If it has ever crossed your mind to buy or build a granny flat, you are definitely not alone. The skyrocketing cost of housing in Australia has pushed many of us to find more affordable places to live. Besides, in spite of (or precisely because of) their name, granny flats have also become synonymous with a trendy, artistic or fashionably eccentric lifestyle.
Whatever your reasons may be for going granny flat hunting, here’s our Buyer’s Guide in Melbourne to help you choose a flat as you look at various granny flat plans. But more importantly, our guide includes the legal considerations that you ought to be aware of concerning granny flat construction and rental.
Abiding by the Law
Probably the first thing you should consider before you even begin granny flat shopping is to make sure that it’s legal for you to even have one, particularly if you’re thinking about renting it out. The last thing you want is to have to demolish it because authorities deemed it an illegal building or structure.
It’s not that the law wants to rain on your granny flat parade—the laws affecting granny flat rentals are in place to protect people from being exploited and to make sure that their living conditions are safe. In other words, people can’t just make a quick buck by sticking some box in their backyard and renting it out to just anybody.
Renting out your granny flat for extra income is not allowed at the moment in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria, unless it’s to a dependant of someone living in the main house. Authorities are, however, taking a second look at these particular regulations. Do note that regulations vary between councils, so it’s always best to find out what your particular council’s are.
You can find links to Victoria’s movable unit regulations in detail as well as a list of councils here. The rules in general, however, stipulate that the granny flat must be in a residential zone on a property with a minimum size of 450 sqm, and that you may not have more than one granny flat on your premises.
You must also be the legal owner of both the granny flat and the main house, which means that both of them are covered by just one title. This means, in turn, that both the granny flat and the main house will have only one electric bill, internet bill and water bill between them.
Regardless of size, all granny flats need to meet the relevant Australian standards as well as the requirements of the Building Code of Australia. Ultimately, having a granny flat can potentially boost the value of your property, but only if it was built in accordance with the law. Otherwise, you might have to tear the granny flat down should you wish to sell it for maximum profit.
If you’re wondering what a good size might be, one rule of thumb would be to not have your granny flat take up too much space in your garden, or to make sure your yard still has enough “breathing room”. If your garden space is reduced considerably, it may ultimately lower the overall value of your property.
Another rule of thumb is to consider how many people will be using the granny flat and for what purpose—is it going to be a one-person home office, for instance, or are your actual granny and gramps going to live in it full time?
When it comes choosing a design for your granny flat, you’ll want to make sure it matches the style of the main house to give your entire property a unified, harmonious look. Whether you build a separate standalone or extend the main house, the granny flat design you want has to include its own entrance as well as clear pedestrian access to comply with regulations.
If your backyard can be opened up to a street behind the house, that would meet your granny flat access requirements; if doesn’t, try looking at putting in a side entrance. Check whether you will be able to provide parking for the granny flat occupant, which is something potential renters are bound to consider if they have their own cars.
When looking at granny flat plans that include bathroom and kitchen facilities, it’s also important to consider where the connections for power and plumbing are on your property. Privacy for full-time occupants of the granny flat and the main house is also another essential consideration.
Picking the Perfect Spot
With a little imagination, granny flats also offer a lot of flexibility in terms of where you put them—in other words, they don’t always have to be in your backyard. When buying or building a granny flat, remember that it might also be installed above the garage a la “Fonzie style”, in the attic or even underground—as long as it has its own entrance.
Also known as an “attached granny flat”, a home extension may also open into the main house seamlessly via a link door which can be locked to separate it completely as needed.
Fits Within Your Budget
Chances are you already own the land you want to build a granny flat on, which means the rent-to-cost ratio will be in your favour. This means that for as long as you have the funds for construction, building a granny flat is likely to be a good idea in the long run.
Once you decide to put up your granny flat, bear in mind that the cost tends to end up higher than you may have thought at first, especially once you factor in the permits together with the design and construction costs. When shopping for your granny flat, be sure to find out what the final, packaged cost includes.
And while DIY kits and similar transportable modules might seem cheaper at first glance, investing in a customised, high quality granny flat could be better for the value of your property in the long run.
There’s nothing like having someone you can rely on to guide you through every step of buying or building a granny flat in Melbourne—someone with more than 40 years of quality granny flat construction experience.