Barn conversion homes are becoming somewhat of a trend. Their backstories, unique architectural details, and overall warmth they often have makes them highly marketable as a fix and flip, rental, or farmstay. Converting a barn into a house is no easy feat, but depending on the property, its condition, and intended use, it can be a worthwhile investment.
If you have an unused pole barn or know of an antique barn in your town that would make an ideal investment home, continue reading to learn what's involved in converting a barn and how to know if a barn conversion project is worth it for you.
Why convert a barn?
Barn conversions have loads of character and potential when it comes to being converted into a home or investment property. Not only do barns have loads of charm, with antique barn exteriors or original stone walls, but adding home-like touches, such as a cozy wraparound porch, exposed beams, stone fireplace, metal roof, and a pretty kitchen garden off the side can not only make your property unique but an experience for guests for vacation rental stays. That derelict barn that you originally planned to tear down now has tremendous potential for someone with an eye for design and can make a great fixer-upper or vacation rental.
How to convert the barn
While the design appeal and charm is clear, the major setback to converting a barn into a house is the cost and timeline. Although there is not great information out there on average price per square foot for a barn conversion, in most cases you will need a new foundation, which can run $4,000 to $13,000; interior framing, which averages $1,000 to $2,900 per wall; and replacing the roof, which will run $5,400 to $11,200, depending on the size of the original structure. This doesn't include any of the refurbishing costs, windows, doors, plumbing, electric, or finish details.
Depending on the condition of the barn to begin with, you can see it can quickly add up to more than the cost to build a new house. This is also a lengthier process than building a brand-new house because you will have to refurbish a considerable amount of wood and go through a permitting process that's not as clear-cut as a standard remodel.
Although every barn conversion will have its own particulars, there are some general guidelines to consider that almost all projects will need:
- Don't bother if it's a pole barn. They are almost guaranteed to rot due to the way the posts are built. In addition, they aren't considered permanent structures for financing and insurance purposes.
- You will have to hire a structural engineer or architect to create drawings of the existing structure (if you don't already have them) before you can design the new building or apply for permits.
- Turning an old barn into a barn house makes an agricultural building into a residential building. This means a whole new set of planning permissions and building regulations that will need to be met. It could mean changing the slope of the roof so it can bear a load of snow or adding in more structural support, like load-bearing wood beams.
- You may need to fumigate the wood at some point. The wood will have insects that you don't want inside the interior of the house and certainly not living in any of the structural wood. This is technically optional during the remodel, but the fumigation costs are lower prior to building it out.
- The barn doors, although quaint, are huge openings in the structure. You will have to figure out a way to modify them into a more functional entry or potentially adding windows to bring light into the main living area.
- Insulation for the ceiling and siding will be necessary to make the interior temperatures more regulated. This can be tricky if you're trying to show off the vaulted ceiling or want to leave the wood exposed. It will also be a bear to heat and cool efficiently because of the huge vaulted ceiling or loft rooms that are usually included in a converted barn.
Is a barn worth the conversion?
If you have an unconverted barn with a solid foundation, a barn conversion may make sense. As an alternative, you could hire a restoration company like Heritage Restoration, which will take historic frame buildings and either restore or rebuild a timber barn for you. That way, they have the experience to pull it off, and you have a set price point to base your calculations on.
There are also companies out there like DC Structures, which offer newly built barn-style homes that you can purchase as pre-engineered kits. You get the look of a rustic barn for a fraction of the cost and can have it built on a greatly reduced timeline. Bonus: You can easily obtain financing for homes like these.
An investor will find any number of income-generating uses for a converted barn, from renovating into a residential house to turning it into a party barn for a wedding venue. The potential demand is solid; it will just come down to the cost of renovations to turn the existing barn into something usable. But in most cases, barn conversions are incredibly expensive and time-consuming, making them more of a hobby or project for a retail buyer fixer-upper. But if you get an old barn that has good bones, you might be able to pull off a barn conversion for a profit. Just be ready for an extended timeline and unexpected costs.