Studio Apartments — is one right for you?

If Covid taught us anything, it’s that a house cannot have too much room. For many of us who were suddenly juggling living and working in the same space, the need for division between relaxing and everything else became very apparent. There were a few solutions to this problem, such as moving to a regional location for a larger property. But for people happy with their current location, the idea of adding a studio apartment became more attractive.

The addition of an extra space to your property might seem like an obvious one with few drawbacks. And the announcement of the HomeBuilder scheme made the idea even more attractive. But adding a studio apartment to your property isn’t as simple as just plonking a space down and hoping that it fits some purpose, or assuming that it’ll fix the problems that you’ve been facing. If you had been thinking about adding a studio apartment, here are some questions you should ask yourself before taking the plunge.

Why do you want one?

The first thing to consider is what the space will be used for, and whether or not a studio apartment will fill that need.

For many of us during the pandemic, our offices became casual drop-in spaces for our children (and partners), which seriously affected workflow. You might be tempted to put a social space outside of your house so that you can keep your office, but is that the way that the space is likely to be used? Would you be better off moving your office outside and keeping that room as a rumpus room? Or will it no longer need to be that kind of space because everyone will go back into the living room?

If, however, the studio apartment makes sense for the house, or if you know there’s a way that it can be remodelled or recontextualised (like as a bar room or creative studio) once the initial need has passed, then it might be worth considering.

When do you need it for?

If you’re just feeling fed up and frustrated right now, think about the amount of time it will take to construct the building. Some studio apartments can take up to ten weeks (nearly three months) to construct. Is that the kind of time you have to deal with an unfinished project in your backyard?

If you’re just trying to keep your options open for the future, but your home office is fine for non-lockdown times, then it might be worth looking at drop-in office spaces where you live. It makes more sense to know your options locally so that if you see a crunch period coming up and you think you might need a week of your own space out of the non-home office, you can rent something just for that time period. That means that you don’t have to deal with the stress and expenses associated with a studio apartment on your own property—you can just pick up and put down space as you need it.

Does it make sense?

Another consideration, and how much weight you place on it will depend on your plans for the property, is the cost of that studio apartment. If, for example, the only place to put it is smack in the middle of your backyard, chewing up what was previously your outdoor area and your clothesline, then maybe that house you bought in a family-friendly area isn’t going to appreciate the addition.

If you figure that you can use the space for now and maybe rent it out later when you no longer need a home office, it’s worth thinking through the limitations and potential issues that that idea could generate. One is the tax implications (in terms of the additional income for your property), but another is the hassle of not only sourcing and keeping appropriate tenants, but also sharing your property with someone else. While it might sound like a nice, easy back pocket earner, it may take years to recoup your costs, never mind that it also brings work right back into your home (by way of property management), which is probably what you were looking to get rid of in the first place.

Ultimately, if you want extra space, then just like any renovation you need to think about what your needs are and what you expect this space to do. There’s no point in building a new office in the backyard that makes it so that you don’t even want to look at it, and there’s no point in building a space that no one wants to use for its intended purpose. While they’re a solution to a few problems, they may not be the best solution for you, and they may in turn cause new problems. As with all major investment decisions, spend the time to ask yourself if it’s right for you.