SIZE MATTERS – OR DOES IT?

Published 1 October 2018

house comparison webLike so much in life, when it comes to our homes, size matters.  But a recent survey suggests that there comes a point when bigger isn’t really better.

We often hear that one of the features of Britain’s housing problems is that we are crammed into some of the smallest homes in Europe.  There is some truth in this: although the average homes increased in size from 88 to 90 square metres between 2004 and 2016, that still makes our homes smaller than nearly all our continental neighbours, by some margin.

Of course, bald statistics hide all sorts of nuances.  For example, 28 per cent of 2018 households only contain one person, compared with 17 per cent in 1971.  So you might expect smaller average households to occupy smaller homes.

A survey by the Resolution Foundation claims that, counter-intuitively, satisfaction with your home doesn’t keep growing the larger it gets.  In fact, the research shows that once your home contains four rooms per person, adding to the living space doesn’t increase your happiness at all.

Interestingly, the study also found that our house-size satisfaction is related to how big our neighbours homes are, even going so far as to suggest that people would be prepared to have less living space overall if it meant they had more than other people they knew.

Whether you buy this conclusion or not, it does show the unique relationship Britons have with our homes.  For many people, their house is not just somewhere to live, it is also an investment and a status symbol.

However, I think the tide may be turning, and that how well a home suits a modern household’s lifestyle is becoming the determining factor when it comes to that home’s desirability. 

It’s interesting that some savvy builders are creating homes which are big enough to have four bedrooms, but which in fact only have three.  They have realised that living space rather than sheer number of bedrooms is an increasingly important factor.

That is a reflection of our modern lifestyle.  The days when the family gathered in the living room around the home’s only TV have gone.  Teenagers and even individual adults now want their own space, so new homes are often built with a second siting room (often at the expense of the dining room); that fourth bedroom is marketed as a study.

There are lessons here when it comes to selling a home.  It’s impossible to increase the overall size of the home, of course, but an understanding of how people live their lives can result in creative marketing which plays to buyers’ aspirations – and increasingly those aspirations are extending beyond sheer size and bedroom count. 

Clive Hedges | Residential Partner

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