Can I extend a tiny cottage I’m thinking of buying?

Property Clinic: A good designer will be key to help unlock the property’s potential

Research is the first step before buying a smaller - and more affordable - property for expansion. Photograph: iStock

Research is the first step before buying a smaller - and more affordable - property for expansion. Photograph: iStock

 

I’ve just come across this really cute cottage (details withheld), but sadly, it’s pretty small. It’s fine for my single-self right now – but I’m wondering if I were to consider buying it would there be any potential to extend it in the future?

There’s not much space beside it but there is a little bit. At a glance would you say “no way, not happening” or do you think it is worth my while looking into it? – A very desperate girl trying to make it work

Noel Larkin replies:

Dear desperate girl,

Before I address your specific query, I might just touch on a couple of general issues which people in a similar situation would need to be mindful of. If your main consideration is to buy a small – and therefore affordable – property with development potential, I would highly recommend that you research it thoroughly before committing.

Your research should be split equally between the property’s current condition and the scope to develop in the future. A good starting point is a planning search at the offices of the local authority to see if anyone has been down this road before you.

Other issues such as room on site to accommodate a larger septic tank needed to serve additional bedrooms needs to be studied closely. Are there public sewers crossing the site that will restrict development? Development is controlled in terms of the amount of open space that must be maintained and smaller sites can struggle to achieve minimum standards.

I have taken a look at the photographs of the house you sent and it appears to be a solid traditional two-bed natural stone build cottage with gable facing the road. I can see some accrued maintenance issues but nothing drastic. A good pre-purchase type 2 survey will alert you to any red flags.

In terms of extending in the future I don’t see any significant obstacles apart from the relatively tight site that you mention. The layout of the cottage with two bedrooms taking up the full depth of the right side of the house would mean a great loss of bedroom space if a hallway were to be created leading from the living room to a rear extension.

Therefore, I would suggest that the building might be extended to the front with new accommodation accessed from the existing kitchen/living room. There is scope here to add another good-sized bedroom and utility room or study. The fact that the extension would be to the front would necessitate a planning application.

I noticed that the neighbouring houses further along the laneway are constructed quite close to the road edge so I don’t perceive any issue with an extension forward of the current road-facing gable.

So first things first, get a good survey carried out and speak to your local surveyor about the potential to extend to the front. They will be happy to guide you. A list of local surveyors can be found here.

A good designer with a leaning towards conservation will be key in helping you unlock the full potential of this property.

Noel Larkin is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland scsi.ie

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