Why British Houses Are So Small – A Big Explanation

It might surprise you that British homes are generally smaller compared to homes in other countries. The average size of a home in the US is more than three times larger than the average size of a home in the UK!

This difference in size is due to a few reasons, including the availability of land and the budgets of buyers.

Despite their smaller size, British homes give off a wealth of charm and character and often have fantastic interior design.

How do British home sizes compare to other countries?

Homes in the UK are actually the smallest properties compared to many other developed countries. Current homes in the UK have an average area of 73 square meters.

French homes are 40% larger than UK homes, at 103 square meters.

German homes are even larger than French comparisons, with an average floor plan size of 127 square meters.

But the US has the largest homes by far, with average area of 245 square meters.

British Houses Shrinking Over Time

British homes have changed significantly over the years.

In the 1930s, the average size of a UK home was just over 68 square meters.

But by the 1970s the average size had further improved to over 80 square meters, which coincided with a large period of housebuilding in the country (a lot of homes were damaged during the second world war). These new homes were larger houses, which distorted the figure for the average size of homes in the country.

In recent times though the average size has fallen back down to post war standards, with the average area now being 68 square meters again.

Why are British homes getting smaller?

One of the big reasons for British homes shrinking, is rising costs. Inflation has been driving up the cost of home materials and labour costs over time.

House prices have continued to rise faster than wages, and mortgages have become much larger for homeowners. So smaller homes in the UK are more manageable and cheaper – and this has led to developers building more of these types of homes.

The breakdown of flats and homes in the UK

According to recent data the breakdown of homes in the UK was as follows:

Flats made up 27% of total homes. These can be anything from a small studio flat to a 3 or 4 bedroom large penthouse.

Houses have been split between semi-detached houses (those that have a connecting wall) and detached homes (those that are fully separate from others).

The split between semi detached and detached is roughly the same, with semi detached homes making up 25% of British housing and detached houses being 28%.

It’s worth noting that these figures include both owner-occupied and privately rented homes. The breakdown of home ownership may differ slightly depending on the source of the data and the time period being considered.

Do British people really prefer flats to houses?

Although over a quarter of homes in the UK are flats, it is generally thought that houses are much more popular than the data suggests.

British people yearn for space and privacy, two attributes that you simply can’t get enough of when you are in a flat! Houses also have more rooms and larger gardens than other types of homes, which can be attractive to families with children.

Another reason why detached houses may be more popular is that they tend to hold their value better over time. Detached houses are generally considered to be a more stable and desirable type of housing, which can make them a good investment.

Flats can sometimes experiences higher ups and lower downs when the property market suffers. There’s also multiple flats in a single building, which can make it harder to sell if others in your block are also on the market.

Do smaller homes have soundproofing?

So homes are now smaller in the UK and more people than ever are living in flats. Does this mean that homelife is more noisy than ever before?

In the UK the government actually put in place a number of regulations and standards in place in 2010 to improve soundproofing in flats. These regulations apply to both new-build flats and existing flats that are undergoing renovations or alterations.

One of the main pieces of legislation that regulates soundproofing in flats in the UK is the Building Regulations 2010. These regulations set out the minimum standards for the construction and alteration of buildings, including flats. Part E of the Building Regulations covers the requirements for sound insulation in buildings.

The regulations apply to both walls and floors and go a long way to preventing noise leaking  from one flat into another. So this is very helpful for new build flats, but not so helpful for older flats that already exist.

The best way of soundproofing flats are installing acoustic wool into the wall, or attaching special soundproof plasterboards to the walls.

Land vs People

If more people live in a country and the supply of housing doesn’t increase, this will put higher demand on the existing housing stock. To compare the ratio between people in a country and land available, we’ve compared the population density figures for each comparison country (being the total population divided by the land available in the country).

PopulationAreaPopulation Density
UK67 million245,000 sq km274 per sq km
US331 million9,200,000 sq km36 per sq km
France67 million547,000 sq km122 per sq km
Spain47 million505,000 sq km93 per sq km
Germany83 million357,000 sq km232 per sq km

UK has a much higher population density than any of the comparison countries with 274 people living in one square kilometre. This is more than double the situation seen in France where 122 people live in a square kilometre. Put simply, the UK has more people relative to the size of land that’s available. This means developers will have to build upwards (meaning more flats being built).

Finally, the population density of a country can also be influenced by factors such as the distribution of the population, the availability of housing, and the level of urbanization. The UK has a relatively high level of urbanization, with a large proportion of the population living in cities and towns, which can contribute to a higher population density.

The UK also has restrictive planning laws that can make it difficult for larger developments to get started. Local residents have objected to housing schemes for a range of reasons like concerns over the availability of parking after a new development finishes.

How old are British homes?

Although new homes are being built all the time in the UK, most of the existing housing has been in place for a long time. Recent data showed that 20% of homes in the UK were built before 1919 (the first world war).

A significant proportion of these older properties are listed buildings, which are protected by law due to their historical or architectural significance. Listed buildings are much more expensive to modernise and so many developers do not go after these renovation projects.

However newer homes tend to now be more energy efficient and may have features such as double glazing and insulation that were not commonly found in older properties.

New Build Housing Problems

New build houses can suffer a range of building problems, some of which can be serious and costly to resolve. Some of the specific building problems that can affect new build houses in the UK include the following items.

Structural Issues
Structural issues can be a major problem in new build houses, particularly if they are not properly designed or constructed. These problems can include issues such as subsidence (where the ground beneath the house sinks), movement in the foundations, and defects in the walls or roofs. Structural issues can be difficult and costly to fix.

Water Ingress:
Water ingress can happen if the property is not properly weatherproofed and allows water to enter into the building. It can cause damage to the fabric of the building, such as mould, and can also lead to other more serious problems. Water ingress can be difficult and costly to fix, and may require the replacement of damaged materials.

Poor Quality Finishes:
Unfortunately a rush on building completion timelines can mean new build houses can sometimes have poor quality finishes, such as paintwork that peels or tiles that fall off.

Builders may also not have enough time to fine tune some of the more important items, such as making sure worktops are properly aligned into the wall.

Poor Drainage:
Poor drainage can be a major problem in new build houses and can happen if the property is not properly connected to the sewage system to remove water.

If there is poor drainage other problems can follow on, such as flooding, foul smells, and the risk of disease.

Defects in Appliances and Fittings:
Although poor workmanship can affect new build houses, there can also be issues with the physical products. Defects in appliances and fittings do happen, such as boilers or windows.