Buying a terraced house has become increasingly popular over the last few years, often appealing to first-time buyers and young families. This rising popularity has been matched by a steady increase in value, with the average price of terraced property going up faster than any other property type in the past decade.
A recent survey by Halifax Estate Agents found the price of a typical terrace house has risen by 239% in the last ten years, compared to an average of 205% over all properties.
While this may seem like a worrying statistic, terrace houses nonetheless remain the UK’s cheapest property type. So what should a potential buyer look for when considering an investment in terraced accommodation? What are the pros and cons of this popular property type? Here are the key points for consideration:
Location, Location, Location
A property cliché perhaps, but a fitting one. The location of your terrace is obviously going to be of prime importance when you begin house hunting but, in the case of this type of property, it can be even more crucial.
One of the most common concessions buyers are forced into when buying terraced houses is that of outdoor space. It’s likely that a terrace will have a considerably smaller garden than most property types, and you may want to search out the nearest parks and open spaces for yourself or particularly for children, to compensate for the lack of recreational space.
On the bright side, one of the common perks of living in terraced accommodation is the proximity to local shops, schools, parks and public transport - however, don’t take this for granted. Take the time to discover the surrounding area and consider the practicalities of your chosen location.
Safety and Security
Areas which are well lit at night, easily visible from neighbouring houses and that have a steady flow of traffic are often the safest. When viewing terraced properties, be sure to consider the condition of the street and surrounding houses – if you have children, consider the dangers of nearby roads, and whether there’s enough street-lighting for sufficient security.
Another important safety factor to consider is the presence of rear access to the property, which is common on terrace streets. Many of these have alleys or passageways leading across the rear of the properties, which can be a security issue. It’s important that you consider this access with security in mind.
If there is an alley or passageway to the rear of the property, is it clear and clean? Is access restricted to residents alone? Is the area well lit? Remember these key points when thinking about safety and security on terrace streets:
- Are nearby roads going to cause concerns for children?
- Does the street and surrounding area feel safe?
- How well lit is the street?
- If there are passages to the rear of the property, are these clean and uncluttered?
- Are the passageways a security hazard? Who has access to them?
- What are the car parking arrangements? If you have one, is your car likely to be secure on the street?
- Does the property have double glazing?
Before stepping inside a potential terraced property, take a good look at the external appearance of the house. Consider how much maintenance or repair you may have to carry out – are there any visible faults or flaws which may need closer inspection? Building consultants or inspection firms can carry out pre-purchase inspections and so, if you’re in any doubt about the structural condition of the property, it’s best to get the house checked out by a professional. While you're viewing the outside of the terrace, have a look for the following warning signs:
- Signs of leaks – water staining, bubbling/peeling paint or mould. This could be a sign of poor construction and insufficient weatherproofing, and may be the warning signs of a much costlier problem.
- Gaps around doors and windows which could let in water.
- Cracks and fine lines in plaster, which may require attention or re-plastering.
- Visible curves, lines or cracking in the wall cladding.
The interior of the property is obviously going to be of great importance to your house-hunting process, but in a terrace house there are certain factors you should be aware of, and questions you should ask yourself when viewing the house:
- Terraced houses often have narrow staircases and hallways, making the manoeuvre of furniture and large items much trickier than usual. When viewing the property, consider the practicalities of getting your furniture into the respective rooms within the house
- Compact terrace houses can suffer from a considerable lack of storage. You might want to consider the amount of storage you will need, and whether the storage available will be sufficient for you or your family.
- Privacy can also be an issue in tightly organized terraced properties. Take a moment to have a good look out of the windows in all rooms, and consider whether you are comfortable with the amount of privacy afforded in bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Remember that, in a terraced property, you’ll be sharing internal walls with your neighbours - noise from your neighbour’s shower or toilet could be a nuisance if the plumbing is in the shared wall.
- How much sunlight will your living space enjoy? Terraces facing east or west will get sunlight during the mornings and evenings, whereas north facing houses tend to get too hot in the summer.
Terraced houses tend to be warmer than other property types because of their shared walls, potentially allowing you to save money on your power bills. While this is a definite plus associated with terraced property, consider how easy it will be to cool your house down in the warmer months – can windows be opened fully enough? Can they be left open safely? You may also want to consider the added noise which open windows may allow into the property.
Garden and Outdoor Spaces
As previously mentioned, buyers are often forced to compromise on outdoor space when buying a terrace house. In light of this fact, consider these points when house-hunting to best prepare you for the realities of terraced-living:
- Does the size of the garden meet your everyday needs? Is there enough room for children to play? If not, what are your alternatives? (Nearby parks, playgrounds?)
- If you have or plan on having pets, consider their needs for outdoor space – if you have a dog, is there a nearby park or open space which will compensate for the smaller garden? Will busy roads be a problem for cats?
- Will the garden space get enough sunlight?
- Is privacy going to be an issue when utilizing the outdoor space?
- Some terraced properties have communal outdoor spaces – consider the practicalities of this arrangement and the impact it could have on your home life.
- If you have a car, find out about parking arrangements in the area – how easy will vehicular access be? Is parking likely to be secure? Is the parking area well lit?
Due to the nature of the property type, terraced housing comes with an increased risk of unwanted noise from neighbours and nearby roads. Some people may find the rise in background noise and the proximity of neighbours a difficult adjustment to make, while others can quite easily become accustomed.
Consider your own limits and those of your surroundings – the proximity of your neighbours may prove a recurring issue if you are set on buying a terraced house. Here are some key points to consider if you’re worried about noise levels in terraces:
- Think about the floor plan of the property. Where are the bedrooms in the house located? The further these rooms are from obvious noise sources like main roads, the better.
- Take a walk around the surrounding area and consider the effect it might have on noise levels. Are there nearby pubs or bars which might increase late night disturbance? Consider asking neighbours about the level of noise in the evening and at weekends.
- Are the windows of the property double-glazed? While this will make a considerable difference to noise levels when the windows are closed, remember that in the summer months you will want to have windows open, increasing the level of noise at a time when it’s more likely to be an issue.
- The layout and plumbing of neighbouring houses can affect the level of noise in a terraced house, so consider finding out the plumbing situation of those properties either side of your own.
- Remember that wardrobes, storage spaces and hallways can act as sound buffers between houses, and may reduce noise levels.
- If the house you are viewing is empty and has no furnishings or furniture, try to remember that noise is significantly amplified when the property is empty – curtains, sofas and carpets will drastically reduce the noisiness of a property.