Antiques Roadshow; The Real Noah’s Ark: Secret History Review – The Actual Queen Is On The Roadshow!
Here’s an interesting-looking old relic someone has brought along to Antiques Roadshow (BBC1, Sunday). A tiny figure, in duck blue with matching hat. Looks very old, but still in reasonable condition. Worth an absolute fortune, round about £330m, the expert says.
Because she’s the Queen, the actual Queen, who just happens to be at Hillsborough castle at the same time as the AR. Well, it is her place in Northern Ireland. She drops by because, says Fiona Bruce, she’s a fan of the programme. Nonsense, I’ve heard from reliable sources that she watches back-to-back Family Guy and nothing else. While Philip is a Game of Thrones man, for the girls. He’s here, but kept safely back, in case of inappropriateness, I imagine.
So what does Her Majesty offer, then? They show her a horse, of course, a little statue of the 1863 Derby winner. “It sounds very incompetent,” she says, on hearing that the race had 32 false starts. And she mentions that Lady so-and-so, who used to own this silver christening cup, was her aunt. And that’s it. Well, she speaks in private to the experts, apparently, but nothing else on camera. That’s a bit disappointing.
So to the riff-raff then. What have they got for us today? Another little lady, almost exactly the same age as the Queen as it happens – an art deco figure called Starlight by Demetre Chiparus. And worth ... between £10,000 and £15,000! Look at her eyes, the eyes of the lady who’s brought it in, beneath the look-like-I’m-pleased smile … Was she hoping for 20? Is there just the teeniest hint of disappointment? Of course there is, there always is. To be honest, I’m disappointed too, after the way expert Will Farmer was bigging it up. I mean, 10 grand is nice, but not exactly life-changing, is it? No loft conversion.
What? It’s about finding out about the artefacts, not about the value? As if …
I’m also disappointed that no one ever admits they’re disappointed. Like this man with his daughter and their painting of a(nother) horse, by Wright Barker. They clearly don’t like it very much, and nor does expert Grant Ford, who can only come up with “colourful” to describe it. Anyway, it was bought by granddad in 1976 for £1,025 and now, says expert Grant Ford, it’s worth … £6-8,000. They’d probably have been better off getting an Isa, wouldn’t they?
I do like the man who found a special lock in a skip. When he discovers it’s worth £800, he tries to flog it to the AR expert. “That’s not our job,” says Ronnie Archer-Morgan, clearly a little affronted.
Hold up, what’s this though? A watch, which was in a terrible state, but has been restored to its former glory. It doesn’t do email, or GPS or measure your heart rate, but it was made by Cartier, not Apple. So it’s worth ... £40-50,000. Ha, there’s your loft conversion. Shame it wasn’t a hundred, though.
There’s a hint of Antiques Roadshow about The Real Noah’s Ark: Secret History (Channel 4, Sunday), but without any of the disappointment. Man brings to the British Museum an ancient clay tablet that’s been sitting in his suburban (and presumably unconverted) loft for years. Babylonian expert and rare Cuneiform reader Irving Finkel immediately recognises that it’s a retelling of the Genesis flood story. Or pretelling, as this predates any Bible version by more than 1,000 years. So the story was possibly adopted by early Hebrews living in Mesopotamia during the Babylonian captivity. Is that how the modern-day country got its name? I’m thinking about God’s anger and the type of vessel, I’m thinking Ire Ark …
That’s just my own personal theory; you’re welcome, Dr Finkel, happy to be of help. Anyway, the tablet doesn’t just tell the story of the ark, it gives instructions on how to make it. So guess what, Dr Finkel only goes and gets three men – Shem, Ham and Japheth (actually Tom, Eric and Alessandro) – to build one for him.
It’s a lovely mishmash of archaeology, mythology, ancient history, religious studies and naval architecture, culminating in the launch of this strange-looking, circular (that’s what the instructions said) vessel. Which immediately begins to take on water and sink. Maybe the bit about how to make it waterproof was on the part of the tablet that was damaged and illegible.
Anyway, the excellently bearded Dr Finkel, looking out from his modern-ancient ark, looks both very happy and very much like Noah.
Just 22% of people in Britain live in their dream home but many are taking steps to do so with planning applications rising for extensions, loft conversions and basements.
Research from Halifax Insurance also shows that living in an expensive home does not always mean it is a dream home with 62% owning a property worth more than £500,000 saying it is not idea.
A new kitchen is top of the list of those wanting to have a dream home and porches and conservatories have fallen in terms of popularity at a time when 22% of owner have spent at least £11,000 on improvements in the last two years.
But it is not just small jobs that home owners are opting for. The research also shows that planning applications for basements have increased, especially in London, up 183% in the last five years.
Overall, total planning application numbers have increased by 27% across the country while single storey extension applications are up by 49% and loft conversions by 43% since 2012.
In Barnet in north London the number of domestic planning applications reached a 51 month high in March last year while at the other end of the scale, Scotland’s Western Isles saw just 357 applications over five years.
There are, however, signs that enthusiasm might be cooling. From June 2016 to May 2017, the year on year increase in planning applications is less than 2%, a significant slowing from the 6% growth seen over the same period a year earlier.
London saw the highest increase in planning applications between 2012 and 2016 with a rise of 60%, followed by the East of England up 31% and the East Midlands up 28%. Scotland showed the lowest appetite for home improvements, with planning applications growing by just 3% between 2012 and 2016 and a fall of 1.3% between 2015 and 2016.
But while porches and conservatories are going out of fashion, they are still popular in Wiltshire and Cornwall while new kitchens are most popular in Edinburgh where they are 10% higher than elsewhere.
Garages and carports are also poplar in Cornwall where there have been 61% more applications than the next highest location and Derby has seen the greatest number of applications for both bedrooms and bathrooms.
While 37% of home owners want a new kitchen, the research also shows that 22% want bigger rooms, 19% want extra bedrooms and 17% want extra bathrooms. Indeed, an extra bathroom is more popular than a swimming pool.
Twice as many women as men would look for a separate utility room, while twice as many men as women want a games room. Yorkshire and the Humber have the greatest appetite for a ‘man cave’.
‘The way we live in our homes is evolving. Take the example of basements and the trend for extending downward. 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. If we look back to Georgian and Victorian times, the basement is where you’d have found the kitchen and the servants’ quarters and was certainly not viewed as a space to be used for family life,’ said Melanie Backe-Hansen, historian and author of House Histories.
‘The place of the kitchen has changed dramatically. In this study it takes the top spot on Britain’s dream home wish list, 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,’ she added.
Jeremy Ward, head of Home Insurance at the Halifax, pointed out that home owners carrying out work on their property need to let their insurer know and said there is concern that just 14% of home owners say they have notified their insurer before beginning work.
‘It’s imperative to have the necessary insurance policy in place whilst carrying out the work and equally important to update insurance when the job is complete as failing to do so will invalidate the policy. On the positive side, however, having a burglar alarm or CCTV installed as part of home renovations could help reduce premiums, and also provide extra peace of mind,’ she explained.
Increasing numbers of homeowners are avoiding the expense - plus the physical and emotional upheaval - of moving house, by staying put and renovating instead.
In fact, the number of people choosing to do this has risen fivefold since 2013, according to a recent report by Hiscox Insurance - increasing from 3% of households to 15%, representing more than four million homes in the UK.
Supporting the notion that we're becoming a nation of home-improvers, figures from Halifax show that planning applications have risen by a quarter over the last five years. Meanwhile, Hiscox found the average budget for home renovations was around £16,100 for each project, although 18% of the householders surveyed expected to spend more than £25,000.
So what improvements are they making? According to the research, homeowners are most likely to either renovate a bathroom or add a new one, followed by kitchen improvements, installing a new boiler or central heating system, or creating more living space. However, not every home-improvement project will automatically add value to a property.
Add value to your property
"Cheap is cheap - nothing kills the value of a property more than doing cheap work in it. Estate agents have told me they've seen sellers with tears in their eyes, when they find out that construction work worth thousands of pounds hasn't added a single penny to their home," says Ash Chawla, chief executive of the design/build company Duke of Design (dukeofdesign.co.uk).
"We live in a world which has become very aware and knowledgeable. There are no shortcuts to creating value to your home."
So, what does Duke of Design recommend? Here are six home improvements Chawla says could be a wise investment...
The simplest home addition is a conservatory, which Virgin Money research says can raise the value of your home by as much as 15% if it's included as part of an extension, or by 5% if it's just a simple conservatory.
Chawla says choosing the right materials can help conservatories blend well with modern and period properties. "The key is to use materials other than the commonly seen white UPVC," he says. "A muted, more sophisticated palette of taupe and grey-painted wooden frames camouflages itself in a natural setting, and the reflective properties of glass help it blend into the outside space more easily."
Estate agents surveyed by Hiscox believe the best way of spending money on your home is by having an extension built, saying the addition of a new bedroom could boost the average home's value by 11.2%. They reckon a new kitchen, meanwhile, will typically increase a home's value by 5.5% (or £12,400 based on an average UK house price of £226,071), although 28% think a new kitchen can lift a home's value by as much as 10%.
Read MoreA single storey extension can be built in as little as three weeks once planning permission is granted, says Chawla, who suggests an average sized £30,000 single-storey rear kitchen extension on a £500,000 home can lead to a profit of £30,000-£35,000. "Aside from a rise in property value, you also benefit from a stunning home environment with added usable space," Chawla adds.
Remodelling an existing kitchen - by adding high quality units and flooring, purpose lighting and redecorating - could increase a property's value by as much as 4%, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors - although Chawla warns that expensive purchases, such as kitchen units and flooring, should be kept in proportion to the value of the property.
"The most successful kitchen extensions consider the whole home," he explains. "By removing internal walls, you can connect the kitchen to the dining room, creating a functional space for entertaining." Alternatively, you may also choose to link the kitchen to the garden by using large windows or patio doors.
4. Garden landscaping
"Often overlooked, the garden can become the hub of home life and can work seamlessly with your home, as if brick and foliage were the most natural partners in the world," says Chawla.
For family-sized homes, ensure the outdoor space is suitable for the growing needs of a family with low-maintenance planting and landscaping, while a small courtyard garden at a city apartment may appeal to younger working couples. The cost of landscaping a garden can be as little as £2,000, but Chawla says spending a little more can lead to a potential return of £40,000 on a £500,000 house.
Most towns and cities have a parking problem, Chawla points out. "By providing viable parking facilities, you can increase your property price dramatically," he promises.
Read MoreYou could either convert land at the front or side of your property to add a driveway or parking space, or add a garage - possibly by converting an existing outside building, if there's suitable access, or by building a garage extension. Full garage conversions commonly add up to 8-10% to your property value, says Chawla, particularly in areas where parking is a premium.
6. Loft and basement conversions
The Hiscox report says loft extensions are the most popular planning request, and Chawla says loft conversions are usually less troublesome than basement conversions. They don't always require planning permission, although they do need to meet building regulations to be classed as a room. The Nationwide Building Society says the average cost to convert an attic is around £20,000, which rises to approximately £35,000-£45,000 if you're creating a dormer loft with double bedroom and bathroom.
Just boarding out the loft for storage is unlikely to make much impact on the price of your property, and Chawla stresses: "If financial gain is your goal, converting the loft into a usable room is the way to go. The benefits of adding an additional bedroom to your property can be huge - loft conversions can add as much as £65,000-£75,000 to your property value."
An alternative is to add a basement conversion if space allows, but Chawla says this is a complicated procedure and potential problems, such as water ingress and foundation issues, can be major concerns.