If you are thinking about moving house you may have been to view some new build homes – even if you have your heart set on a period home or country cottage, new builds are always very tempting. That is partly because they are just that – new – but also because the show home has had the benefit of a professional interior designer to make it look its very best. Very few of us really live in a home that is in “show home” condition – for a start we have all of our personal belongings – clothes, shoes, books, ornaments, DVDs, pictures, chidren’s toys that need to be accommodated. And that is where issues with new homes start to become real problems.
A new home may look very attractive with it brand new bathrooms and kitchen, there may appear to be plenty of fitted wardrobes, or at least free-standing versions. But often the furniture in a show home is not full size or there is simply not enough of it for real life living. In the UK we tend to judge the size of a house by the number of bedrooms and bathrooms without actually looking at the square footage. Of course, new home developers know this and it seems they can now manage to squeeze at least 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms into even the smallest of houses. If we were more interested in square footage like the rest of Europe of the US then we might realise that many new homes are not nearly as spacious as they seem.
Every household needs to be able to store clothes, books, DVDs, vacuum cleaners, ironing boards, food etc. Yet many families find that they have to pack away out-of-season items such as clothes, gardening equipment, Christmas decorations etc in someone else’s garage (usually their parents’) or in a rented self-storage unit.
Some research from the UK government’s national archives by CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) looked at whether there is sufficient space for furniture and the storage of personal possessions, and enough room for residents to cook, eat, relax and socialise, in new private sector homes.
CABE’s survey involved 11,000 households and revealed that many owners of newly built homes in the private sector do not feel they have enough space for everyday activities and the research implies that new private homes require more space to be fit for purpose. Unfortunately, that research was done in 2011 and there does not seem to have been any follow up from it. CABE has now been absorbed into the Design Council, which is worrying for buyers of new homes that seem to be getting ever smaller.
Ironically minimum space standards are still required for social housing but new private sector homes in the UK are not required to adhere to these standards so tend to be much smaller than in the rest of Europe. New 3-bedroom houses that might be expected to adequately accommodate a family are often not suitable to the needs of a growing family.
So if you are thinking of buying a new home look beyond the brand new fittings. Ask about the square footage of the property and take a measure tape to see how (or if) your furniture would fit in the rooms. Assess whether there is space to store everything you need now but also if the space will be adequate for a growing family’s needs.
Adequate space to carry out everyday activities and store the essentials items required for everyday living should be seen as a fundamental requirement of every home, whatever its size.