Modern housebuilding in the UK

Posted on 01 July 2007 4 comments

The quality of new build homes in the UK is pretty abysmal. There is little to like in terms of appearance, layout and build quality. Major housebuilding companies rarely show any imagination or initiative when it comes to building new homes.

No matter how poor the quality of a new build though, there is always a willing buyer. This does nothing to encourage developers to lift the standard of housebuilding.

For most of us, buying a house or flat is the single biggest financial purchase of our lives. Why are we so undemanding when it comes to buying our own homes?

It seems the fear of not getting on the property ladder outweighs the fear of buying an inadequate or sub-standard property (or an over-valued one).

The huge growth of the buy-to-let market over the past few years has also changed the dynamics of the housing market. Many new flats, for example, seem built to cater to the buy-to-let investor. These are often small, poky flats selling at exorbitant prices – places you probably wouldn’t want to live in permanently, but might tolerate renting.

To me, the quality of a home is judged by the strength and solidity of its construction, the size and proportion of the rooms, the layout of the property and, of course, how environmentally-friendly the whole structure is. Bottom of my list is whether the kitchen counter tops are made of granite. But this is precisely what descriptions of many properties dwell on – the ‘luxury finish’. An emphasis on fixtures and fittings often seems to be a cover for hiding or minimising other deficiencies in the property.

Why don’t new build property descriptions tell us the height of ceilings in the property? Or provide details of noise insulation (walls, ceilings, windows)? Or the direction or orientation of the house (south, south-west etc.). Or the construction materials used in the build for the walls, floors, windows, doors and roof? Is this asking for too much? No. I’ll repeat again, for most of us, buying a home is the biggest financial outlay of our lives. We should expect so much more.



23 July 2007 16:47 GMT

I agree with what you are saying regarding a lot of the builders today but the blame cannot always be placed on them. The town planners have a lot to answer for too.

We recently submitted plans for a small select development of 6 new homes. Each one was individually architect designed with some very unique and interesting features. The local planning commitee refused the designs saying that they needed to be similar to the houses already in the area, i.e. some very ugly and plain 1970′s houses.

You really can’t win sometimes.


28 November 2007 19:28 GMT

Hussein, I agree with you. In addition to what you have said, neither the government nor the council is willing to do anything about noise. Even after they passed a new law on 2003 regarding sound insulation testing, recent new builds are as noisy as new builds done 10 years ago.

I live in a flat built by Fairview homes and it is very noisy. There is not enough sound insulation on the ceiling so I can hear the neighbour upstairs, which I totally hate. I can hear him entering his flat, walking, doing the laundry and even going to the bathroom! It’s insane! By now, I know his daily routine and I hate that even more. I don’t want to know someone else’s daily routine but it is unavoidable.

I have complained to environmental services of the council, to the managing agency, and according to citizen’s advice bureau, I could only pay for the insulation myself! Again, it is insane to know that there are no laws to protect me nor is the government willing to raise the building standards.

Nick Weeks

02 October 2012 15:28 GMT

I find it hard to understand why new-builds are so expensive for such poor build quality and such poor design. I moved (to Worcester, UK) last year: Victorian terraced freehold 2-bed houses, with small gardens, natural light in every room, decent proportions, etc, just over £100,000. Admittedly, solid brick walls which are not ideal from an insulation point of view, but only front and rear walls are "exterior". In contrast, modern 2-bed flats, in blocks (no garden), with interior kitchens and bathrooms, and long thin "everything" rooms, start around £160,000.leasehold.

If this is driven by market demand, there must be a LOT of people for whom having "the latest" is more important than value-for-money or liveability (unless they have very different lifestyle from me!)

A. Hussein blog author

02 October 2012 2013 19:42 GMT

Thanks for your comment. It’s often said that the British public have conservative tastes when it comes to housing, hence the popularity of Victorian properties. But the real reason I suspect are all the things you mention in your post – more space, better room proportions, more natural light. And many of these properties are very adaptable to re-modelling of the interior.

If demand outstrips supply in housing, then there will always be buyers willing to pay what the market offers no matter how poor the quality of the home. Also, a lot of new build flats in blocks are marketed as “investment opportunities” so you have a lot of property investors or buy-to-let landlords snapping up these flats. I doubt these owners care much about the quality of these homes since they won’t be living in them, but renting them out to others.

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