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Finding a home in the UK

Tags: — Allan @ 12:59 am

Mamta and I are currently trying to determine where to live once we move from our current rented house in East Sheen – and it’s not easy. Of course, the fact that the price has to be reasonable is a factor, but the biggest frustration really is that it’s so hard to find out whether what is available is in any way suitable.

We have a set of very standard criteria for our search:

  • The house has to be within our budget
  • The house has to be quite large (say, at least 200m2 with 5+ bedrooms)
  • It must be no more than 30 minutes commute from work

In addition, we would like a few other things that we could compromise on to a greater or lesser extent:

  • There should be shopping nearby. A high street would be nice.
  • There should be a decent school in the vicinity
  • A train station close by would be convenient
  • It would be nice if the house did not require too much work
  • If it’s in the flight path for Heathrow, it should be double glazed so we can survive the noise
  • A detached house, rather than a semi-detached one would be preferable.

In the UK, property is HOT, and there are countless sites that allow you to search for houses that are for sale in a given area. You can search by price, and even by the number of rooms the house must have. But nowhere – on not a single site – is it possible to sort or search by the size of the house, whether in square meters, square feet, or whatever. And the other criteria always require

The result is that we both spend hours looking for houses with the right number of rooms and then try to determine whether each is actually big enough. There is typically 2 or 3 pictures, and sometimes a post code so it is possible to see where it is. For some houses, there is even a description of the rooms and their approximate sizes – but no standard way of representing it.

When sizes are mentioned, they are often cryptic as in “a 17 foot living room”, which I find it hard to picture. Is the room 1-dimensional, or is it the width of the room just 3 feet? Unfortunately, this kind of measurement just as useless as it is common. What about supplying a readable floor-plan?

I have not kept count of the number of descriptions of “stunning 5-bedroom semi-detached” houses I have looked at, only to find that I either cannot tell how big it really is, or to find that all the rooms are tiny. Of course, some houses fall down because of their location: ads don’t tend to tell you if a house is under a motorway bridge or next to a train line…

Here are a three examples of 5-bedroom houses I have looked at recently:

  1. Twickenham: Not bad, from what I can tell. But I can tell from the map that it’s wedged in between the busy A316, a rugby stadium and a sewage treatment plant. Hmm.
  2. Whitton: This house claims 5 bedrooms, but one is cupboard-sized at 4.6m2 and another is just 8m2. The largest one is just 13.6m2.
  3. Teddington: The only thing I really know about this house is that it’s expensive. There is no “Map” link, so I don’t know where it is. Of course, it has a “31′ connecting reception room” and a “17′ maple kitchen”, but I just don’t see that as particularly useful information.

What we need is to improve the way houses are sold and marketed in the UK, with the most obvious change being that the size of the properties on sale has to be shown prominently. Floorplans should also be made available so everybody can avoid wasting time on properties that are clearly unsuitable. Perhaps the main obstacle to these changes is the amount of money made by property developers that can make a home look larger by adding another (miniscule) bedroom?

Frustration abounds. Advice is welcome 🙂