Terraced houses are about as quintessentially British as it gets, with row upon row of these characterful little homes dotting every town and city nationwide. First built in the 16th century, these practical, low-cost dwellings were designed to offer medium-density living, and experienced a popularity surge in the early 19th century when the industrial revolution led to an urgent need for workers’ housing in urban areas. Many of these simple homes remain to this day, housing students and young families the country over. Despite their small sizes and relatively swift construction, their central location means they remain desirable and costly properties in most big cities. Known in other parts of the world as townhouses, row houses or linked houses, terraced homes will always share side walls with neighbouring properties and stand in a row of uniform facades. Although typically depicted as compact, red-brick dwellings, they also come in more spacious and opulent varieties such as the grand Georgian crescents of Bath or Brighton.
If you’re considering buying or renting a terraced home, it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the typical benefits and drawbacks you may encounter. In terms of advantages, one big plus point is the minimal heat loss you’ll experience—being built up close to your neighbour will help keep things toasty and reduce those heating bills. Another point worth noting is that, due to the shared walls, the internal ‘footprint’ of the home will be bigger, so you’ll actually have more room than you might think inside. There’s also the sense of community that comes from living in such close proximity to others, with neighbourhood schemes and activities a common occurrence. One final positive is that, however small, terraced homes tend to come with a long rear garden and therefore plenty of room to expand into.
In terms of drawbacks, aside of course, from the inherent lack of space, there’s the issue of noise from neighbouring homes through the adjoining walls—although it’s possible to mitigate this with double glazing, fitted furniture and thick furnishings. You’ll also inevitably find there’s less privacy than you may be used to in a detached home, with gardens typically overlooked and your comings and goings visible to neighbours on either side.
As the owner of a terraced home, it’s common to undertake some simple renovation projects in order to boost the living space and bring the house in line with modern standards. Some of the most common upgrades include:
Loft conversion - Before you start planning, ensure that a loft conversion is actually viable. The amount of space you will have all depends on the height and pitch of the roof. At least 2.3m of clear headroom is required for an area to be considered ‘usable’, plus there needs to be enough legroom for staircase access too. Here is where an architect or loft conversion specialist will be invaluable, as they can provide you with detailed information on your available space.
Kitchen overhaul - The most terraced houses feature small, narrow kitchens tucked away at the rear of the house. The most popular way to gain a bigger kitchen in a terraced house is to create a side-return extension. This involves incorporating the space behind the dining room, known as the ‘side return’, into the kitchen, adding around 1-2m to its width.
Downstairs toilet - A lot of homebuyers these days expect to find a downstairs WC. But in your quest to find the best space for one, bear in mind that the minimum practical space around standard sanitaryware in a WC is 200mm on each side and 600mm in front. Although building regulations no longer prevent us from having a WC directly off a living room, kitchen or dining room, do ask yourself if this is really a practical solution. Rather consider placing your new WC either off the utility room or a main hallway.
Cellar conversion - A new cellar might sound fantastic, but keep in mind that terraced streets have a ceiling value and you might never make back the money you spend on converting the cellar in this instance. And even though you may not need planning consent, a range of other technical difficulties might give you some issues. As most cellars in terraced houses have low ceilings, the floors will need to be excavated to become extra living space. This involves expensive underpinning of shallow foundations, something that will at least double the cost of converting a cellar with sufficient headroom. And are you really prepared to let costs rise from approximately £750—1,200/m² to around £1,500—2,000/m²?
As with most UK property types, terraced homes have been steadily gaining value in recent years. The average price for a terraced home in England is now at around £190k, a £10k increase on the year before. In London, however, this price rises to an astonishing £490k, in contrast to the Welsh average of £120k. Of course, exactly what you’ll end up paying is hugely dependent on the area in which you’re buying, the size of the house, and the condition it’s in. It’s always advisable to consult an experienced architect right from the beginning of your search, as they’ll be able to set you on the right path and answer any questions you may have.