A general question that’s long been asked and as yet never answered on My Barn Conversion was summed up by miss dee ennis back in 2006:
I am thinking of buying a barn for myself … could [someone] give me a ballpark figure as to how much this is lik[e]ly to cost?
One of those how long is a piece of string questions – short question with a indeterminably long answer. Furthermore, a fair amount of traffic comes to this site with ‘barn conversion costs’ or something similar driving its Google search (to be precise 67 visitors over the last month alone), so I felt I’d better pull out my finger and start to try and address the question.
I have thought about this before – way back in 2006 when this site first started I came up with a figure of a minimum total cost (barn, plans, building work) of £250,000 as a guesstimate and saved it away in an unpublished post. On rediscovering that figure I began to wonder what I based it on and if it really stands up to scrutiny, especially in light of all the crashing, crunching and banker bashing that’s gone on in the meantime.
So what are the constituent parts to the total cost of a conversion?
As I started to write this post it grew to such I size that I’ve split in into a number of parts. In this, the first part of the series I’ll consider the barn itself, part two will relate to the costs of architects and other professionals and costing the conversion work itself will be covered in part three.
Before it can be converted it needs to be bought but how much will that cost? I’m only going to consider buying a barn with permission in place – the process of getting planning permission isn’t one I have any experience of. Firmly placing ourselves at the bottom end of the market, the sky being the limit in any property purchase, how much can I get a barn for?
The answer to that currently (May 2010) is upwards of £150,000. For example, at this end of the market barnsetc.co.uk has a detached, stone built barn ten miles from Llandovery for offers in the region of £170,000 and barnconversionsforsale.com have a brick and pantiled Barn with full planning permission ripe to be ‘converted into a magnificent contemporary really spacious home on a plot of just over 1/4 acre’ in Lincolnshire that is ‘priced to sell’ at £179,950. Beside those and a few others there’s not much else around.
[As an aside – it’s noticeable how many barns in my area are now subject to planning that allows conversion to ‘commercial, tourism, sport or recreational use only’. I guess this is a reaction to the way that many conversions (my own included) result in the splitting up of a once viable farm into several habitations each with a small amount of land. Having spoken to several people on this it appears that offering a barn for sale on those terms at a reasonable price, then if it has not been sold after a year reapplying for conversion to a permanent residential property is now the only route to that type of planning permission in many cases.]
A further element of cost to be considered is the utilities – usually, water and electricity for a barn, sometimes sewage and gas if the barn isn’t three miles down a dirt track in the middle of a field. My take on utilities is to make their inclusion a part of the initial deal to purchase the barn. Make the vendor connect water and electricity before you exchange contracts. Connecting utilities is time consuming and costly and the vendor will be far better placed to carry out this work than you will be when living in a caravan or commuting to the site. Making utilities part of the purchase price will also help with your budgeting (you won’t need to include the costs in your build budget) and financing (the costs will be lumped in with your mortgage if you have one).
So we have a building with utilities and planning permission, now we need plans, schedules and contracts so we can start to get the place converted. In Part Two I’ll consider architects, architectural technicians and the other potentially pricey professionals we’ll need to employ to bridge the link between the unconverted building and the building work that will convert it.
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