Buying a Bungalow

There are many different types of property available on the market, from trendy apartments in the city centre right through to isolated farmhouses in the middle of the countryside. When considering buying a property you may know exactly what you want or you may be looking with an open mind.

Whatever your attitude, one type of property is often overlooked: the humble bungalow. These single storey houses have a reputation for being practical, and very fairly so. However, with practicality often comes an idea of 'stuffiness' and behind the times design.

You may already be considering buying a single-storey property because of the accessibility it offers, and if so you can find hints and tips on making the most of your bungalow here, including some of the less obvious options available to you through single storey living.

However, even if the idea of living in a bungalow has never crossed your mind you may still find that buying one is the key to owning the home of your dreams. There is also the option of converting a bungalow into a two-storey property.

This guide to buying a bungalow falls into two categories, outlined below;

  • The Basics of Buying a Bungalow
  1. Advantages and disadvantages of owning a bungalow
  2. Important considerations to make before buying your bungalow property
  • Renovations and Modifications
  1. Creating a fully accessible home
  2. Open plan living
  3. Converting to two storeys

The Basics of Buying a Bungalow

What is a Bungalow?

A bungalow is a house that is built on only one storey, the foundations of the building are different to that of a conventional two or three storey property, and they will always be either completely detached or semi-detached.

Bungalows first appeared in the UK in 1860, and by the 1920s had become popular enough to be exported around the world – especially to the USA where they remain incredibly popular. However in Britain, where much less space is available for development, these space inefficient properties have become increasingly rare and are most often found in rural areas where houses are much less densely packed than the city.

Advantages of a Bungalow Property

Because of the way in which they are made bungalows have some very specific characteristics. While some are disadvantageous many of them can translate into advantages for a potential buyer.

  • Accessibility of a Single Storey

The main attraction of a bungalow property is that with its single storey layout it is ideal for those with reduced mobility. Also because of the way in which these houses are constructed the interiors are highly customisable, meaning that doorways can easily be widened to more easily accommodate a wheelchair.

  • Large plot size

Again, because of the nature of the foundations the overall size of the plot the property is built on will be larger than for a more conventional house. This means that you have excellent options for either extending your property or remodelling it.

Disadvantages of a Bungalow Property

However, as with all types of houses bungalows also have their downsides:

  • Cost per square foot

The main disadvantage of buying a bungalow is the lack of cost efficiency. As bungalows do not have an upstairs the actual living space per square foot of land owned is much lower than that for a conventional house. On the surface this makes this particular type of property relatively bad value for money, although buying a bungalow may be a valid option to get you the perfect location.

  • Reputation

Their practicality over the years has meant that bungalows have earned a reputation for being stylistically out-dated and rather stuffy. This may often lead to bungalows being overlooked in the search for a new property unless there is a specific requirement for accessibility.

Buying a Bungalow

So you’ve weighed up the pros and cons and decided that a bungalow is the type of property that’s right for you. While the decision may be made there are still many factors to consider and things to check before you make the commitment to buy, in addition to the standard surveys and procedures when buying a home there are some factors which take on an increased level of importance in a single storey property:

Privacy Concerns and Layout Considerations

Because of their structure bungalows will either be detached or semi-detached, meaning that residents often have more privacy than in other types of property. Planting trees or shrubs around the edge of the property can create a very private atmosphere. However, as all rooms are on the ground floor some private areas, such as bedrooms or bathrooms may be more visible than usual.

When considering buying your property it may be a good idea to work out what each room in the house will be used for – maybe the perfect lighting in a planned bedroom may be less of a deciding factor when you consider that it is fully visible from the road.

While switching around rooms intended as living areas may be simple, bathrooms and kitchens are more fixed due to the utilities attached to them although these can be changed at a cost. There are other options, such as installation of frosted glass for added privacy in bathrooms, and it may be worthwhile to consider these too.

Security

All homes require good security; protection of family and possessions is always going to be high on a homeowners list of priorities. However, a bungalow lacks some of the most basic deterrents possessed by other types of property: namely hard to reach windows.

As every room (including the sleeping areas of every member of the family) is accessible from the ground, it is extra important to have good security on all your doors and windows, a more in-depth guide about the kind of security services available can be found here but as well as installing alarms and intercoms there are other factors you can consider before buying your property:

  • Is the property completely hidden from the road? Secluded properties can make for an easier target than those that are visible from the road
  • Is the area well lit?
  • Can you easily add some simple deterrents, eg. thorny bushes beneath windows or a lockable gate around the property?
Storage and Spare rooms

Due to the high cost to floor space ratio, it's likely that a bungalow will have fewer rooms than a two-storey property of the same price. For that reason you may find that you have fewer “spare” rooms to turn into, for example a study or a guest bedroom.

There are ways to get around this reduced living space, for example relocating the contents of a utility room to an outhouse or incorporating them into the kitchen, however there are still some important things to consider.

If you are buying a bungalow as a family home, then the number of bedrooms may be a consideration – are you planning on extending your family? It may be a good idea to check if planning permission is available should you need to extend to accommodate a new family member. A guest bedroom could be replaced by a sofa bed in the living area - but if you entertain often is this really viable?

As with any property, it is important to make sure that it fits your lifestyle, and this is especially important in a property as economical with space as a bungalow. Storage may also be an issue, if you are considering overcoming space restrictions by having a loft conversion (see the renovations section later for more information) then are you able to compensate for the storage space that you will lose?

Renovations and Modifications

One of the major advantages of a bungalow is how customisable they are as properties. If you do choose to buy a bungalow there are many options open to you other than the typical extension: you can make your property into a fully accessible home, or a completely open plan living space. You can even turn it into a two-storey home, should the fancy take you. In this section you can find some information as to the many possibilities available and some useful resources to get your research started.

Don’t forget there is one issue that needs to be considered when performing any type of work on your home: planning permission. Before considering any alterations to your property it is vital that you first make sure that the planning permission is available – this is especially important if you are considering buying a property specifically to extend it or rebuild.

The last thing you need is to find that the grand plans you have for your home aren’t possible because of an issue with the foundations so be sure to check that every piece of work you want to perform is possible, and get your planning applications in early!

Creating a fully accessible home

By definition a bungalow is the ideal type of home if you or a member of your family has impaired mobility, set out across one floor every room is easily accessible. Because of the way that the majority of bungalows are constructed, internal modifications (such as widening doorways for wheelchair users) are very straightforward.

There are a number of excellent websites available with all the information you need on how to adapt your home. For example, the DirectGov page on home modifications here and the Disabled Living Foundation, both of which have details on how your home can be modified, the factors that need to be taken into account and grants available to help financially, as well as listing suppliers for specialist products.

Open Plan Living

Bungalows are an increasingly popular type of home across the Atlantic, and one type in particular that is popular in the US is the ranch bungalow. These are open plan homes that lie across a single storey. Open plan living is possible with much greater ease in a bungalow because of the reduced number of supporting walls. This gives you much more flexibility in the design possibilities.

Open plan homes are ideal for creating a light and airy space – a formerly dark and gloomy building can be completely transformed by knocking out a wall or two. This type of layout is perfect for a home that doubles as an art studio, a holiday home or even for a family that wants something a little different design-wise.

Hiring a good architect is vital to any design project, especially the ambitious ones, and this site run by the Royal Institute of British Architects is a good place to get some ideas and begin finding someone to work with on the design of your home.

Life on Two Storeys

Although it may seem a little illogical, buying a bungalow could be the key to owning a traditional two-storey family home in the ideal location. Sometimes desirable areas (for example the catchment areas of good local schools) never seem to have the “right type” of property available to buy. If you have the time and funding required it may be possible to either rebuild completely or convert an existing property into the home of your dreams.

A loft conversion would allow you to turn a bungalow into a two storey property, by extending upwards either into existing attic space or by adding an additional room on top of the house. Loft conversions may or may not require planning permission so it’s a good idea to check before planning any building work. A more in-depth guide to converting your attic into living space can be found here.

The second option open to you is knocking down the property and rebuilding from scratch. Bungalows are ideal candidates for this due to their large plot sizes, of course this requires large amounts of time and money but it could be the key to getting your ideal home in the perfect area.

The two main considerations here are design and planning permission, even if you decide to undertake the project yourself, getting the advice of a professional would be a good place to start. Below are some links to useful resources in your quest for the perfect home:

Architecture.com - A good place to get design ideas as well as finding a qualified architect to work on your project.

DirectGov Planning Permission page - Information on obtaining planning permission, from the type of works that require permission right through to when to apply.

RICS.org - The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ website.

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