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.