Country houses for sale

Owners’ guides: Planning consent

The latest method of adding value to a home, which is reaping benefits in the current slower market by achieving guide prices and enabling vendors to sell houses quickly, is to get planning permission for proposed improvements to the property.

‘Anything you can do to enhance your home helps it sell, and getting planning permission in place for a barn conversion or extension makes it appeal to a wider audience,’ believes Henry Holland-Hibbert from Strutt & Parker. Mistakenly, some people think getting permission to build an extension worth £100,000 adds easily half that amount to the asking price. It doesn’t, says Mr Holland-Hibbert. ‘It adds only the value of what you paid to acquire the planning consent. However, having permission in place gives your home kerb appeal. Buyers can see the potential, and don’t have to bother getting permission themselves.’

Public-relations consultant Sarah Coote and her army officer husband, James, both in their mid thirties, have paid £1,000 in architectural and planning fees for planning consent to add an extra bedroom and kitchen/diner onto their £290,000 three-bedroom stone cottage in the popular village of Fovant, near Salisbury, Wiltshire. Mrs Coote explains that because their cottage (for sale through McKillop and Gregory, 01722 414747) has three bedrooms and the ‘premium market’ requires four or more, this permission lifts their house into a new band, making it more attractive to those hunting for a family home.

‘We have the plans highlighting the proposed extension, and even have a lump of stone from the quarry and a few samples of roof tiles to show prospective buyers,’ says Mrs Coote. She believes it will cost £50,000 for the new owner to carry out the work, which is cheaper than paying £400,000 for a four-bedroom house in the village.

Colin Buggey from Carter Jonas, an authority on extensions and alterations to country houses, says the cost of getting planning permission can vary enormously. ‘A straightforward extension to a non-listed four-bedroom house with a new reception room downstairs and master bedroom suite above is about £2,000 for the survey, design work and preparation and submission of the planning application.’

On top of this is the planning application fee—£150 since April 6—and possibly fees for other supporting work such as ecological surveys, which are frequently demanded, and can be a major issue if you have bats, newts or badgers on your land.

Mr Buggey notes that the costs for complicated designs for extensions to listed buildings could increase by up to 50%. Local authorities generally advise that it can take up to six months for consent to be granted (in practice, this can happen more quickly), and it lasts for two to three years before expiring.

Also worth noting is that consent for planning permission can provide a useful precedent, but a fresh application might be required if the new owner wants to tweak the seller’s design. Most agents regard planning permission for anything advantageous to a sale. However, Richard Gayner, director of Savills country-house department, argues that plans for unusual schemes might actually detract from marketing a home. ‘They might be the individual’s dream, but not much use to most people.’

Mr Gayner also advises vendors to carry out the work themselves if it isn’t complicated and they can afford to do so. ‘Otherwise, get consent in place to draw attention to the fact that the crashed-out barns have value.’

There is a more extreme application that owners can make. Leo Hickish from Batcheller Thacker in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, is witnessing a trend for consent to knock down a house and replace it, ‘adding £150,000 to £200,000 to its worth’. Good architecture and sympathetic design is crucial, and the new house must be in proportion to the site.