Is it possible to add a loft conversion to a new build?

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Is it possible to add a loft conversion to a new build?

Loft conversions are often thought of as a home improvement for older homes and when other possibilities of extending the property are perhaps exhausted, they are not traditionally associated with new builds. However, new-build lofts can be converted in some circumstances. 

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A loft conversion in a new build property sounds a bit counter-intuitive – surely the occupants have thought about how much room they need before they purchased their house? But things can change quickly and suddenly space is at a premium, witness the recent lockdown situation during the Covid-19 pandemic where many people have found themselves working from home and for some, this will be the new normal. Circumstances can change rapidly and a house that was once the perfect size for your needs is suddenly a bit of a squeeze.

image from: https://whitshawbuilders.co.uk/loft-conversions

What are the challenges of a new build loft conversion?

Rather ironically, newer roofs can be harder to convert than the loft spaces in older properties largely due to changes in roof design from around the 1960s onwards.

Newer homes from the last decades of the 20th century and into the 21st century including new builds are constructed using W-shaped ‘fink’ trusses for the roof support and these tend to take up most of the available room in the loft. Prefabricated trusses which are used in most modern new builds are lightweight and cross-cross the entire loft space leaving you no room to convert. Remove them at your peril as they are holding the roof up! These W-shaped trusses can be replaced with A-shaped trusses or steel beams across the length of the floor allowing the creation of a much larger and functional loft space. Another option is to consider a roof lift which is a process whereby the existing roof is removed and replaced with a structure that is of adequate height and space and the required load-bearing capacity for accommodation. However, there is some good news about new builds and that is most W-shaped roof trusses are of the requisite height for a loft conversion which is not always the case with some older properties; the minimum headroom for conversion across the industry is 2.2 metres.

The other aspect to consider is the roof rafters which will become the floor of your new accommodation; frequently these are not sufficiently load-bearing to support living areas and require significant reinforcement or replacement.

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Do you require planning permission for a new build loft conversion?

New build loft conversions as far as planning permission is concerned are no different to any other type of loft conversion; the style and design that you choose will either fall within permitted development and therefore not require a planning application or, it won’t and you will need to apply. However, what is unique to new builds is that you may encounter restrictions imposed by the developer such as restrictive covenants and if your property is leasehold then you will need permission from the freeholder before you may undertake any form of development.

What are restrictive covenants?

Restrictive covenants are not the sole domain of new build homes – they can be imposed on a property of any age and developers imposing restrictions on new build homes is nothing new but, it seems to be becoming an increasing trend judging by the growing number of cases referred to the Property Ombudsman (TPO).

Developers argue that restrictive covenants are necessary to maintain the aesthetics and layout of the development and the appearance and use of the dwellings. If the house is situated on a large development then often the developer wants to retain control of currently sold and occupied homes so as not to affect the market value of those still in process. But often the developer will leave the restrictive covenants in place for perpetuity to also protect his reputation and the quality of the estate. If the developer has imposed restrictive covenants forbidding you to develop the property then you will either need their consent or you can try and have the covenants removed by challenging them through the Lands Tribunal. It is not uncommon for householders to simply ignore a restrictive covenant but when investing serious capital funds into a loft conversion which is a permanent alteration to the property, this could be risky. You should have been made aware of any restrictive covenants by your Solicitor at the point of sale.

Will adding a loft conversion invalidate the NHBC warranty?

This is a grey area and some developers claim that even boarding the loft for storage will invalidate the warranty. Check your paperwork carefully. It is easier if you decide to convert the loft whilst the house is in build and before you exchange contracts; it can be harder to navigate both legal and structural issues once you have completed and are in residence, but it’s not impossible.

What accommodation can a loft conversion add to a new build home?

Sometimes in life, things can change quickly and what started out as the perfect new build may one day not have enough room for a change of circumstances or a growing family. A loft conversion gives the householder numerous options for extra space within the roof void, here are some of the most popular accommodation choices:-

  • A spacious master bedroom with luxury en-suite
  • A family media and entertainment room
  • Kids bedrooms and a family bathroom
  • A playroom which can morph into a teenagers’ den or sitting room as they grow up
  • A studio for arts and crafts or other hobbies
  • A home working space which can be great for students as well
  • A designated home office for a new business or enterprise

How much will a loft conversion cost?

The key factor for a loft conversion on a new build is the style of conversion that you want and how much work has to be done to the existing roof to create the space in the first place. Without any additional works to reflect the fact that the property is a new build and may require adjustment to the roof structure, a simple roofline loft conversion with Velux windows will cost in the region of £15,000 to £20,000 and a dormer loft conversion around double that.

Why are loft conversions a good option on a new build property?

  • Often there is sufficient accommodation in terms of the number of bedrooms in the property but they can all be rather small on a new build with much of the upstairs space taken up by a gallery-style landing. A loft conversion opens up the prospect of not only adding extra bedrooms but making the existing ones bigger or just keeping the smaller bedrooms for guests
  • Often there are no built-in cupboards and with small bedrooms to start with this makes storage quite a challenge as the rooms are simply too small to accommodate cupboards
  • New builds are often on really small plot sizes which makes extending to the side or the rear of the property much less appealing as it just involves stealing from the garden which is already economic in size

Do I need to consider building regulations for a loft conversion project on a new build?

Even though the house is newly built and has been passed by the Buildings Inspector when it comes to building regulations, any new work even on a modern home must also still comply with the latest regulations and will require stage inspections throughout the project. Building regulations apply regardless of whether or not the scheme requires planning permission.

Will a loft conversion increase the value of a new build home?

Market players in the financial services industry will confidently predict that a loft conversion will add between 20% and 25% to the value of your home. A loft conversion can be a significant investment but, apart from the immediate uplift in accommodation that you and your family will enjoy, you will certainly receive the benefit when the time comes to sell.

What is the best way to fund a loft conversion?

There are different funding options depending on how much equity you have in your home and how much ready cash you have available to put towards the project:-

  • Re-mortgage or approach your current lender for a further advance often called a Home Improvement Loan. You will need sufficient equity in your home so if you have only recently bought, this might depend on how much deposit you put down towards the sale price. You will need to satisfy the lender’s affordability criteria and demonstrate that you can meet the additional monthly payments for the further advance which are usually spread over the remaining mortgage term.
  • Some loft conversion companies partner up with financial institutions to offer third party finance in the same way that you might buy a car or white goods. The best interest rates may require a large deposit and excellent status but often finance can be offered to many people, it’s just the terms are not so advantageous. A loft conversion is a serious investment in your home but pound for pound represents the best value for money compared to a side or rear extension. Do you own a bungalow? Click here to see loft conversion costs for a bungalow.

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