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Live in an old brewery, an officers' mess or a tower house: 10 of the most unusual properties for sale in the UK and abroad

Everybody loves a back story, so if your house was once a school, or a coach house, or even a water mill, you'll be streets ahead in dinner party one-up-manship. Here is a selection of homes for sale that used to be something else in a previous life. Meet the converters. Click here to start the search for a conversion or click here to find your nearest Winkworth office .

Whether you are thinking of splashing out on a bathroom, creating a new kitchen, or liberating the loft, here is our guide to boosting the value of your property

  Everyone knows that home improvements add value to a home. The message seems to be hammered home in virtually every TV property programme. But which improvements add the most value and should therefore be given priority' If you are trying to sell your house, it is the sort of question that you should be focussing on, as you try to steal a march on the competition. Here are ten ways you can add value to your property ' some simple, some less simple ' along with our experts' estimates of how much value the various improvements might be expected to add.

1. A loft conversion Extending a property upwards can be costly and time-consuming but, if you are able to get planning permission, it can be a canny strategy. Loft conversions are highly versatile: they can be adapted as studies, teenage dens or guest bedrooms. And by adding a whole extra floor, you will be enhancing the value of your property by tens of thousands.

Approximate added value: 10-15 per cent in London, around 10 per cent in the country.

2. A side-return No, not a sliced backhand by Andy Murray, but estate agent's jargon for lateral extensions to a property. You might expand your kitchen, for example, then add a small upstairs bedroom or bathroom on top of the kitchen. Side-returns can be quite expensive to build, but you need not worry about recouping your investment. That rather narrow Victorian terraced house can suddenly accommodate one extra family member, catapulting itself into a higher price bracket.

Approximate added value: 7-10 per cent in London.

3. A new bathroom The days when a family of four could get away with a single bathroom and no downstairs loo are fast passing into history. If you are trying to sell a house with only one bathroom to a couple who are used to more than one, you can expect stiff customer resistance. So think ahead, install that extra bathroom and keep it squeaky clean, like a hotel bathroom. It could just be the clincher in finding a seller.

Approximate added value: 2-3 per cent in London, 7-10 per cent in the country.

4. A new kitchen Most of us muddle through for years with kitchens that could best be described as 'homely'. Fine, if all you want to do is sit around eating spag bol and red wine with the family. Not so fine, if you are trying to sell a Victorian house in Wandsworth to a professional couple with two small kids. The kitchen is the hub of the house, and prospective purchasers will expect one that ticks all the boxes and is fitted with up-to-date equipment.

Approximate added value: 2-3 per cent in London, 2-3 per cent in the country. 5. Overhaul the

Everybody loves a back story, so if your house was once a school, or a coach house, or even a water mill, you'll be streets ahead in dinner party one-up-manship. Here is a selection of homes for sale that used to be something else in a previous life. Meet the converters.

Lot, France €940,000 (Euro 1.155m)

A village chateau in half an acre of grounds, this medieval building has undergone extensive work to bring it up to modern standards. Indeed, part of it has been used as an upmarket B&B. But there are further rooms still needing restoration, giving you scope to put your own mark on the property. Call Winkworth's international sales on 020 7870 7181

Upton Hellions, Crediton, Devon £595,000

If you like fishing, this is the place for you. The Old Mill was still in use up to the 1930s, but this red brick building is now a comfortable family home. Lawns are lapped by the peaceful mill leat and fishing rights come with the property. Call Winkworth's Exeter office on 01392 271177

Hamstead Mill, Newbury, Berkshire £430,000 (share of freehold)

Part of a picturesque water mill, this property consists of the two upper floors of an octagonal tower, plus a ground floor entrance hall. The elevated setting gives wonderful views over the mill race and pond. The gardens are communal and run down to the water?s edge. Call Winkworth?s Newbury office on 01635 552552

Lot, France €690,000 (?770,000)

This property, on the banks of the River Cele, includes a mill house and a tower house. Two conversions in one! There?s also a main house, a cottage and a barn. As if that?s not enough, the 12 acres of grounds include a heated swimming pool and a vineyard, a grass tennis court and a croquet lawn. Call Winkworth's international sales on 020 7870 7181

Hurn Court, Christchurch, Dorset £475,000

Once the coach house for Heron Court, the seat of the earls of Malmesbury, this conversion has three bedrooms. The main house became a school, and then private residences, and all the households share the ten acres of gardens that stretch down to the River Stour. Call Winkworth's Highcliffe office on 01425 270055

Throgmorton Hall, Old Sarum, Salisbury £520,000

In the 1930s this building served as the officers? mess as part of Old Sarum airfield. Earlier still, before 1832, Sarum was a notorious ?rotten borough? that elected two MPs to Parliament despite having no resident voters at all. Now residents can elect to enjoy the communal gardens and tennis courts in this gated development. It is no longer a ?rotten borough? today. The area is full of period properties with charm and character. Call Winkworth's Salisbury office on 01722 443000

Lot, France €770.000 (?950,000)

If you?re converted to the idea of a barn in France and want to run a business, too, this fully renovated property offers a main home plus three holiday apartments. Fabulous large rooms have exposed stonework, pale beams and geothermal underfloor heating. There are several outbuildings and a swimming pool. Call Winkworth's international sales on 020 7870 7181

The Old Bakery, Exeter £1.4m

The name gives a clue as to what this building used to be. But now it?s a development of 20 student rooms, currently let out. So this is a great investment opportunity in a university city where you will never be short of tenants. Call Winkworth's Exeter office on 01392 271177

10th Arrondissement Paris €1.1m (?1.34m)

If you really want to do it yourself, here?s an opportunity to add value in central Paris. This 19th century building with a courtyard is situated next to the Canal Saint Martin which links northeastern Paris with the Seine. The area even has its own fish and chip shop! Call Winkworth's international sales on 020 7870 7181

Click here to start the search for a conversion or click here to find your nearest Winkworth office.

garden A scruffy front lawn might not seem disastrous, particularly if it is the only the size of a pocket handkerchief. But it will detract from the 'kerb appeal' of your property ' those all-important first impressions that can make or break a sale. If lawn-mowing is not your bag, there is a lot to be said for replacing that tired lawn with a neat, easy-to-maintain patio. Front gardens tend to be bigger in the country than in the London, so it is doubly important to get this one right if you are living in a picturesque village in Hampshire.

Approximate added value: 1-2 per cent in London, 5-10 per cent in the country. 6. A conservatory The best modern conservatories are a far cry from those glorified greenhouses in Cluedo. They are better at conserving heat, for one thing. You need to tread carefully through the mine-field of planning regulations, but the right sort of conservatory, flooded with sunlight, could just hook the right kind of buyer.

Approximate added value: 2-3 per cent in London, 5 per cent in the country

7. A new basement So many people are burrowing under their properties in London that parts of the capital are starting to resemble The Great Escape. New or renovated basements can be an attractive option when it comes to creating extra living space without getting snarled up in planning red tape. And you can bet prospective buyers will appreciate your efforts and price their offers accordingly. A quiet basement could be just the place for moody teenagers to have his den.

Approximate added value: 5-8 per cent in London. 8. Repaint your property First impressions are critical, and nothing depresses house-hunters faster than walls or window frames that have not seen a lick of paint since 1983. You do not need to go to the other extreme and re-decorate your house every six months. But why risk losing a sale when a few pots of paint could do the trick'

Approximate added value: 1 to 2 per cent in London, 5-10 per cent in the country.

9. Repaint the front door Even couch potatoes who would baulk at painting the living-room can muster the energy to paint the front door. And they will be glad they did, when they come to put their house on the market. That gleaming door will be the stand-out entrance in the whole neighbourhood ' the very essence of kerb appeal.

Approximate added value: up to 1 per cent in London, up to 1% per cent in the country.

10. New double-glazing Living on a noisy road can be an absolute killer when it comes to selling a house. The noisiest roads can knock 10 to 20 per cent off the value of a property. So unless you are lucky enough to live in a cul-de-sac or on a street with efficient traffic calming, double-glazing the windows at the front of the house makes sound economic sense. You don't want a delivery lorry roaring past when you are showing the house. And in the country, the added warmth that double-glazing can offer is a much welcome one for potential buyers.

Approximate added value: 2-3 per cent in London, 5 per cent in the country

It should go without saying that making improvements to your property is no guarantee that you will sell it. But if you do not make the kind of improvements for which the property is crying out, you might be making a rod for your own back. So before you put your house on the market, remember to pay a visit to the DIY store. You won't regret it.

Click here to find your nearest Winkworth office who can offer expert property advice.

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