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Granny flats get a facelift

Granny flats of the past bear little resemblance to today’s designs. Cramped, dingy interiors, faux country cabin styling and DIY construction have been replaced with sturdy ‘mini-me’ homes with airy, light-filled interiors and contemporary designs, including the popular Hamptons style with its fresh pale palette, white-paned windows and timber verandahs.

The new generation of granny flats is enjoying renewed popularity and it’s not solely due to their attractive new looks. Their affordable price tag and relatively quick and straight-forward council approval process and construction combined with the rising cost of housing and their ability to generate income as rental accommodation have resulted in a boom in granny flat sales. And while granny flats continue to accommodate ageing parents, many homeowners are fitting out one, two and three bedroom designs as teen retreats, home offices, artist’s studios, rental accommodation, holiday homes and temporary ‘make do’ homes while they save for their dream house. Turns out, you don’t need a granny to own a granny flat these days.

Airbnb’s success in Australia has further contributed to the renewed popularity of granny flats by raising awareness of their potential to generate income. Since its local launch just over four years ago, the short-term accommodation site has secured over 83,000 listings.

“We’ve found many clients are building a granny flat to rent out to bring in extra income,” explains Keith Fletcher of Cabin Life, whose company has experienced strong sales over the past few years, particularly of its $19,900 one-bedroom deluxe and roomier 60sqm two and three-bedroom kits, which cost $42,000.

Wally Gebrael of Granny Flat Solutions, which custom designs and builds granny flats in Sydney agrees: “The majority of our clients are either investors wishing to achieve a second rental income or families needing extra accommodation.” His company’s most popular seller is also a 60sqm two-bedroom design with a starting price of $110,000, which includes construction. Backyard Cabins, which design and build granny flats in NSW and distribute kits Australia-wide, have also found 60sqm the most popular size with clients and offer fully built two and three bedroom designs for $190,000.

In addition to being affordable and stylish, today’s granny flats are usually quick to construct. “Our builders can assemble our kits to turnkey stage in a week, providing there’s no unexpected delays,”’ explains Keith, who constructs kits in the Northern NSW region for an additional fee and provides advice to clients on hiring local builders and managing the construction as an owner-builder.

 

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While most granny flats require local council approval, the process is usually quicker and easier than development applications for primary residences. Image via Avalon Granny Flats.

 

Before you purchase a stylish new granny flat or hire an architect, we recommend considering the following:

 

What extra costs are involved?

Before you choose a granny flat kit or custom design, investigate whether the cost includes construction, connection of electricity, gas and plumbing by licensed trades, and shipping, as well as internal and external features such as kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and fittings, flooring and hot water system.

Cabin Life’s kit prices, for example, do not include construction, power and plumbing installation, and kitchens and bathrooms. Keith can provide a team at a fee to erect kits in Northern NSW and charges an extra shipping fee to send his kits to other locations in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. The cost of each granny flat from Granny Flat Solutions however includes construction, power and plumbing installation and a long list of inclusions including kitchen, bathroom, flooring, wardrobes and a hot water system.

 

Investigate your local council requirements relating to granny flats

Most granny flats require local council approval and, while each council has their own regulations, the good news is that many provide a quicker and easier approval process than development applications for primary residences.

In NSW local councils or an accredited certifier issue approvals for granny flats as complying developments providing they meet the criteria set out in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009 in as little as 20 days.

Visit here for more information on complying developments and here for details of the NSW State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009.

While granny flat kit companies may be very familiar with council requirements and provide advice and assistance with securing approval, ensuring your granny flat complies is ultimately your responsibility. Some kit companies including Granny Flat Solutions prepare and submit the application for council approval on your behalf as part of the building process.

 

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Engaging a specialist company can save you time and stress, as they can handle the entire project including planning and approval, and coordination of trades. Image via Granny Flat Solutions

 

Decide whether to use the granny kit company’s builder, become an owner-builder, or hand the job over to a licensed builder of your choice

This is a choice based largely on personal preference, budget and DIY ability.

To help you decide between using the granny kit company’s building team, a local builder of your choice or becoming the owner-builder, compare quotes and projected completion times from two or three licensed builders with the granny kit company’s construction quote.

Another consideration is that granny flat companies’ building teams have prior experience in erecting their kits and therefore deliver complete construction more quickly than a builder of your choice or yourself in the role of owner-builder.

Backyard Cabins’ building team brings 20 years’ construction experience and 500 completed cabins to every project. They also save you time and stress by handling the entire project including planning and approval and coordination of trades. Cabin Life also have their own team of experienced builders and quote just six days to build their granny flats.

If you decide to become the owner-builder, you are required in most states to obtain a permit and hire licensed trades to do specialist work such as the electric and gas connections and plumbing.  In NSW, the government’s department of Fair Trading provides essential information on becoming an owner-builder including how to secure a permit and related regulations and requirements.

Whoever you choose to construct your granny flat, the sooner it’s ready to rent out, the sooner you’ll be earning extra income.

 

Choose a style and materials to suit your taste, lifestyle needs and budget

There is a huge variety of styles – modern, country and Hamptons – on the market, matched with a variety of internal and external finishes and fixtures. You can choose a style that complements your home in style or exterior palette, or a granny flat that makes a statement with a look all its own.

Some granny flat companies offer a choice of prefab kits, while others offer a custom design service in which you select materials including brick, timber, vinyl clad walls, timber and concrete floors, and tile and metal roofing. Before choosing a design, take the time to check the dimensions, materials, inclusions and price variations, particularly whether the total cost includes kitchen and bathroom fittings.

One of Cabin Life’s most popular granny flats, the 60sqm Pandanus, is stylish and durable thanks to moisture and termite resistant floor bearers, extra roofing rafters and double glazed windows. The two-bedroom kit costs $42,000 not including building costs which Cabin Life estimates to be about $18,000 if the owner acts as the builder. Owners buy and install their own kitchens and bathrooms and Cabin Life sells a compact timber Kitchen Armoire.

 

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Some home owners are buying granny flats to use as temporary solutions while they save for their dream home. Image via Pro Granny Flats.

 

One, two or three bedrooms?

The number of bedrooms usually hinges on your budget and the intended use of your new granny flat. A one-bedroom design is cheaper to buy and build and takes up less space but limits its use to one or two people. Cabin Life’s one-bedroom deluxe granny flat kit costs just $19,900, keeping in mind the additional cost for construction, kitchen and bathroom and power and plumbing installation.

Two and three bedroom designs will provide more space for granny and grandpa and ample accommodation for teens, paying guests and as a family holiday home but usually cost more. Two and three bedroom kits and custom designs are Cabin Life’s and Granny Flat Solutions’ best sellers. “One of our most popular designs is the 60sqm two and three-bedroom kits which cost $42,000 and can be built for about $80,000,” says Keith.

 

Consider a granny flat as a holiday home

Taking on two large mortgages, one on your city home and another for a country or beachside holiday house, is a financial stretch. With their affordable price tag, country styling, spacious interiors and practical verandahs, Keith finds many clients buy his larger granny flats as a holiday home or a temporary solution while they save for their dream home.

Another benefit of building a granny flat on your block of land is the extra income it can generate as a rental, which can pay local council rates and amenities and contribute to saving for a larger home in the future.

Regional councils can differ from city councils in their regulations relating to building and using granny flats on a block of land so it’s wise to check with your local council prior to buying and building a granny flat.

With the huge choice of styles, sizes, layouts, interior and exterior finishes, prices and build options, there’s a granny flat on the market to accommodate everyone’s needs, even granny’s.

 

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Jane Ryder

Jane Ryder is a writer and PR and marketing consultant who brings over 25 years’ experience creating content and promotional strategies for clients big and small. Motivated by a love of music, design, food, wine and travel, her career to date includes writing, producing and styling for some of Australia’s leading fashion and lifestyle magazines, promoting artists at record company Sony Music, and running her own consultancy. When not at her desk, Jane spends far too much time coaxing Bailey her cavoodle to get off the couch and her teens do their chores and far too little of it swimming, reading and enjoying long lunches with friends.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Homeloans Ltd.