There’s something special about barn conversions. They offer a whole range of possibilities that you would struggle to find anywhere else, even with new builds; whether its ample space, a home filled with character or a beautiful rural setting, a barn conversion could provide everything you want from a property and more!
Having said that, it is no big secret that barn conversions can be extremely expensive. When asked about the average cost of a barn conversion, an expert will usually tell you that although every single one is different, you should always expect to pay more than predicted. A barn conversion is also one of the longest projects you can undertake; it will typically take months if not years of planning before the conversion work can even get started!
The key to a successful barn conversion is careful planning and consideration. You should make sure that the architectural designer and builders you hire for the project all have solid experience with barn conversions. The same should apply to your mortgage broker, as getting finance for a barn conversion can be notoriously difficult.
When it comes to barn conversions, every single aspect of planning deserves careful attention. While expert advice will be extremely valuable to you, it’s a sad fact that no two conversions are the same: there will always be differences in terms of design, planning and, of course, cost.
The first thing to consider is where exactly you would like your barn to be. This is actually a key cost consideration: barns tend to be built with certain materials depending on where they are and conversions can either be cheaper or much more expensive depending on what the barn is made of. Stone barn conversions tend to be the most expensive and most stone barns can be found in the north and west. Timber barns meanwhile are much more common in the south and east of the country.
Once you find a barn you are interested in, the next step will be to learn exactly what comes with it. For example, what if any land is included with the barn? You should also take the opportunity to ask if the property has any restrictive covenants, as these could be a huge barrier to your conversion work.
At this point you should also start getting to know the area. Is your barn in a conservation area? Is it a listed building? Aspects like this will have a huge impact on how easy it will be for you to get planning permission for your project. The good news is that you do not need to actually own a property in order to apply for planning permission, so you should be able to get a very good idea of what restrictions will be in place long before you decide whether to actually purchase the property. Remember, you should never just assume you will be able to get planning consent, even if there are other converted barns in the area.
On the subject of the local area, you should also consider how much it will actually cost to live there. For example, is the barn particularly secluded? If so, you should consider travel costs, not just for work but also for basic amenities.
Another thing that you must do before buying your chosen barn is to have it looked at by a local surveyor. This will help you to understand the condition of the building and predict how much your conversion project could cost. A survey will also turn up any other potential problems, such as if any wildlife has made its home in the barn.
Finally, keep in mind that local planners will want your conversion to keep the original characteristics of the barn in mind. In other words, when you hire your architectural designer, they will need to be familiar with the original features. This will be especially important for listed buildings and you could even be fined for making unauthorised changes.
Remember, all of this should be done before you actually buy the barn. The planning process will be long and you may encounter problems, but handling everything at this point will save you a huge amount of stress later on in your project.
The simple truth is that it is very difficult to predict how much a barn conversion will cost before you get your teeth into the planning stage. The costs will depend on a number of factors, including the barn’s location, the materials used to build it, its general state and what your plans are, as well as potentially unforeseeable issues.
If you want to get around this problem, your best bet will be to budget for your planning stage. This should include the cost of hiring an architectural designer and surveyor, getting planning permission and, of course, buying the barn itself. Once all of this has been done, you should have a much better perspective of what the conversion itself will cost. Even so, you should increase your budget so that you can be flexible if necessary.
As a general estimate, you could expect to pay anything between £600 and £1,300 per square meter for a barn conversion. However, with careful planning there are always potential ways to save money. For example, if your barn is completely off the grid, you could save money by installing eco-friendly utilities, such as solar panels, rainwater collectors, heavy insulation and more.
Luckily, there are also a few financial incentives to pursuing your barn conversion. Most notably, an individual doing a barn conversion can reclaim VAT spent on materials and labour. If you hire a VAT registered builder, they will invoice their work at a reduced rate of 5%.
The bad news is that financing a barn conversion can be notoriously difficult. Even acquiring a mortgage can be a pain, so it will be good to ensure your mortgage broker has dealt with barn conversions in the past.
While barn conversions can be long and expensive projects, there is no denying that the payoffs can be richly rewarding. If you want a beautiful home surrounded by beautiful countryside, a barn conversion really is one of the best routes you can take. However, if you want it to be successful you will need to plan, and more importantly budget, as carefully as possible.