigger house.

Home-owners are cashing in their SSIA payments and using the money to improve their property, according to a recent survey by Standard Life, which revealed that 26% of savers are spending their money on home improvements.

And while adding an extension is probably one of the most ambitious ways of improving your home, it can bring the greatest rewards in terms of extra room, or rooms, and add thousands to your home's value.

One Dublin company hoping to capitalise on the trend is the aptly named Extend, which officially launched last Thursday. Set up by Liam Brennan, Niall Browne Jonathan Bennett and Paul McCleary of architectural firms Brennan and Browne and Bennett and McCleary, Extend is a professional RIAI-registered design practice specialising in quality house extensions. It offers a complete design and service vice from inception right through to completion. At present the service is only available in the greater Dublin area.

"More and more people are now choosing to stay put and improve the quality of their home by building an extension," says Paul McCleary.

"Last year there were just under 5,000 planning applications to build extensions in Dublin. This doesn't take into account those extensions built that didn't require planning. Extend is responding to this market need by providing a professional, friendly and approachable service that will take clients through the planning minefield to getting their extensions built on time and within budget"

Good news surely for home-owners who've tried to go down the extension route alone only to discover they can't get a builder, or at least one who will see the job through from start to finish and show up when they're supposed to.

What will no doubt most appeal to home-owners is Extend's price packages. "The fee you agree on is what you are billed for at the end of the job. It's all-inclusive. You're not going to be stung for any hidden extras," says McCleary.

While the average house extension in Ireland can cost anything from EUR150,000 upwards, Extend's basic extensions cost around EUR100,000. Customers have a choice of three different design packages - A, B and C- and can choose how much involvement they want Extend to have in the project and how much they want to pay. Package C is the most expensive but what you're getting is a complete design-team service from architects and engineers to surveyors and builders.

"Basically we take on a project management role -organise builders, haggle over costs, submit letters for tender and see the extension right through to completion. It's very much hands-on and we liaise with the customer all the way through the project and make site visits every second week during construction;" says McCleary.

At present, the company has about 20 different projects in the pipeline, from kitchen/dining room extensions to bathroom extensions, to adding on extra bedrooms and doubleheight extensions. According to estate agents, kitchen extensions are the most popular and the most profitable when it comes to adding value to your home.

"Big, light-filled, informal, sociable kitchens that have walk-in appeal are a major selling point," says estate agent Geralyn Byrne, Sherry FitzGerald. "Bigger bathrooms are also hughely desirable and can greatly increase the value of a property. "The trend for extensions nowadays is to create something that maximises the light and if you can do this without spending over the top you'll find that buyers will pay for quality and extra space".

Not all extensions though will reap monetary rewards or indeed make your home more liveable, so plan carefully. You might think that adding an extra bedroom will make your house more sellable, but there's no point in doing this if your living room or kitchen is tiny. "It's important to keep the right proportion of house to garden and resist the urge to overdevelop if you're going to be left with a postage stamp garden," says Byrne.

"It shouldn't look like a clip-on either," says Cleary. Far from adding value, a design that completely jars with the house could put buyers off. Whatever about increasing the value of your home, your extension should first and foremost be about adding space and improving the quality of life in your home. Spending EUR100,000 on an extension and expecting it to increase the value of your home by that same amount or more could prove foolish if house prices in your area are already at their threshold. You could end up only getting a quarter of what you've put in. Be warned.
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