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The Pros and Cons of Buying a Converted Oast House

One of the most distinctive sights in south-east England is the oast house – an unusual property which looks as if it belongs to another time and place entirely. Many of these have now been converted into homes and commercial premises.

But are they a good buy? Here Anderson Associates, chartered surveyors in Kent – where many of these properties can be found – look at the history of oast houses and if they are properties which prospective homeowners should consider purchasing.


What is an Oast House?

Oast houses were an integral part of the brewing industry between the 17th and early 19th centuries. They were where hops – an essential ingredient of beer – were dried and pressed.

Oast houses consist of three parts, the kiln, the drying room and the cooling room. Hops were dried in the drying room just above the kiln before being taken to the cooling room, where they were packed and transported to the breweries.

The kilns, which were fired by wood, charcoal or oil, were often circular, hence their distinctive shape – because it was believed this provided better heat distribution. However, square kilns became more popular over time as scientific opinion changed, as it was believed these were more efficient.

Today, hops are dried by a large-scale industrial process using oil fired heaters and fan generated draughts. However, a lot of the old oast houses remain and have been converted into homes – particularly in Kent, but also in other south-eastern counties such as Essex, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire.  Many also have a farmhouse attached as well.


The Pros of Buying a Converted Oast House…

  • Their Great Character – It is undeniable that an oast house is packed full of character and is really distinctive, quirky, and stands out from the crowd - particularly if it has a circular roundel.
  • The Mix of Ancient and Modern – If an oast house is structurally sound and has been well refurbished, you are getting the best of both worlds – traditional character with a modern finish.
  • Their Versatility – As well as homes, oast houses have also been converted into offices, youth hostels and even theatres. Inside, upstairs rooms in roundels can be used as bedrooms or bathrooms. And it is possible to find firms who will help you with the unique design challenges they pose, such as the problem of fitting square furniture into a round room.
  • They Hold their Value Well – Because they aren’t being built any more, there is a limited supply which elevates the price.


The Cons

  • Restrictive Planning Policies – Many oast houses are listed, so there will be restrictions on what you are allowed to do in terms of conversion work. As with barn conversions, you may have to stick to the original building materials as far as possible. Planners are now much harder on what is and isn’t allowed compared to the 1970s and 80s.
  • Small Isn’t Always Beautiful –Oast houses will often be too small for your needs, and you may not be able to extend due to planning restrictions. This is compounded by the fact that owners often sell such properties as separate homes (for instance, putting the kiln and the barn on the market separately).
  • Structural Issues – Roundels may require expensive underpinning. If the roundel is circular, then if any tiles need replacing this can also be expensive. Also, if there are any timber frames, these can be expensive to repair too. The cowls at the top of the roundel – which let the heat escape – usually need replacing as well.
  • Privacy – You may not get as much as you think, especially if the property is sold as more than one lot, or if it forms part of a working farm or is in a rural area. In such cases, you may have the noise of vehicles like combines and tractors to contend with.


What Should I Do?

If you are tempted by the idea of buying a converted oast house, or by doing one up yourself, you should get a full building survey done.

Anderson Associates, chartered building surveyors who operate in Kent, Essex, south-east and east London and Suffolk, offer full building surveys which will give you a complete picture of the state of the oast house – or any property -  you are interested in buying, and what remedial work needs doing before you commit yourself to a purchase.

We also offer home buyer surveys, and leasehold and shared freehold property surveys for homes in Suffolk, Essex and London. If you would like to know more any of the types of surveys, you can contact us by clicking here and filling in our online contact 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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