Downsize and stay put.

Do you love your home – but it is just too big and expensive to run?

Children left home?

Need to get some extra cash?

The traditional solution.

The usual solution is to downsize by moving to another, smaller property, but this has many disadvantages including:

You lose all the precious memories that the house has. Perhaps you have invested years into your garden.

You move away from many of your friends. You lose all the familiar shops and services.

You need to rebuild a new social life. 

An alternative solution.

Why not downsize and stay put? 

Split your house in two - sell half and make money with no capital gains - and stay in the house you love.

The house when we bought it 8 years ago.

The other option.

 Well there may be another approach which overcomes these disadvantages yet still gives you the main benefits of downsizing your living space and gives you much needed extra cash.

Depending on the layout of your home and the ground you own, you may be able to split the property into two. So you can downsize and stay put.You can either divide the house horizontally, two homes side by side, or vertically, one home over the other. You then sell one part and live in the other. It’s easier to do that you might expect.

The original house

Let’s tell you about the history of our house, No 4. It was originally a two-bedroom house, with another two-bedroom house, no 3, set along side it forming an L-shape, like this: 

The previous addition

At some stage the owner of no 4 decided to build an extension which exactly mirrored no 3, later adding a conservatory to the back of No 4. So the layout of the house when we bought it was like this:

Our first changes.

The ground floor of the extension was used as a garage and utility room, and upstairs was a large double bedroom with an en-suite shower room, and a large office. After we moved in we decided to convert the ground floor extension into a large double-aspect living room, by knocking through a double door into the original house, and replacing the original doors and windows. This worked very well and gave us years of pleasure.

Shocking valuation.

Then recently we were talking about moving to another part of Edinburgh and wondered what the house would sell for. To our amazement the selling price of our extended four-bedroom house would only be marginally more than adjoining two bed-roomed houses.

Our Eureka moment.

One evening we were discussing this and suddenly had a ‘eureka’ moment! Why not restructure the house into two, two-bedroomed houses? And that’s exactly what we did. That way we could downsize and stay put.

First, of course, we had to check with all the planning and building regulations folks to confirm the legality of what we were proposing.  They all came back with a provisional ‘Yes’.

 Planning rules.

If we were going to downsize and stay put we had to plan how to use the space in 4A to create a two bedroom house. Of course it should be OK having the same footprint as No3, but planning and building rules had changed since the original houses were built.

Rooms now have to conform with specified minimum sizes, we would need a shower room suitable for a wheelchair on the ground floor, and there are demanding sound insulation requirements to mention but three.

So we got the masking tape out and planned how we would like to use the available space on the two floors. After a few days of moving the tape this way and that we had a good plan, so we called in an architect to convert our ideas into formal plans for the planning authorities to peruse, and eventually approve.

 Get a good builder.

We now started two processes – applying to all the services, eg water, gas, electricity to lay new supplies to 4A, and at the same time search for a good builder to do the work. 

Getting the services to 4A took a lot of patience. Some were better than others. Sadly they seemed incapable of coordinating digging up the pavement so it was dug up and refilled several times during the project!

Getting a good builder proved easier. We ended up with a small family firm and they were brilliant. Good quality of work, excellent standards, friendly and reliable – even our neighbour said how good they were!

Living through the disruption.

So, once all the planning consents had been given, we were ready to go. The first step was to close up the doors between 4 and 4A on both ground floor and first floor so making two self-contained houses. As we were still living in No 4 the first priority was to reconvert this back to the original two-bedroomed house. This involved structural work as well as redecoration, new carpets etc.  

It seemed a good idea to go away for a week to allow the guys to do their work, however we did have to rough it for a few days until the plaster was dry.

The next major construction was to build a staircase in 4A then start the detailed construction of the different rooms. Over the preceding few weeks we had spent many hours with the design teams at our local B&Q planning the kitchen area, bathroom and shower room

Passing the final test.

We had heard horror stories about the way the sound insulation tests were conducted and dreaded being failed at the last hurdle. The guy arrived with his speakers and sound level recorders and for several hours No 4 and 4A were pounded by extreme levels of sound. But it was OK!

 Planning the exterior.

In addition to the inside of the house we also had to plan how to use the front and rear gardens.  The front garden was simple as it was originally a brick drive way up to the house. Once the new services were installed we had to provide a stepped pathway up to the house, with a parking space for a car. Some new decking with a modern stainless steel handrails gave it a very modern look.  

The final result

We were very happy with the final result – well designed and equipped rooms, all at a sensible price.  It all came together rather well with the newly created house in 4A looking very modern, spacious and desirable.

Time and money.

The ‘eureka’ moment was in June, planning was completed in September and work started in October and was completed in December. In early January we had the completion certificate and put the house onto the market. It sold in 4 hours at £1000 over asking price.

Was it worth it?

Very much so. We made a considerable amount of money and we were left with a house of the size we wanted to live in.

We hope this story may have inspired you. Once you have the initial concept it’s amazing what you can do. Of course you have to have the basic structure which will enable the conversion to be done but then just get on with it.



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