A nation's passion for a (not so) humble semi
Tue 29 Apr 2014
Whats the most expensive house in Cambridge? A historic mansion? A penthouse apartment? A rambling countryside pile? It might surprise you to learn that a semi is the most expensive townhouse to come on to the market in the University City. It is a six-bedroom Victorian beauty on Harvey Road with a landscaped garden and off-street parking, and its on the market for 3.5 million.
More thank 3 million for a semi outside of London? Its incredibly rare in this university city to have houses of the size and calibre on the open market, explains Chris Carey, head of residential at the Bidwells estate agency. The majority are owned by the university and colleges. This house is very central. Its a few moments from the cricket grounds and about five minutes from the station. The sixe of it 5,500sq ft is reflected in the asking price. There are also three self-contained flats in the basement rented out to postgraduate students, which generate more than 60,000 in rents each year. The rental for these flats would pay a very substantial mortgage. I havent seen any reluctant on the part of the buyer because its semi-detached
This house in Cambridge is as far from the traditional suburban semi home as its possible to be. But then, semis come in all shapes and sizes from historic houses divided in two such as Tanton Grange in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, on the market with Strutt & Parker for 1.4 million, to ultra-modern seafront properties in prime residential areas such a Weymouth, where there is four-bedroom semi for 995,000 with Fine & Country
The first semi-detached house was built in the late 18th century in Blackheath and St Johns Wood, It was that combination of desire for space and the rural idyll of a garden. Semi-detached houses werent as expensive as a large detached house, so more affordable for the emerging middle class
Pockets of period properties are still found in all major cities, including Newcastle, where Sanderson Young has a stunning Edwardian example for sale in Jesmond 925.000. During the 1920s and 1930s the massive explosion in house building saw semis creating whole suburbs, for example East Sheen, where Hamptons International is selling a range of inter-war semis. The style adapted to reflected domestic trends, says Backe-Hansen. There were fewer servants; the ladies of the house were taking on more work. These houses were largely two-storey, with a side door so the daily help could let her in
According to new research from the independent estate agent network Move with Us, the semis popularity has never been higher. More than half (57 per cent) of estate agents across the UK say they are experiencing a shortage of semi-detached homes available for sale. The average time to sell a semi is now 71 days. This is 55 days faster than the national average selling time for all properties. In Ashtead, Surry they are coming off the market in six and half days on average.
Robin King, Director at Move with Us says that the increasing age of the typical first time buyer and the 5 per cent deposit under the Help to Buy scheme has led to buyers looking for bigger houses. Therere skipping the first rung of the property ladder, forgoing the started home and moving straight into a property they can grow into, He also points out that second steppers who have been struck in starter homes are feeling more confidant about moving up the semis are a natural choice.
Hugo Thistlethwayte, the managing director of the buying agency Prime Purchase, points out that buyers have confidante in and feel comfortable with this property type. The semi is ubiquitous and familiar, he says. They follow a fairly standard layout so people know here to find the kitchen, sitting room, and bathroom and so on.
Its not surprising then that builders are keen to get in on the action. The number of semi-detached houses being built in the UK has almost doubled, from 15,828 in 2009 to 28,232. The improving financial climate has contributed to this, but house builders are clearly met with desire.
Of course, there are millions of semis already. Their adaptability is key to their appeal, especially for families, Internal alterations are the easiest way to gain some additional space, says Michael saint, of MGS builders in Southampton. The void under the stairs could be the perfect place for a ground-floor WC. A small third party bathroom could be tackled by moving a wall to take space from the landing. Removing a wall can give the illusion of much more space such as taking down a kitchen wall to create a kitchen/diner.
And what about the big issue? Whisper it ... noise through the party wall. Actually the attraction of semi-detached houses is the appeal of not a direct neighbour to one side, so families who might be slightly noisier wont disturb their neighbours, says Christopher Bramwell, Head of Savills West London Residential. It allows for greater freedom for example, you might feel more comfortable playing music a bit louder or not worrying about a newborn baby crying in the night.