Semi-detached or detached?
April 23, 2013 10:09 AM   Subscribe

We plan to buy a house in England in a village up north. Our budgets will stretch to either a tiny little 2 bedroom detached house or a nice big four bedroom semi-detached. Which should we choose? Or should we buy in a cheaper village so we can get a bigger detached house?

We don't have kids and don't plan to have any so we don't strictly need the extra bedrooms, but we do like to have room for our hobbies, for house guests, etc. on the other hand we like peace and quiet. What should we consider in making the choice? Which would you choose?
posted by hazyjane to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
I lived in a semi for 7 years. I suppose it depends on your neighbour but in 7 years I hardly ever heard mine. I probably got more noise from the other neighbours versus the one I shared a wall with. That said, it depends on how thick the shared wall is. But I wouldn't rule a semi out if you like everything else about the house. Certainly be aware that if the shared wall is thin you'll basically hear everything your neighbour does.
posted by GuyZero at 10:17 AM on April 23, 2013

I lived in semi detached houses in the UK for decades and hardly ever heard neighbours. Brick built houses don't translate too much noise, but all the houses I lived in were pre 1970. I don't know about the cheaper new stuff.

if you want the space, get the bigger house. Sharing one wall isn't much of a compromise compared to half the rooms.
posted by Brockles at 10:35 AM on April 23, 2013

Location is, strictly speaking, more important than the property itself. On that basis, if you were looking to the house partly as an investment or nest egg then buying a nice house in a less nice village is not the right idea.

Detached houses carry a premium. A good place to look for some of your answers is the Nationwide Added Value research. Although the data are a bit old, it suggests that - all other things being equal - a detached house carries a premium of 8.4% over a semi-detached.

One way to think about this:

Calculate price per sq ft. You will need to first subtract arbitrary sums for things like specific location, the condition of the house, size of the garden, parking etc. This gives you some sort of baseline by which to compare like against like. Then you can compare what the real premium is that you're paying for a semi vs detached.

Personally, if I was moving to the boondocks I'd want peace and quiet and a sense of space. But then I live in a Victorian terrace and can almost hear when my neighbour farts. Without knowing the specifics, it sounds like the detached house carries a large premium, possibly above market what one would expect. All other things being equal, this is due to an issue of supply and demand and ultimately means that if you do want space then the premium on a detached house isn't worth it.

Having said that, dependent on the structure and type of the house you might be able to add an extension or an outbuilding further down the line. As you say, you don't need bedrooms, which is where the cost is. You need space. Making that distinction is important when you conduct your house search because it is relatively (relatively!) cheaper and easier to add a single storey extension compared to the cost implications of adding a double storey one. Planning permission is easier. Structurally it is simpler.

It sounds like you've initially boiled it down to a two horse race. But given that you are pretty clear on your lifestyle requirements, and armed with a working knowledge of how much of a premium you put on detached v semi detached you can house search in a way more suited to your needs.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2013

Big semi-detached. You want the room and since you don't plan to have kids, you don't have to worry about kids making noise and disturbing neighbors. (If you like peace and quiet maybe avoid a situation where the other people in the semi-detached house have little kids.)
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:18 AM on April 23, 2013

The semi is going to have and hold better re-sale value. You will have a larger market for a family 4-bed at price X than a 2-bed at price X.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:34 AM on April 23, 2013

If you buy a semi, look for one where the halls are adjoining, rather than the living spaces. With living-spaces-together, you end up with the head of your bed two feet from the head of your neighbours' bed. With halls together, you only hear one another if you happen to stomp up the stairs at the same time.
posted by emilyw at 11:55 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, factor in the fact that one totally insulated (read: attached) wall means that much less loss of heat, A/C, whatever, so your utilities are cheaper and your carbon footprint is smaller. (Townhouses for the win!)
posted by acm at 12:20 PM on April 23, 2013

emilyw - that isn't necessarily true. Mine and my neighbour's halls face each other either side of the shared wall. Our front bedrooms span the width of the house so while our headboards aren't near one another we can, er, hear them in their bedroom easily. As well as hearing them go up the stairs.

The more pertinent issue, IMHO, is simply how thick the walls are between the houses.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:45 PM on April 23, 2013

We are currently house-hunting ourselves and are making an offer on a small detached house (3 bdrm, 1.5 bathrooms) with a big south-facing yard and great view from there too. My observations on the house's selling history show that even though it's a great house, it's not an easy sell because of the low square footage. So in the future we may not resell that quickly or profitably, despite any improvements we make to the property. It's a risk.

It's a matter of personal taste for me, I like the idea of my own cute little house, and am biased against a townhouse or duplex. I've lived in apartments until now and I prefer to minimize dealing with my neighbor for noise or maintenance issues. I don't like how the yards are so tiny, and often shared. And I feel like they're lower class - just my opinion, my fiance was trying hard to convince me otherwise. The cost benefits of lower heating expenses and a bigger living space for less money don't outweigh the detractors for me. But for many people the bigger house for lower cost is key, they don't care about the outside or risks of dealing with the neighbors.

Buy what YOU like, in the end.
posted by lizbunny at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2013

The halls adjoining thing is really important with semis.

If it's the opposite way round, with the living rooms adjoining, there's greater potential for noise from the next-door house from their TV, stereo, etc. - and for your music or TV to disrupt their peace.

Halls adjoining

Living rooms adjoining

The standard estate agent maxim is 'Buy the most you can afford in the best neighbourhood'. In other words, if your budget will stretch to a big house but in a shitty town, the better option would be to buy a smaller house but in a much nicer area.
posted by essexjan at 12:51 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

A nice solid Northern stone- or brick-built house built before the 70's: semi-detached or not, you're hardly going to hear your neighbours unless you've got one of those attics that's open over both dwellings and they run around in it.
posted by glasseyes at 1:22 PM on April 23, 2013

My first house was attached on both sides - one was a brick wall, and we never heard a peep from those neighbors, the other was not brick (insulated drywall? no idea) and we heard everything that went on in their house. The current house has a shared brick wall, and again, we can't hear a thing from the neighbours. So, just make sure that the wall is brick.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:41 PM on April 23, 2013

Thanks, all, I think you've convinced me that an older semi is the way to go.
posted by hazyjane at 11:54 AM on April 24, 2013

« Older Does passive tooth eruption exist?   |   What's the best option for urgent dental care? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.