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Are Barns for Animals to live in and not for Humans?

Barn conversions have become a trend to a great extent. Originally, barns were farm buildings widely used for sheltering livestock, storing fodder, farm products, farm machinery, etc. However, their conversion for residential and commercial use became popular in the late 20th century.

architectural visualiser george nicola

By George Nicola (Expert Stager)

The most vivid additions to the old agricultural buildings are windows and chimneys, which completely alters their historic character.

Read on to know why barn conversions are popular and how you can convert one into a unique property.

I will also explain how to invest your money in these agricultural buildings resourcefully.

What is a Barn Conversion?

A barn conversion refers to the process of renovating a disused agricultural building and turning it into a habitable contemporary house, family home, office, studio space, or even a holiday inn. Old barns are usually spacious with high ceilings that can provide you with the ideal form, character, and materials to construct your desired residential or commercial space.

The popularity of barn conversions began in the 1980s when most landowners stopped using them as farm buildings. In 2014, planning restrictions for barn conversions relaxed, which prompted people to capitalize on converting them into stunning homes without the need to seek planning permission.

Is Barn Conversion a Good Investment?

Barn conversions are not only a good investment, but also a lucrative one because they are unique and popular among buyers in rural areas. The barns are usually very spacious to fit any new home. If you are new to investing in barn conversions, we advise you to hire the services of a professional company to help you make the right property selections in an ideal location.

Ideally, the cost of already converted barns are more less the same as a conventional house of the same size. However, if you want to buy an old barn to convert on your own, it can be slightly expensive compared to building a house from scratch.

Barn or Stable Conversion - Which is better?

Barn Conversion

Pros

  • Are unique, character property
  • You’ll be more conversant with the property compared to a bought home
  • Located in ideal rural locations with great views and expansive land
  • Fewer repairs, maintenance, and updates
  • No need to seek planning permissions

Cons

  • Attracts overhead costs
  • Some rural locations may be inaccessible
  • It may be challenging to find specific building  materials

Stable Conversion

Pros

  • Located in ideal rural locations with great views and expansive land
  • You’ll be more conversant with the property compared to a bought home

Cons

  • Higher conversions costs and maintenance
  • Greater risk of fire
  • Increased dust levels and poorer ventilation due to build-up of organic debris produced by horses
  • You may be required to submit a prior declaration of change of destination

From the above analysis, barn conversions have more pros and less cons compared to stable conversions. Therefore, barn conversions are better.

Why the Hassle to Convert a Barn to a Residential Home?

Barns converted to residential homes are incredibly desirable among home buyers seeking to live in them or develop them further for sale purposes.

Barns are popular because you can incorporate both traditional and contemporary designs effortlessly in the living space and enjoy spectacular countryside views.

In addition, they are impressively symmetrical and are typically associated with high ceilings not to mention their potential to accommodate open-plan models.

Should You Buy a Pole Barn to Convert?

You may assume that converting a pole barn into a home is obviously cheaper, but the simplest answer to that would be, “It depends on what you’re looking for.” Generally, buying a pole barn is affordable, but converting them into a standard home can be costly, to say the least.

Besides adding footers to protect the concrete slab from freezing during winter, many lenders shy away from financing owners of pole barn homes because their demand is low on the secondary market.

Post-frame structures are ideal for conversion into garages, workshops, horse stables, and man caves. However, we don’t advise you to convert them to standard houses.

Types of Barns

Below is a detailed list of various barn types that you can choose from before investing your money to convert them.

Pole Barns

Constructed using timber, pole barns are erected using deep-set post frames placed several feet into the ground, held in place using concrete, and extend further above ground.

Pole barns can be built on uneven ground, such as gravel, which makes them very common to date thanks to their versatility and relatively low cost.

Bank Barns

Usually stone-built, bank barns are rectangular in shape and usually located beside a hill.

These two-level barns keep livestock in the lower level, while the upper level are traditionally used for storage as well as a threshing floor. You can access both levels from the ground. The earliest ones had gabled roofs before gambrel roofs were introduced later.

Post and Beam Barns

These types of barns is constructed using heavy timbers, which are fused using steel plates or carved joinery.

Post and beam barns are very expensive to construct, and their shapes vary as per the designer’s preference. Their beautifully built structures are remarkably durable and can remain standing for many decades with proper maintenance and regular upkeep.

Monitor Barns

Also known as the raised roof barn, the monitor barn is made from timber and logs and has an elevated roof at the center supported with additional walls.

The raised loft is often used to store hay, farm equipment, and as a tack room. The unique shape of this barn type appeals to many farmers because it allows them to install windows for more natural light and ventilation.

Gambrel Barns

Almost similar to the monitor barn, the gambrel barn is constructed with timber and features a full center aisle first floor, overlaid with an extended second-story loft.

Its unique feature is the double slope on both sides of the roof and a spacious roofline for storing hay and equipment. Most farmers also incorporate living quarters and office space in gamble barns.

Gable Barns

Gable barns are mainly constructed with timber. Their triangular A-frame roofs are steep on both sides not only to allow rainwater and snow to fall off faster but also to minimize leaks and rots. The roofs also provide more storage capacity and are very strong since they are more vertically aligned.

Legal Requirements to Convert a Barn into a Home

Barn conversions are governed by wide-ranging regulations, and their interpretation may differ from one local planning authority to another.

While Permitted Development Rights permits homeowners to renovate their homes without seeking permission from local authorities, Class MB – the barn conversion clause – is subject to a Prior Notification procedure. This legal requirement obligates homeowners to give ‘prior notification’ to boundary neighbors before building single-story, rear residential extensions.

With the understanding that no objections come forth, a Certificate of Lawful Development is issued. Subject to certain conditions, the certificate allows homeowners to change agricultural buildings, including barns, to ‘dwelling houses,’ of no more than five residential units, using internal floor space of up to 465 cubic meters.

Can I Build a Barn Without Planning Permission?

Class Q of The Town and Country Planning (England) Order 2015 is the primary legislation regarding building barns without planning permission.

Essentially, Class Q permitted development rights with the intention of hastening the planning process of getting new homes into the system before converting the disused ones.

Underclass Q, securing permission is obligatory before converting your barn to avoid problems in the long run.

First, however, you need to apply to your local authority to know whether the building needs prior approval as per a series of criteria, including noise pollution, transport, contamination, flood risk, and whether the location is suitable for converting barns.

Class Q requires applicants to provide details of floor plans, elevations, natural light assessment, the proposed use of all rooms, as well as dimensions of walls, doors, and windows. Generally, your barn may qualify if it meets all of the following criteria under permitted development rights:

  • It must not be listed
  • It must be structurally sound
  • It must reflect its original use
  • It must not be in a conservation area
  • It must have been in agricultural use within 10 years before your application to convert it.

Consider Wildlife When Planning a Barn Conversion

In England, planning system changes require that agricultural buildings are surveyed for protected species, such as owls and bats. If your barn site needs planning permission check for any of the following documentation on the website of your local planning authority:

  • Bat and Barn Owl Survey
  • Biodiversity Assessment
  • Ecological Survey Report
  • Environmental Statement
  • Protected Species Survey, or
  • Wildlife Survey

Barn to House Conversion Cost

The cost of converting a barn into a residential or commercial space can be high due to additional utilities like water, electricity, and gas, along with expensive structural improvements.

As stated by Checkatrade, the average cost of a barn conversion in the UK is £275,000.

Barn Conversion Cost

Cost + VAT (Low – High)

£150,000 – £400,000

Average Cost

£275,000

Barn Conversion Cost per sq. foot

Cost + VAT (Low – High)

£90 – £320 per sq. foot

Average Cost

£153 per sq. foot

Barn Conversion Cost per sq. meter

Cost + VAT (Low – High)

£1,400 – £2,000 per sq. meter

Average Cost

£1,700 per sq. meter

Small Barn Conversion cost

Cost + VAT (Low – High)

£150,000 – £200,000

Average Cost

£175,000

Steel Frame Barn Conversion cost

Cost + VAT (Low – High)

£250,000 – £600,000

Average Cost

£275,000

Barn Conversion to a House (example)

Generally building a standard home is cheaper than converting a barn. The average price of a barn on sale for conversion ranges from £300,000 to £800,000 as shown in the below examples.

Barn conversion (opportunity) for sale near Lincolnshire (£600,000)

Q-Class-Barn-conversion---Multifamily-residentials
Barn conversion (opportunity) for sale near Lincolnshire (link)

Partly converted barn for sale, Swaffham, Norfolk (£750,000)

barn conversion to a house norfolk
Partly converted barn for sale in Norfolk (link)

Barn conversion near Chesterfield, Derbyshire (£350,000)

barn conversion to a house derbyshire
Barn conversion for sale near Derbyshire (link)

How to Modernize a Barn Conversion

Barn conversion projects call for cautious planning, flexible budgeting, and a lot of patience. The below 10-step guide details the process for converting your barn into a stunning home.

Find a Potential Barn

Start by reaching out to your local council and estate agents when looking for a suitable barn to convert. If unsuccessful, it is worth visiting Plotfinder, Barns Etc as well as English Heritage, and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings to look up for potential barns.

Estimate your Budget

Generally, converting a barn costs more per square meter compared to building a new home. Below are the typical cost estimates:

  • Underpinnings: £3,500 to £3,800 per square meter.
  • Disposing asbestos: £250 to £350 per 25sq meters/per tonne.
  • Stone repointing: £25 to £30 plus £20 per square meter for pure lime mortar.
  • Spraying timbers: £1,000-£1,500 per 2,000 square foot barn.

    Always ask local estate agents to estimate the value of a barn post-conversion before buying one.

Obtain Planning Permissions

To seek approval for the ‘change of use’ of a barn, contact your local planning department before applying for planning permission. Also, check if the building is listed and whether it is located in a conservation area. Most approved applications for ‘change of use’ restrict alterations to walls, doors, and windows.

Upgrade the Barns’ Fabric

To best results, we advise you to use materials that reflect the original character of the barn both internally and externally. Use original materials by considering the following three broad categories of barn constructions: timber framed, metal-framed and masonry structures.

Prioritize Natural Light

Adding doors, windows, and other openings is rarely allowed; therefore, consider installing glazing into existing openings to maximize views. Use large skylights where allowed, especially if your barn has high roofing.

Upgrade the Roofing

Upgrading the roofing will attract the highest expenditure because it is the largest part of a barn. We recommend multifoil roof insulation not only to maximise the available space, but also to manage the common problems pertaining to insulation due to disrepair.

Upgrade the Flooring

For a durable, hard-wearing surface with a warm visual feel, you can maintain the barn wood flooring, which are built using large planks of wood. Since the majority of barns have concrete floor slabs, ensure the walls are not damaged in the process of excavating the old slab.

Insulating the Barn Conversion

Most agricultural buildings are uninsulated so ensure you upgrade the barn’s thermal performance in accordance with modern-day standards. Use mineral wool to insulate between timbers and then add insulated plasterboard internally or a new insulated layer externally.

Heating Fixtures for Barn Conversion

When it comes to heat recovery, install a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system (MVHR) to warm inbound filtered air at low level. Underfloor heating is better as the radiant warmth can deliver a uniform temperature in the open-plan space.

Services and Utilities

Most barns lack key utilities like electricity, water, gas, or drainage. Ask several suppliers to give you quotes for connection before selecting the one that matches your budget. To minimize your bills, opt for renewable options, such as solar electric panels and heat pumps.

Types of Mortgages for Barn Conversions

Since barns have to be converted before one moves in, obtaining a mortgage requires more than a regular mortgage. The following are the types of mortgage options:

  1. Bridging loan – This is a 12-24 month loan for purchasing and converting a barn into a home. After completing the conversion, you can get a residential mortgage for your barn while repaying your bridging loan.
  2. Development finance – This works best if you plan on knocking down your barn before converting and/or at the same time extending it.
  3. Self-build mortgage – This is better suited when building your barn from the ground up instead of converting it. You will receive the funds in stages as per your progress.
  4. Residential mortgage – You may qualify if you are currently living in a converted barn.

Key Takeaways

  • Barn conversions are a good investment, as they unique and popular in rural areas
  • Barn conversions are governed by wide-ranging regulations that differ from one local planning authority to another.
  • The average cost of a barn conversion in the UK is £275,000.
  • Getting a mortgage for barn conversion is more difficult than getting a regular mortgage.
  • Most barns lack utilities like electricity, water, gas, or drainage, which are costly to fix.

(This text is intended to provide different technical aspects for those who are thinking of buying and converting a barn (agricultural building) into a house. Reach out to me at george@tallbox.co.uk if you have any questions about this article or selling barn conversion, buying, or designing barn conversions.)

Please do not consider this article as advice; it is my personal opinion.

George Nicola

VIRTUAL STAGING EXPERT / After eight years+ working in high-end design and property business I realised that we are missing a critical part of the property business. We were not providing enough value to these old and empty properties. Not every buyer would have the opportunity to see the potential of vacant property or in a bad state. The idea of Virtual Furniture Staging the property gives the buyer and seller an incredible chance in seconds of taking the critical decision.
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