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14 Apr 2018

Shrinking homes: the average British house 20% smaller than in 1970s

Size and number of bedrooms also at a record low

New homes being built in the current decade are smaller than ever before, with the average house size now below the low of the 1930s.

UK homes built since 2010 offer an average of 67.8 square metres of living space, the lowest in 90 years, according to analysis by LABC Warranty.

Which? looks at how home sizes have changed over the years, including which rooms have shrunk the most.

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How large is the average home?

Homes from the most recent decade have around 67.8 square metres of living space, LABC Warranty found - not much more than both decks of a London bus, which come to 55 square metres.

This figure factors in living areas, kitchens and bathrooms, but does not include hallways or staircases.

Home sizes grew steadily over the early part of last century, hitting a peak of83.3 square metres in the '70s - meaning new homes now are around 18% smaller than they were then.

In fact, houses from the 2010s are just below the previous low-point in 1930, when the average house was 68.3 square metres.

Last year, a Which? investigation into micro-homes showed that flats were also being downsized, with some now offering less than 30-square-metre floorplans.

In the graph, you can see how home sizes have changed over time.

Average house size 1930-2018

For their analysis LABC Warranty looked at 10,000 home listings on Zoopla and Rightmove, identifying which decade each home was built in.

Which rooms have shrunk the most?

Living rooms have suffered the most shrinkage since the peak of 1970. In that decade, the main recreational room of the house was around 24.89 square metres. Today, it's just 17.09 square metres.

This is close to the 1930 average of 16.01 square metres.

By comparison, kitchens have changed less dramatically: in 1930, kitchens were around 12.27 square metres, before hitting a high of 15.37 square metres in 1960, then reducing back to 13.44 square metres today.

Average room size 1930-2018

Fewer bedrooms since 1930

Both the size and number of bedrooms in homes has hit a record low in 2018.

In 1940 homes boasted the most bedrooms, with an average of 3.63 bedrooms per property. Although at 13.8 square metres, they were also smaller than at any other time.

Today, the size is comparable at an average 13.4 square metres, but homes have just 2.95 bedrooms on average - the fewest in the past 90 years.

Average number of bedrooms

Will the property size affect my mortgage?

As a general rule, mortgage advisers will be more interested in the value of your home than its size when deciding whether to grant you a loan.

But size may affect your loan application if the home you're buying is extremely small - or extremely large.

At either extreme, valuers may consider how difficult it would be to find a future buyer when doing their valuation, and this may affect how much you're able to borrow.

In the case of homes smaller than 30 square metres, our micro-homes investigation last year found that some lenders would be unwilling to grant a mortgage on a property of this size.

Home-viewing checklist

When you're house-hunting, make sure you bring your tape measure. Having an accurate understanding of how large the house is can help you work out whether it will meet your family's needs.

But size isn't the only consideration when buying a new home. Make sure you consider other factors, including:

  • Is the structure of the property in good condition? Look out for cracks in the walls and ceilings, or holes in floorboards. Try the doors and windows to see whether the frames have warped, and whether they fully close and lock.
  • Have you checked the exterior? Walk around the outside of your property, keeping an eye out for rusty piping, sagging gutters, cracked brickwork and signs of water damage. If there's been an extension, make sure the walls are properly joined and aren't listing to one side.
  • Can you smell damp or mould? Use your nose - a musty scent within the property could indicate deeper problems. Keep an eye out for well for discolouration on the walls or ceilings, or patches of peeling paint or black mould.
  • Do the taps work? Test how strong the water pressure is and how long it takes the hot water to come through. Look over the boiler, and ask for records on when it was last serviced.
  • Are the electrical systems in order? Look out for loose wiring or shoddy electrical repairs. Try all the lights and power points to see whether they're in working order, and see if the property has broadband or cable TV plugs.

For more information on what to check, you can download our house-viewing checklist.