Barn conversions are very popular across the UK. This means there can be fierce competition not just to buy completed homes, but also to snap up barns to convert. However, even if you feel under pressure to buy quickly, as with all house purchases, it is essential to check the building out thoroughly before buying and arrange for a chartered building surveyor to examine the premises on your behalf.
Barn conversions tend to be located in beautiful rural settings, making them a top choice for house-hunters looking to move into the area. Each building is unique, with an historic quality, and typically constructed from local materials, in keeping with the surrounding landscape. For instance, some Suffolk and Essex barns are built from local timber and clay lump.
Another attraction is that barn conversions are often permitted in places where it would be very difficult to get permission to build a new building. They are sometimes used as second homes or when people are downsizing, perhaps moving out of London on retirement. Barn conversions tend to have large rooms, making it easy to fit in your furniture.
If you are keen to live in a specific area, it may be best to consider both options. In practice, however, many buyers do decide from the outset whether to convert a barn themselves or to buy an existing conversion. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of both types of purchase and some key points you need to be aware of.
Finding a Barn to Convert: It can be harder to find a suitable property than it was in the past, because local authorities are sometimes reluctant to allow barns to be turned into private homes. However there are some specialist companies and auction houses dealing with barns for conversion.
The major advantage of choosing this route is that you can convert the building to fit your own requirements, creating the home you want and not being lumbered with someone else’s decisions. An architect can advise you on how to maximise light and make optimum use of space, for instance by including open-plan areas and using mezzanine floors.
On the downside, however, when buying an unconverted barn you do need to check on various things before deciding to go ahead with the purchase. Key questions include whether it will be easy to connect the property to power and water, and whether it is near to local amenities. Also, is there adequate access, and is the road to the property maintained by the local authority?
Another vital point to check is whether the conversion already has planning permission. If not, you need to get an architect to draw detailed plans, get input from planning officers and wait to receive approval before buying, to avoid being stuck with a barn you can’t convert. In addition, if the barn is a listed building, this could add to your costs as there are likely to be strict criteria about what work you can do. Even if it isn’t listed, however, you will need to ensure you use materials which are in keeping with the building.
Most important of all is to check that the structure of the building is sound. Getting an expert RICS surveyor to carry out a structural/building survey means you can be sure the barn is suitable to convert, and that there won’t be large unforeseen bills ahead to repair problems you were not aware of.
It is very likely however, there will be some structural issues that will need to be addressed, dependant on the intended alterations being undertaken. Even if there are major structural issues that need to be dealt with before any conversion or refurbishment is done, at least you will be aware of them and can possibly discuss the purchase price to reflect any major problems highlighted in your survey.
Buying a Completed Conversion: The main advantage here is that the work has already been done, so you can move in far more quickly, rather than having to live in a temporary home while the conversion is carried out. You may also receive a warranty guaranteeing the quality of the conversion if it has been carried out recently.
However, there are also potential disadvantages. For instance, in past decades some conversions were carried out unsympathetically, perhaps by dividing the inside into too many small rooms or using modern materials not in keeping with the building, such as UPVC window frames. Another point to be aware of is that some mortgage lenders charge more for this type of property, so if you are taking out a home loan you will need to check on this.
To protect your investment, a survey is essential when buying a converted barn. A full building survey will usually be your best option, but you may wish to opt for a structural survey in the first instance if there are concerns over the conversion’s structure. If you are in doubt about which type of survey is best, a chartered building surveyor can advise you on this.
Building surveyors Anderson Associates provide expert services for home buyers throughout Suffolk, Essex, Kent, East London and South East London. Director Paul Anderson (MRICS) has extensive experience of carrying out full building surveys and structural surveys. The firm also offers project management and site management services if you are arranging the conversion yourself.
Click here to contact a chartered building surveyor, or call us on 01473 623 656 or freephone 0800 652 8285.