What are barn conversions?
A barn conversion is the conversion of an agricultural building into another use, either as a commercial property, or to be lived in as a residential home. The structures tend to be reasonably priced, and can have a number of desireable features for home owners, such as a distinctive interior look, high ceilings and a large amount of floor area to work with inside.
Barn conversions are not a modern invention, and repurposing of farm buildings really started to take place as far back as the 1950s when the farming industry began declining at a fast rate. Having large buildings going underutilised was a waste, both financially for the owner, and as a wasted opportunity for any potential home or business owner who could begin to make use of it.
How much flexibility do I have?
Structurally, your options are likely to be fairly limited with barn conversions, as planning permission began to tighten up in the 1970s and beyond in order to protect the aestetics of the building and the areas they are situated in. This means limited changes to the outside, new windows and doors needing to fit within the existing openings, and little chance to extend beyond the current scope of the structure, unless on a very small scale, such as adding a cloakroom or utility room.
While externally you are limited, there is still a wealth of options available to you internally. For example agricultural buildings were generally not well insulated, they didn’t need to be, but modern building materials allow you to make the property much more energy-efficient and able to retain heat in the colder months. Also while it may have been tempting to open up window spaces to allow more natural light, even without this being possible, it’s also easier than ever before to create a bright, well lit space.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Barn conversions are likely to be in rural locations, with great scenery and incredible walks. The exterior of the property tends to have unique character, and if it has been converted using modern methods and materials, then the interior will have a contemporary, luxury feel. You can expect high ceilings, exposed beams, and depending on when the conversion was completed, an open plan living space.
If the conversion was completed in the 1950s – 1980s in particular, and has not been particularly modernised, the property may not be very energy-efficient, which will impact on your bills. If you do want to expand or make changes, you may find access to planning permission difficult, and the property may come with long-standing agreements, known as covenants which may limit or inconvenience either you, or the owner if it is a development project. If the property is Listed, you will find yourself even further limited, as well as the additional cost of having to use original materials and period-correct construction methods on any structural work.
Insuring barn conversions – Do I need unoccupied commercial property insurance?
If you’re planning to buy a barn to convert, whether it comes with planning permission already or not, then it’s definitely worthwhile arranging unoccupied commercial property insurance.
A standard commercial property insurance policy will generally only allow up to 30 days of unoccupancy at one time. After that, the cover is usually severely restricted, if they’ll even provide cover at all. You may also find that the amount of renovations taking place, even if they are internal only and non-structural, may be too much for a standard policy to accommodate.
By arranging a specific unoccupied insurance policy, it can allow additional flexibility, such as arranging a 3 or 6 month policy if it’s not going to take a whole year to complete. It may also be possible to accept a lower level of cover, such as restricting claim limits for perils such as theft, malicious damage and escape of water, which may reduce costs. If you did decide to opt for an annual policy, the company may be able to switch you without needing to find another policy when it becomes unoccupied, saving both time and cost in administration fees.
There are also options available in terms of the renovations due to take place. While it is most common to cover the existing structure (as it is before works start) until the conversion is completed and signed off, it’s also possible to arrange a policy to cover work in progress in some instances. This would cover for any parts, labour and materials that may be damaged over the course of the project. If you’re using outside contractors, this is something you can discuss with them to ensure that everything you would want to be covered will be.
Taking on a barn conversion is an exciting and very rewarding project. The most important thing is making sure you’re able to complete the project safely, and arranging suitable insurance is a good part of that.
GSI Insurance Services (Southern) Ltd. are experts in providing insurance for unoccupied properties, properties undergoing renovation, and a combination of the two. If you have a barn due to be converted, we are on hand to get some suitable insurance in place for you. Give us a call on 0800 612 9376 or click “Get a Quote” to complete our online form.
Alternatively, go back to Unoccupied Commercial Property Insurance for more information.