Returning period houses to residential use
With a surplus of commercial property on the market in Dublin, those in search of a period home could consider a conversion
98-99 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, for sale through Knight Frank for €615,000 and €880,000. They are in the Georgian Conservation area
37 Northumberland Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, where a development levy of €33,830 was charged to the new owners
With residential property prices in key locations seemingly going one way only and with no shortage of commercial property on the market due to factors such as rising rates and a difficult business environment, buying a commercial property in an area you desire, and converting it for residential use, can make sense.
“A lot of my clients, both investors and first-time buyers, are looking at this route to market,” says Jong Kim, a town planner and managing director of multi-disciplinary practice Masterplan Associates, pointing to both growing demand and a lack of suitable residential property as drivers of this trend.
With vacancy rates around Merrion Square said to be of the order of 20 per cent, the same cannot be said of commercial property.
Peter Kenny of estate agent Colliers agrees, also pointing to a price gap that may exist between a property that is in commercial, as opposed to residential use.
The number of pre-63 residential investment properties that have come on the market also present an opportunity to convert from multi-unit back to residential accommodation.
For Max O’Flaherty, a director with Aughey O’Flaherty Architects, opting for this route could create a “magical” home.
“In terms of windows and light, it can be an amazing thing,” he says.
However it’s very much a case of “try before you buy”, the experts warn.
“You’d want to be quite careful in terms of assessing the suitability of the property,” says O’Flaherty, adding, “A lot of commercial uses don’t care too much about things that would be essential for a home, such as natural light and orientation.
“You need to think how suitable the property is for reconfiguration. A lot of commercial properties have no external space, no terrace or garden and may have maxed out any open space.”
It is also likely that such properties will be over-serviced in some ways – with five toilets, for example, and an abundance of wiring and sockets – and under in others, with a tiny kitchen and no proper bathroom.
And if it’s a protected property, it will bring its own challenges (to see if a property is protected go to: http://iti.ms/1cCzWlW).
“You should be aware that if it’s protected it absolutely will cost you more to refurbish, as you have to use traditional construction methods,” says Kim, advising putative converters to discuss this with a conservation officer in Dublin City Council.
On the other hand, Georgian buildings were, after all, designed for residential use, so the conversion process will likely be more straightforward.
Looking further afield to newly-built retail developments in the suburbs, which may have large glazed windows and very little light and ventilation in the back, the conversion can get a bit trickier.
“It could be quite difficult to reconfigure it so that it makes a pleasant place to live,” O’Flaherty says.
Funding may be another challenge.“By definition it’s the less obvious route, so it might be slightly harder to get through as the banks are more conservative,” he adds.
Once you have determined that the property would be suitable for reconfiguration, the next step – once you have purchased it – is to apply for planning permission.