Buying a semi-detached house

Almost everyone knows somebody who lives in a semi-detached house. From art-deco 1930s semis to mock Tudor mansions to council houses, semi-detached homes are as much a feature of the British architectural landscape as Georgian terraces, country farmhouses or blocks of flats. But what are you in for if you’re considering buying one? This guide will help you find out…


  • The very first designs for semi-detached housing in London were drawn up and carried out by architect John Shaw and his son, also John Shaw, in the 19th Century – examples of their work can be seen in North London
  • They were associated with middle-class home owners, who considered the living conditions to be more dignified than those within terraced houses.
  • During the 1920s and 1930s the housing boom saw many upmarket, often Art Deco inspired, semis springing up in the suburbs and areas which are now ‘commuter belts’. These semi-detached homes, especially in the Home Counties, can fetch upward of 1 million pounds due to their large size, relative modernity and convenient location for high-paid city workers.
  • Immediately after the Second World War, council semis sprung up all over the UK. Despite their kitsch value though, semi-detached homes command serious clout on the UK housing market. Semi-detached ‘villas’ in London suburbs are now sold for upwards of two million pounds.
  • The current housing boom has seen the role of semi-detached houses evolve, with some detached homes being partitioned in order to create two more lucrative – if smaller – homes. Other developers have taken advantage of the space to demolish two semi-detached houses and build two detached homes in their place, thus creating a higher value for the same real estate.


Naturally, as semis vary so much in style, location and quality, it is difficult to pin down ‘advantages’ that apply to all. Nonetheless, the popularity of semis amongst British homeowners is in part down to the following factors.
  • Buying a semi-detached house compares favourably with buying a detached house in terms of finance: you will pay more if your house does not share any of its walls, even if the neighbour only lives a few feet away.
  • UK semis typically have a driveway or garage and sizeable garden, where terraced houses have to make do with yards and on-street parking.
  • Noise pollution from neighbours is a lesser problem in semi-detached homes than in terraced homes.
  • Semis often feel as if they occupy the relative privacy of a rural location…
  • …while preserving a certain social aspect of urban living, and avoiding the potentially isolated feel of a rural home.


  • Close proximity to your neighbours can be a problem for some. Not only will they be effectively in the next room but they will also, unless your garden fence is particularly high, be looking into your garden on a regular basis. The importance of a good relationship with those who occupy the other side of your semi cannot be overestimated.
  • The advantages of a semi-detached home can also be disadvantages: suburban semis are characterised by a close relationship with your neighbour, as well as the high population density and relative lack of privacy of the city…
  • ...yet remain some distance from a town centre, which can be a problem for workers or those who wish to live in a cosmopolitan environment.