Bungalow extensions contributing to retirement property shortage

The bungalow has long been the choice property for people of retirement age or planning for the future, and an aging UK population means the demand for these single storey buildings is on the increase. Yet despite increasing demand, fewer and fewer bungalows are being built each year.

Between 2016 and 2021, the number of bungalows for sale on the property market reduced by 44%, but demand over the same period increased by 63%. A 2020 survey by McCarthy Stone found that more than 70% of over 65s would consider buying a bungalow, an increase of 10% on the previous year. Only 1,833 new bungalows were built that year, 23% fewer than the previous year.

So why are so few bungalows being built and, with demand exceeding supply, are they a good investment?

It’s easy to see why living in a single storey property becomes more attractive as we get older. Easier access means better access for painting and other maintenance issues, and there are no stairs up which to lug the vacuum cleaner! There are few downsides to living in a bungalow, although security is perhaps one of them – you wouldn’t want to sleep with your window open without security measures in place, for instance.

As single-storey buildings, the average bungalow will be smaller in square footage compared to a house but older bungalows, in particular, can often come with a bigger garden. Other benefits can include better privacy, as bungalows have traditionally been built together or on a larger plot, thus reducing the likelihood of being overlooked by neighbouring properties.

A bigger plot of land does mean a bungalow can be more expensive to build than a house in terms of the square footage of the building. However, the higher initial price can be worth it, if you want to buy a good sized plot of land with the intention of extending the original building, perhaps adding a loft conversion, or even knocking it down to replace the original building.

Therein lies a big problem for downsizers, who must now compete with younger people and families unable to compete for typical family homes.

Buying up an older-style bungalow gives these younger home buyers and budding property developers a blank canvas with lots of potential for the future and the opportunity to create a unique modern home.

Modern planning policy allows for the redevelopment of older property, often with little regard for the effect on neighbouring properties or whether it creates a deficiency of some types of housing stock. Indeed, most bungalow loft conversions would not require planning permission as they are considered Permitted Development – provided they are built within certain conditions. This may not be the case if your property is built within a Conservation Area, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Park.

Bungalows can have a generous loft space which means, in the case of a new dormer extension for instance, it is very often possible to extend into the roof without affecting the height of the roof. If the bungalow was built with a condition that prevented future enlargement, or an Article 4 Direction has been imposed by the local council that would effectively withdraw Permitted Development rights. There are other planning rules to observe, so you should check with your local planning authority before embarking on an expensive building project.

Permitted Development may be all good news for prospective bungalow developers – but it leaves the UK housing stock in the ridiculous situation where downsizers can’t find a suitable smaller retirement property and young families and up-sizers are unable to buy a traditional family home.