The Average Three Bed Home is 8m² Smaller Than the Recommended Minimum Square Footage
14th September 2011
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The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) recently released a report to assess the state of British house building.  The latest research undertaken for the HomeWise project concerns the internal floor space of new build homes using a sample from homes built by eight of England’s largest volume house builders.  The aim of the research is to ascertain whether the current space being offered in new build homes suits modern and future lifestyles.

The findings – the average newly built 3 bedroom house falls short of the minimum recommended space standards benchmark by a full 8m².

The Greater London Authority has a set of standards against which the RIBA report compared their findings.  These standards are considered good practice and the current standards fall sadly below the mark.

The RIBA report found that the average new home in England is only 92% of the recommended minimum size.  The average three bedroom home from the RIBA sample was 88 m², leaving the new home 8 m² short f the recommended 96sqm minimum floor area for a two storey, three bedroom home meant for five residents

To give you a better idea of the loss of space, 8m² is the equivalent of a single bedroom.  A single bedroom could be the difference between children sharing rooms versus having their own, it could be a home office or a spare bedroom.  That lack of space could have a tremendous impact of standard of living.

These figures are not typical of European homes.  People buying or renting newly built homes in the UK are likely to get less space than their European counterparts.  In the rest of Western Europe new homes are built bigger, even in nations with similarly high and dense populations.

Selling and Buying Space

The funny thing about space is that it is all in how it is perceived.  In the US and Canada a major selling point is the square footage of a property.  Often the square footage is sited before even the number of bedrooms.  In the UK, the opposite is true – buyers and tenants tend to look at the number of bedrooms a property would have.   Although research has shown that there is dissatisfaction with the size of the average British room, for some reason many buyers will choose a smaller home with more bedrooms because they think it will make it easier to sell or rent in the future.
The RIBA report points out that this behaviour although counter-intuitive, is understandable due to marketing that focuses on numbers of bedrooms rather than floor space.

One reason that many estate agents do not concentrate on square footage is that there are no regulatory or industry requirements to record the floor areas of homes.  Although providing that information may be very helpful to buyers, it might also lead to violations of the Property Mis-descriptions Act which regulates the truthful and accurate descriptions of property - a policy which estate must adhere to.  Unfortunately, this act does not give any direct guidance on square footage and therefore puts estate agents in a grey area that could be risky legally for both the agent and the house sellers they represent.  Not only would providing square footage without guidance be risky to sellers but the lack of standards might mean that buyers comparing properties sold by different agents might be mislead by floor area measurements that had been taken in completely different ways – not out of any malicious intention to deceive, but simply because there is no standard to guide the person taking the measurements.  For example, should square footage count in the space inside a bay window or should the measurement stop at the wall – one agent may be taking in the bay window square footage while another doesn’t.  Without some direct guidance on issues such as this, square footage could be misleading.

What Can Be Done to Improve the Space In UK Homes?

Change would need to be a joint effort between government policy makers, house builders, planners, architects and estate agents. Here is what the RIBA report recommends:

What Can Policy Makers Do?

Set standards for square footage – work with the house building industry and estate agents to produce a voluntary program with guidance on how to publish data about the size and space of new homes.

What Can the House Builders Do?

Provide square footage information for new homes (assuming that industry standards are set) to estate agents and buyers that can be clearly seen on all marketing material.

What Can You Do?

Take the Nest Test –RIBA recommends that you determine what the floor area of your home should be according to the London standards, then tell the Commission whether you agree, and what else you think is important in the quality of a home at:

Are you looking for a home with more space?  Northfields can help you to find the property that will give you the space you need – call us on 0208 840 666 to register or register your details online to hear about the properties as soon as they become available.  Or see what properties Northfields currently has for sale or properties for let.

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