Online House Hunter: Converting commercial to residential
THE ‘death’ of many town centres as real-world shopping gives way to out-of-town shopping or online shopping has led to a push for the conversion of unused commercial properties into homes.
In his last budget, George Osborne said he’d look at making easier for property owners to convert commercial properties as a way of easing the UK’s housing shortage. With that in mind, the National Association of Estate Agents has issued advice to those thinking of going down the conversion route.
According to the NAEA, planning regulations can make such a choice too risky for developers but for others the temptation is that it could be cheaper than new-build. The NAEA advise weighing up the costs carefully saying “commercial space often requires more skilled labour to comply with standards for residential use, therefore adding to overall cost of a project. Additional building requirements are often applicable to dwellings such as Part L regulations that ensure compliance to conservation of fuel and power so it is always worth checking in advance.”
Their notes also advise:
- With much commercial property in town centres, watch out for parking restrictions or other limitations that could make the home less desirable either to live in or to sell on.
- Some premises might have shared access to additional space upstairs (such as an existing flat), it is worth speaking with the owners to find out where you stand, as this will no doubt impact on any internal changes you plan on making.
- Any extensions or renovation of shop fronts are likely to be subject to regular planning permission. And high street premises may have restrictions ensuring the ’shop front’ style is retained. This could be restrictive or costly.
- Town centre properties can mean noisy neighbours (pubs and clubs). Chat with any existing residents in the neighbourhood before committing yourself.
- Be prepared to wait – Some local authorities adopt a blanket policy when considering change of use planning applications whereby the property must be placed on the market from anywhere between six and 12 months. If the owner can prove there is no market for the building commercially, they may consider a change of use.
As with any property development, much care and thought needs to be taken before jumping in with both feet and a major financial investment. But the continuing decline of town centres mean this is one sector that has almost guaranteed growth.
- Independent online property search
- Independent House and Home section
- National Association of Estate Agents
- British Property Federation
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