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The Pros and Cons of Buying a Barn Conversion

A converted barn sounds like an ideal place to live, particularly if you want to escape from a big city and want to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside. But does the reality always match the dream?

Anderson Associates, independent chartered surveyors covering Suffolk, Essex, Kent and East and South East London, are highly experienced in dealing with barn conversions. Here we look at whether they can represent value for money.

The Pros

Plenty of Space – Barns which have been converted into homes usually have plenty of space. Many barns were originally built with high or vaulted ceilings, full-height entrances and doorways, and large open-plan areas. Provided these haven’t been removed as part of the conversion work, then you should have no problem fitting in all your furniture or possessions.

In a Beautiful Location – Many barn conversions are in rural locations where new homes would not usually be given planning permission. This means owners enjoy plenty of peace and quiet, as well as the rural charm of the property itself. If you like exposed beams, then so much the better!

They Hold Their Value – This particularly applies if there are no issues surrounding access, and the conversion has been carried out to a high standard, has been well maintained and there are no significant changes to the surrounding areas, such as a by-pass or new housing development.

They Combine the Best of Ancient and Modern – The best barn conversions are those which hold their value better, and where the conversion has been carried out in a way which is sympathetic to the original characteristics of the existing building, but which has plenty of modern creature comforts.

The Cons

They’re Expensive to Heat – Although the rooms may be more spacious, on the flip side they can be more expensive to heat than conventional homes. Gas-fired central heating may not be an option, as not all rural locations are on the mains gas network, which means you may have to opt for more expensive or less efficient heating options such as oil-fired systems, electric storage radiators, ground source heat pump, or biomass systems.

The Planning Regulations are Stringent – Many barns were converted in the 70s and 80s with little or no regard for the building’s original features. So nowadays planning authorities tend to be much stricter in terms of what they allow.

However, in 2018, under the Class Q Permitted Development Initiative, there were attempts to make the guidelines less stringent because of the lack of affordable rural housing being built.

Even so, if you have bought an existing barn conversion and want to make some alterations, the local council’s planning department can insist you only use materials which are compatible with those used in the original building. The barn itself may also be listed, which will further limit the changes you can make.

They Were Originally Intended for Animals – Barns were originally intended to be occupied by livestock and other farmyard animals, as well as for storing crops, rather than for human habitation. This means they have little or no domestic attributes, little natural light, small windows/glazing and little or no insulation.

Even if the planning authority allows you to make further alterations, correcting any issues can be expensive and reduce your living space.

It’s Not Always a Rural Idyll – Many barn conversions are still part of working farms, which can have knock-on effects on issues such as privacy, space and views. Some farmers may have retained a right of way around your new home, which could mean being woken up by a tractor or combine harvester early in the morning. And remember you could still have neighbours as other barns may have been converted as part of the same development.

Barn Conversion Surveys from Anderson Associates

Because of the numerous question marks surrounding any barn conversion purchase, it is important that you get independent advice well in advance. This means you should call on the services of independent chartered surveyors. Anderson Associates are highly experienced in dealing with barn conversion surveys, whether you are buying a former barn in Suffolk, Essex, or Kent or a property in East or South East London. We work for you and not the lender, so you can rely on us for impartial advice.

We would recommend a full building survey which will identify any problems with the whole structure, and show if there are any issues with peripheral issues such as title deeds and rights of way.

We can also offer project and site management services if you want to have any further work carried out.

If you need any advice on a barn conversion survey, contact us by following this link and filling in the online form.


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Whether you need a simple valuation or a full structural survey as well as being expert building surveyors we’re happy to give you free, impartial advice on anything to do with buildings and property.
Anderson Associates
(Head Office & Correspondence Address)
Warneford House, Portal Avenue
Martlesham Heath, Ipswich
Suffolk IP5 3QY
T. 01473 623 656
T. 0800 652 8285
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Registered Office: Anderson Associates (Surveying) Ltd. | Warneford House, Portal Avenue, Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, Suffolk IP5 3QY
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