Error message

Notice: Undefined variable: block in internal_analytics_block_view() (line 115 of /home/surveyorlocalco/public_html/sites/all/modules/custom/internal_analytics/internal_analytics.module).
Frances Traynor's picture

Innovation and invention inspire unusual homes

Thu, 23 Feb 2017



This article refers to a recent Home Buyers Survey.

Picture your dream home and what comes to mind? A baronial castle? A classy Victorian villa? A penthouse apartment with sea views? Or maybe what floats your boat is… a boat. Or something normally seen floating ON a boat, a shipping container, for example.

As demand for existing homes grows and pressure falls on developers to build more new properties across the UK, the innovative and inventive are finding interesting alternatives in which to make their home from home.

A recent survey carried out by the Evening Standard and crowdfunding website Property Partners revealed that more than 40 percent of lockup garages owned by councils across London were disused, leading to calls for boroughs to release those garages to be converted into homes for thousands of renters and buyers.

So what are the most unusual things converted into homes? We take a look at some of the less ordinary additions to the UK’s property portfolio.

Park your expectations elsewhere

Garage conversions are not an unusual feature, but they have usually been part of an extension to an existing home. Not any longer. Now garages are becoming sought-after properties in their own right, despite their limited space.

In fact, while that restricted square footage does limit exactly what can go into a converted garage, developers can use their imagination in how to present the conventional living, bed, kitchen and bathroom space.

The cost of buying a garage will depend on where you’re looking – a rundown garage in Chelsea once sold for a whopping £550,000 ­– and you can expect to spend a minimum of £10,000 on the conversion. Obviously planning permission is required before any conversion work can take place, but some knowhow and patience can drive this idea forward.

All hands on deck

The UK’s long-standing canal system means we have long been used to narrowboat life. Permanent moorings make the appeal of a narrowboat obvious. As property prices have soared, so too has the interest in making a home on the water. The Residential Boat Owners’ Association has an extensive website offering advice to anyone considering a narrowboat as a choice of residence – and it doesn’t sugarcoat the downside of a watery life.

But with their colourful exteriors, interesting interiors and sense of freedom, there’s no doubting the appeal of narrowboat living will continue to grow. Around 33,000 people already live this way in the UK. Expect to pay a minimum of £20,000 for a 50ft narrowboat and remember you can’t get a mortgage on this kind of residence. Factor in mooring fees and how you’re going to heat and power your new home.

Oh, and remember you’ll need your sea legs too. Permanently moored or not, your boat is going to swell up and down with the movement of the water. Ahoy there mateys!

Steel yourself for living

As off-the-wall abodes go, they don’t come much more unusual than a shipping container. Yet there’s a certain logic to the idea. Shipping containers are plentiful, they’re sturdy and they’re big. And don’t imagine that all you can do with shipping containers is stack them side by side or on top of each other, Lego style. With these boxes, you’re only limited by your own imagination – or that of an architect, of course. Clever conversions of shipping container homes have featured on TV shows such as Grand Designs, so inventive have they been in their execution.

A container is a relatively inexpensive purchase – prices start around £12,000 – and they often don’t require planning permission, though you will, of course, need permission to set up your unusual abode on a particular piece of land.

Really, the only limit here is your own imagination – and your budget, of course.

Your housing needs, squared

Another quirky addition to the unusual homes bracket are cube homes. There are several different types of these low-energy microhomes around, designed for low-carbon, low-energy living and with start prices around £11,000.

The QB2 and QB3 projects have been designed by a team at the University of Hertfordshire. The original QB, is a practical but small two-storey dwelling for one or two people and has been created specifically for low-carbon and low-energy living, an idea whose time has definitely come in an era of uncertainty over energy supplies. Its floor space is on two levels but is just 3m x 4m with a 3m head height. The QB3 is all on one level with a 18sq m of floor space, making it ideal for those with mobility difficulties.

If you don’t mind living in a very small space and love the idea of virtually no energy bills, then cube living could be ideal for you. It’s hip to be square, after all.

Home is where you park it

Static homes or caravans have been a feature of UK living for generations. And their popularity shows no signs of waning. Many residential parks are on the coast in Britain, pointing to our ongoing love of being beside the seaside, but there are lots to choose from close to big towns and cities, too. Their lower price compared to more conventional dwellings confirms their appeal.

Expect to pay anything from £60,000 to £200,000 for a static caravan or mobile home. At the top end, you’ll have every mod con included plus your own deck and garden space.

Remember not every residential park will allow year-round living, so if you do fancy parking yourself in a static home, do your homework first.

Inspirational ideas backed by Surveyor Local

Even if our fun guide to more unusual dwellings hasn't inspired you to start container hunting and you'd prefer to stick to a more traditional build, Surveyor Local can help guide you through the important survey process. Call Surveyor Local on 0800 038 6667 or go online for an instant quote. Our nationwide network of surveyors are all registered with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, giving you peace of mind that your survey will be in expert hands.

Click for more information, or to arrange a HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey.