Is building a storage room, a summer house or a garden office a cost or an investment?

Is building a storage room, a summer house or a garden office a cost or an investment?

There is no denying it; building a summer house, a garden office or a storage room in your garden will affect your bank balance. But is this simply a cost, or it can be considered an investment? Could the addition of a good looking and well organised storage room also affect the value of your home?

To give you an accurate and professional answer, we invited Ben Hooper from Clifford Estate Agent for a coffee and a chat in our newly refurbished garden.

Ben has been working as an estate agent for 18 years. During that time, he’s worked in just about every role, from the office junior, copying and driving paperwork from office to office, or washing windows and taking pictures. Now, 18 years later, he owns his own business. He’s seen all states of the property market in that time, but he’s still here, and still enjoying the rich variety of experiences that being an estate agent brings; meeting new people, seeing new properties, and watching someone’s dream of owning their perfect home come to life.
Ben works predominantly in Brighton and Hove, but so much of his experience can be transferred to pretty much any area in the UK.


Hi Ben. First of all, thank you for joining me for coffee and allowing me to pick your brains.

Here is the first thing we would like to know; how does having a garden impact on the price of the property when it comes to buying and selling?

Having a garden is important, it’s true, but there’s a huge difference between having a garden, and having a well-tended garden. I’ve got two houses for sale at the moment. One of the reasons that neither of them have sold is because of how their gardens are at the moment. One has a large garage at the back of the garden with a driveway running through to it. While a garage is a great asset to have, it’s been installed at the expense of the garden. It’s left no usable space in a family house where there are likely to be children who could make use of that area. It’s putting people off. It would be much better for them to remove it and replace it with good quality, sensible, outside storage, and to reclaim some of the lawn.
The other house has a huge garden – 100 foot long, and it has great potential, but the grass and plants are up to six feet tall. The first thing you think when looking at is that it’s going to take a lot of work to sort out. A garden is something that you’ll be paying a premium on, so you don’t want to go in knowing you’ll have to spend another £5 – 10,000 just to sort it out.


So, in these cases, the price will need to be lower?

It’s not always a question of the price. The houses simply don’t have that saleability factor because people don’t want to have the extra job of fixing it all.


But what about the external space that people have to work with. Does it make a difference if the space is really small?

Outside space is absolutely a premium in Brighton and Hove. If we were to take a look at the garden here, this is a relatively large space. There are a lot of houses around, even quite close to here, with much smaller outside area. The difficulty you’ll often encounter is that people don’t have storage in them. Sometimes they might have a shed, but because it hasn’t been properly thought about, it just takes up the little room that they have. Then people have to make the choice; storage or garden. If you look at the storage you’ve set up here, it’s quite small but because it is integral to the garden with the green roof and the dynamic look of it, it doesn’t appear to take up garden space. At the same time, you’ve got an enormous amount in there; three bikes, bins, a mower, two sunbeds, wood logs, tools’ boxes and all your bits and bobs. I only have a balcony, so don’t even have the room to store my bike. So, what people are looking for in a bespoke storage room is to find a way of fitting both the storage and the garden all together.

Old Garden Shed
Our old garden shed

Bespoke Garden Storage room
Our new garden storage room


Ok, so what about the other end of the scale? Does a larger building like a garden office affect the value of the price?

It most definitely does, and it’s something I’m seeing more and more. It’s true, you do have to have a fairly large garden to do this, but with careful planning, it needn’t take up the whole of the space. There’s been a slight change in use of larger outside rooms too. Previously we’d see a lot of summer houses, but now garden offices are very popular. Or people have changed the use to something else entirely; a friend of mine has an outside building that he’s set up as a pub. That’s the beauty of them. The diversity of use. You might have an office from Monday to Friday, but by clever use of the internal fixings, it might become a playroom for the children at the weekend.


Or you could use it as a guest room?

Oh yes. Another possibility is renting it out as an AirBNB. People often want something that’s smaller and quirky. Maybe not a storage room as small as yours, but I’ve seen larger ones with lovely bifold doors and full insulation. Sometimes they’re better set up than the house!


So, if we can, let’s talk about money. How much extra could a good garden building put on the price of your home?

It’s difficult to put an absolute price on, because everyone’s got a different opinion about what they want and what their priorities are in a home. But people who want an outside space with storage will certainly pay extra to have it. In your case, it would easily add about £10/15k to the price of the property.


We paid £5,000 to do the whole of the garden.

The thing is, it’s not just about the money; it’s about the saleability factor of the home. Someone walking in might well dismiss the whole house because of the garden, but one with good care, good storage, and something nice to look at, they can start to see themselves using it every day. That might put the whole property to the top of their list. If five people viewed the house, you might find three of them are now interested because of that extra living space.


So this is all really great advice to people thinking about installing an outside room to their garden. What other, general advice do you give to people selling their home?

The first thing I say is to not spend a huge amount of money on it. Just make sure it’s clean and undamaged. When someone walks into your home, they’re already thinking about what they can do to make it more their own. If you’ve put energy and effort to the décor, they might find it not to their taste. They’ll want to redecorate to make things fit their furniture and the way they want to use things.
Rather than that, it makes a lot of sense to make sure the outside of the house is tidy and clean. Way back, when I was just starting out, I was told it takes 11 seconds for someone to make a choice. We say, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, but it’s often what people do. If they’re put off straight away, it can be harder to change their minds. So, make sure the front door is clean and well painted, and make sure that the path has been weeded and so on. Just finding things that won’t put people off straight away. Plus, people walk past and drive past houses for sale all the time. There’s no point having a nice, shiny sale sign if the house behind it looks shabby. Make it look nice before they walk through the door.
The house is obviously hugely important too. That also needs to be clean and tidy and well cared for, but it’s harder to show off its best features if people have been put off before they get through the door.


Ben, this has been great and has given us such valuable information! It’s one of the things we want to be sure about when discussing these buildings with our clients. It’s important to us that we don’t just say what we think is right unless we know for sure that we’re offering the best advice. So, thank you very much again!

7 garden office or summer house planning permission rules to keep in mind

7 garden office or summer house planning permission rules to keep in mind

When my husband and I had the idea of starting a bespoke summer house and garden office company, the first thing we did was to search for what regulations there are for outdoor buildings to find out if planning permission is needed.

On the internet, I was able to find plenty of articles on the matter. I discovered that although certain criteria need to be observed, in general, garden buildings are a permitted development. There is usually no need to apply for planning permission. This is very good news!

The articles, however, were not enough. Plus, the ‘in general’ and ‘usually’ were not really doing much to reassure me. I needed to find the official documents. This was not an easy search, but at the end I found it! I had my official paper! I was so happy and pleased with myself! Now I can be 100% positive that the information I have is correct.

The document, as is often the case with official documents, is quite long and sometimes not as straight forward as we might like. But don’t worry! I have summarised the content for you, and if, like me, you prefer to have the official paper, just click here and you will be redirected to the government website where you will be able to download the document, Permitted Development Rights for Householders: Technical Guidance (Class E – building etc page 42-47).

Garden Buildings are Permitted Development and do NOT require planning permission as long the following criteria are observed:

1. The building should not be closer to a road or a public highway than the original house (The house as it was first built, or as it was as of 1 July 1948. An extension, even if done by the previous owner, is not considered original house, unless it was done before 1 July 1948.)

Garden office regulations

2. The building should not occupy more than the 50% of the area surrounding the original house

Garden office planning regulations

3. In National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or World Heritage Sites, if situated more than 20 metres away from any wall of the house, the building area can not exceed 10 metres square.

Garden office regulations

4. The building height should not exceed:
– 4 metres in the case of a building with a dual-pitched roof
– 2.5 metres in the case of a building within 2 metres of the boundary of the garden
– 3 metres in all other cases

Garden office planning permission

5. The building is not to be used as a self-contained accommodation

6. The building can not have an antenna

7. If the building is situated on top of decking, the latter can not exceed 30 cm in height

Garden office planning permission

 

I hope you have found this little article useful. But if you have any doubts or questions please do not hesitate to contact us. And for those of you that need a bit of inspiration have a look to our article  ‘20 summer house idea to inspire you‘.

 

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5 reasons to have a garden office

5 reasons to have a garden office

Imagine a day in which your journey to work involves going out into your garden, walking down a path among beautiful plants and trees, opening the door of your garden office and sitting down behind your desk. All in a total of maybe 20-30 seconds.

If you run your own business, or even one with a few employees, or you work for a corporation that allows you to work from home, and have your own garden, the idea of having a proper working space in your garden must already have crossed your mind.

In case you are still wondering whether it could work, let’s push you in the right direction with 5 reasons that you really should invest in your own garden office.

 

1. You will have more time for you and your family (goodbye commuting!)

Think about it. How much of your day do you spend commuting to work? 1, 2, 3 hours? An article published in The Guardian in November 2016 states that 3.7 million people in the UK spend 2 hours or more commuting to work. This has such a negative effect on work life balance, increasing the level of stress and, consequently, reducing productivity.

Think what you could do with those 2 extra hours (without even considering the whole extra hour in bed in the morning!) Start that Italian cooking course you always wanted to do but never had the time for. Join (or start going to) the gym. Finally crack on with some serious gardening to get the garden in shape for the summer. Spend some quality time with your children (instead of rushing home just in time for the bedtime story). Or simply lying on the sofa with a nice cup of tea to watch that new series on Netflix!

 

2. You will save yourself a lot of money

You may object: “Ok, this is all well and good, but think of the cost! To build an office space in my garden, even if it’s small, would cost me at least £10-15 grand!” Yes. You are right. To build a small office room, you will have to invest a bit of money, but let’s do some maths. Write down the cost of your office space elsewhere. Now calculate how much you spend in travel expenses each month (fuel, parking, train/bus travel card). Finally, write down the average monthly cost of your lunch. Add that all up and multiply it by 12.

How many years would it take you to make up for the cost of your office? I made a calculation based on the Brighton and Hove area, and the answer was 2/3 years on average. From that moment, that nice sum you have on your piece of paper in front of you is no longer coming out of your pocket which will, of course, actually make you richer. That’s the summer holiday paid for!

 

3. No more cute surprises and vanishing papers

You go back to your room and your little girl has had a good time playing her game, but now your keyboard is covered with chocolate! And then her brother comes to argue, and that’s their juice all over your computer! And when you finally get to work, you find that your nicely packed briefcase has been quietly unpacked and is now full of plastic soldiers.

Oh, and do you remember the time you were sure you had stored that essential letter in the first draw of your desk, and now it just can’t be found anywhere? Well, you should probably have a look through your child’s pile of pictures… there is a good chance you will find it there. It may have some extra colourful drawings on it though!

Having a completely separate space from the rest of the house (which you can lock up securely when you are not working) will protect you, and your work, from those little hurricanes called children!

I know it might be a bit difficult on a windy, wintery morning, having to leave the comfort of your home to cross your garden to your office, but hey… I am sure you agree with me, it is worth the effort! Plus, well insulated and heated garden building will fill warm and cosy anyway.

 

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4. You will improve your productivity and calm your mind (home and work are better kept separate!)

When working from home, work and family life tend to mix with each other causing distractions while we’re working, decreasing productivity, and therefore making us more stressed and nervous when we’re with our loved ones. Pretty much a disaster on every front!

I worked from home for many years, and my typical day looked a lot like this: Answer some email. The washing machine just finished its cycle. I better hang the clothes to dry now; it will only take me 5 minutes and I can do it with my phone hooked under my chin (not true – 30 is more like it!) Then I have a skype call with a client. That pile of paper over there is really getting on my nerves. As soon I hang up I have to sort it out. And now I’ve found my daughter’s homework under it and she needs it today. I need a break from this Excel document… I might quickly make the beds. And so on. Final result: the day reached its end, and the house was still in a mess, I had not finished that PowerPoint which my boss was expecting by the next day, and while my body is playing hairdressing with my little girl, my mind is jumping between home chores to work deadlines while feeling guilty for not really interacting with my daughter!

Working from a garden office that is completely detached from the rest of the house eliminates all those distractions that generally occur when working at home. As they say, out of sight, out of mind!

Also, you will be surprised how simply going out of your home and entering a different space dedicated exclusively to work will psychologically help you to enter in a working mood. This will then increase your concentration and will therefore make you more productive. This will leave you happier and with more time to dedicate to your home and to your family.

 

5. Your business meetings will have better results

A while ago we had an important meeting with a potential client. Because it was a very sunny day, we thought it would be a shame to close ourselves in an office. So, we decided to have the meeting in our garden. It was a great success! Being able to sit in a garden with a nice refreshing drink put all of us in a very relaxed and happier mood.

The same will happen to you. Scientists have proven that after just 5 minutes of looking at trees, green plants and being out in the fresh air, your heart rate drops and your mind is more relaxed. Imagine sitting in an office with a great view of your garden every day.

Your clients and employees will appreciate it too. It’s a much friendlier atmosphere, which will deliver better results, happier people and, as a result, better returns on your investments.

 

Any more questions?

Do you need any more convincing than that? Or do you need someone to help you answer any questions regarding sizes, prices, planning regulations and how to start? If so, browse our website and see if we look like a company that might be able to help you. If yes, contact us or fill in our questionnaire, and we will be in touch shortly.

Cover photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

What is the right size of your new summer house, garden office or garden storage room?

What is the right size of your new summer house, garden office or garden storage room?

When we started thinking about our new garden storage room, the first question we had to answer was, ‘How big do we want it to be?’ On one hand, we wanted to be as small as possible, on the other hand, we wanted it to comfortably fit all the things we wanted to have in there.

None of the solutions available on the market worked for us, so we decided to start our own garden building project from the inside. The first step was to make a list of all the things we wanted to store, and measure the space that they would need.

We had the following list: three bicycles, a lawnmower, bins, wood for the fire pit, a barbecue, garden chairs and table, tools boxes, garden tools, a ladder and some smaller bits and pieces.

Once we put all of those items together, they almost took half of our garden space! We stood there, looking at them, and started working out how we could fit all of them in the smallest space. Finally, all those hours playing Tetris started to pay off! We also knew that we would want to have an easy access to each of them without having to remove half of the rest.

We more or less knew where we were going to position our new garden building, so we could work out the maximum size and height. At this point, we started drawing various ideas until we got to the point of fitting everything compactly and sensibly.

This is how we advise our clients to start their project. If you are looking for the ideal size for your garden building, start thinking about the function of it.

Whatever it will be; a summer house, storage room or garden office, think about the space you need inside. If you want to have a multifunction building, like a summer house connected to a storage space, think about the two different spaces, and add them together.

 

Summer house

Usually, the best summer houses have some kind of seating arrangement for people to comfortably relax in their garden. Sofas and a coffee table will perhaps offer the greatest comfort, but would need more space than a set of chairs and a light, foldable table. Benches mounted to the internal walls perhaps offer the best use of space, but if comfort is important to you, this might not be the best idea.

Summer houses are sometimes used as a spare room for guests. Space requirements will be different here. A good idea might be to look at the bedrooms in your house and try to understand the practicality of the room arrangements. You might even find it useful to look at the layouts of caravans or boats as brilliant examples of how to fit in neat, compact bedrooms into a very small space.

 

Garden office

Here, a lot depends on how many desks and chairs you want to fit. Will it be just a small office for one person, or you want to put in a few desks for your entire team? Do you need storage for some of your materials as well? Will you need a kitchenette?

All these questions will help you determine the perfect size of your garden building.

 

Storage room

As described at the beginning, creating a list of items you want to store inside is the perfect start. The list we had isn’t exhaustive, but you might see a lot of things there that you hadn’t thought about. It’s easy to say, ‘A lawnmower and the bikes!’ but there are usually one or two other things that you need to go in there too. Maybe you’ll need a shelf or a bracket for them. Walk around your house and note down things that need a space in your room in your garden.

 

How to do it

When I design a room in the garden for our clients, I start by sketching on squared paper. I usually draw them by hand, and use squares as a readymade scale. Usually, 1 square is either 10x10cm or 20x20cm, depending on the space I have to work with.

How to design your garden office

I measure the items I need to fit in, and search for some clever ways to store them. For example, this article shows many different bicycle storage methods that you can consider.

It might not be the easiest tasks, but when this is done, you will have a good idea of the size of your garden building. By starting from here, you will avoid disappointment at the end of your project, when something you wanted to store inside, doesn’t fit.

Good luck! Obviously, feel free to ask us any questions if you are stuck. And if you want some inspiration on how your new garden building is going to look like, check our article with 20 summer houses ideas.

 

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