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That time of life

My father died a few weeks ago, so I’ve been a little distracted by the shock of his sudden death and appreciating that life really can change at a moment’s notice.

It’s been a pause, a chance to catch my breath and think about the questions my mum has been asked in past few weeks and she is asking herself.

I’ve love where I life: the location, the building and what the potential we still have to realise. We’ve been here 8 years and have been working on a room of the house or a major feature each year. That has made our lives more comfortable as we’ve gone on. We’ve been lucky in that the bones of the house were pretty much there.

On our wish list, we have several major tasks to do: en-suite to our room, the windows, kitchen, main bathroom, carpets upstairs and the wood flooring downstairs. That’s in no particular order though the en-suite planning is probably the furthest along in planning.

The main aim is to clear the mortgage and ensure we have somewhere pleasant to spend the next 20 years. When we first owned a house, we used to watch the House Doctor who had a ready reckoner; you should spend 10% of your house’s value on improvements every year. Given today’s prices, we think 5% (unless you’re doing a big project) is a good guide.

0.5-1% should be maintenance: fixing the issues that come up, cleaning products and tools to help, for example. Burst pipes, serving the boiler and replacing worn out items, cleaner and window cleaner.

That leaves 4-4.5% to spend on renewing decor, furniture, lighting etc per annum. Or at least saving that money to reinvest at a later date. Including the garden and any garages etc.

The average house price in the UK (excluding London) is around the £250,000 mark, so 10% of that is £25,000 and 5% is £12,500.

Are you investing that in your house each year?

Of course, there are limitations in what you should do: fitting a £50,000 kitchen in a house worth £250,000 probably isn’t going to be recouped in the long run. You cannot make a £250,000 worth £300,000 unless the house was desperately run down. In which case, the investment should be in the structure and modernisation and may indeed cost that £50,000.

There are also limits in the cycle. A kitchen should last 20 years: from ecological point of view, replacing the units of a kitchen more frequently than that is extremely wasteful. So ours is scheduled for 2026/7. We’ve had a couple of the big appliances fail in that time (ones we’d had for 20 years), so they have been replaced and will be incorporated into the new kitchen when it comes ready for their cycle to be incorporated. We don’t build in the fridge or dishwasher – they can be switched out or repaired without risk of damage to the units.

Some guides reckon the kitchen should have a budget of 15-20% the value of your house. Given our average house price, that’s £37,500 – £50,000!

Given the average earnings in the UK, that’s obviously not practical for most people and appliances will be switched out more frequently than the 20-25 years.

We’re planning on retaining many of our appliances when the time comes. Keeping the basic layout, means the floor can be retained as we’ve got tiling. If we do lose the flooring this time round, we’ll ensure the flooring goes under the cupboards so that in 25 years time, we can just change what needs to be replaced not what doesn’t.

That’s a long-term commitment. We’re lucky, our investments so far have been on ensuring our carbon footprint and energy usage have come down as far as we can get it. We’ve taken our consumption down to an EPC rating of B compared to C. From solar panels to curtains that improve our insulation. Carpets that ensure minimal heat loss as well as feeling comfortable and keeping the boiler in tip-top condition to ensure it is as efficient as possible. (We service the cars and motorbikes for the same reason).

We’ve planted a tree hedge to help capture carbon and planted flowers and fruits to ensure the insects, mammals, reptiles and birds we share the planet with have food and shelter. Although, I do wish the squirrels would stop digging up some of the plants we are growing for a tasty snack 🙂

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