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Part 1: Housing Typologies in London

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

London boasts all manner of domestic architectural styles: from Georgian terraces through Brutalist high density housing, to futuristic uber-modern penthouses. While some may prefer a small apartment in a central area, others wouldn’t be content without a garden. The variety of residential offerings is what allows London’s property markets to provide Londoners with something as close as possible to the type of home they desire. As those of you who have read our “guide to value price and worth” will know, the value of a property is something subjective and personal to each Residential Real Estate (“RRE”) market participant. That being said, although every dwelling is different, based on the data that we at Walulel have gathered, we are beginning to see that dwellings can be split into categories that share particular characteristics, amenities, and also disadvantages, so rather than hoard our findings we thought we’d share them with you. What follows is a brief taxonomy of the housing typologies London offers, and what you can expect to be the pros and cons of each type.

Large-Scale Modern Apartment Complex (“LSMAC”):

· Size: A property in a LSMAC would typically be less than 15 years old, an apartment, and modest in size. In the last decades, UK homes have been getting smaller and smaller and are on average just 68.7 sqm. You can also forget about high ceilings. Although 75% of the dwelling has to be above 2.5 meters of height, 25% of it, especially the kitchen and bathroom, can be lower.

· Surrounds: The good thing about homes within a LSMAC is that they are, almost always, part of a large mixed-use development project. This sometimes allows them to provide the basic daily amenities such as a grocery shop, a café/bar, gym/fitness facilities, and sometimes even a cinema room, all within the structure itself. The more luxurious can even go on to provide residents with concierge services, sports facilities and in some cases, laundry services.

· Activity: The combination of housing and commercial uses often creates a lively atmosphere throughout the day as workers carry out their jobs by day and residents socialise by night. Several transportation options are usually available. However, parking spaces tend to be hard to come by as LSMACs are often designed to primarily be served by public transport options.

· Demography: As most units within LSMACs only provide 1-, 2- or 3-bedroom accommodation, they are most utilised by young professionals and couples.

· Three things LSMACs are great for: The “time poor”, easily reachable amenities, energy efficiency.

· Three common complaints: Units are often poorly soundproofed, they’re relatively expensive and small, and sometimes lack any sense of community.

Above-shop flat:

· Size: Usually situated on a high-street, these low to medium-rise houses create some London’s most iconic landscapes. Most of these Victorian or Georgian houses have now been subdivided into one-floor apartments. Nevertheless, they tend to offer a decent size of room with high ceilings. Although the interior of a refurbished apartment is likely to feel like a modern one, its age will be reflected in the maintenance costs.

· Surrounds: Living above a shop means witnessing the city’s comings and goings, what some have rather pompously called the ‘street ballet’. While for some this type of housing may lack intimacy, others will enjoy the diversity of the peoples and activities that surround it.

· Activity: One of the great assets of these dwellings is the proximity to multiple retailers and services such as hairdressers, banks, dry cleaners... High-streets are the commercial and recreation heart of London’s neighbourhoods, buoyant with passers-by, pub-goers and grocers.

· Demography: Most above-shop flats tend to be big enough to house a large family or be shared by groups of students and young professionals.

· Three things above-shop flats are great for: Easily reachable and diverse amenities, great local vibe and historic sense of community, public transport accessible.

· Three common complaints: Lack of tranquillity related to high noise levels, maintenance costs, reduced car accessibility and parking surrounded by heavy traffic.

Flat in a mid-density area:

· Size: Traditional terraced houses, built in the 18th, 19th and early-20th centuries, have often been refurbished and adapted to the needs of smaller families and groups of tenants. These type of dwellings present similar physical characteristics as the one presented above.

· Surrounds: Continuous rows of housing allow for a moderate flow of people that falls in between a busy commercial street and calm suburban area. This typology is for those who want to be near a busy street but at the end of the day dislike the noise that comes with it. The availability of public transport is an alternative to the reduced car accessibility the city brings with it.

· Activity: These flats lack some of the amenities of newer developments: community facilities, elevators or parking spaces. Do not expect to find a fully equipped gym in your basement... However, these iconic constructions are robust and usually located in walkable neighbourhoods with a warm feeling of place.

· Demography: As with above shop flats, terraced houses have usually been subdivided and turn into medium size 3 or 4-bedroom units, big enough to house a large family or be shared by groups of students and young professionals.

· Three things medium-density flats are great for: Tranquillity, some outdoor and garden spaces, iconic urban landscape.

· Three common complaints: High maintenance costs, lack of parking spaces and moderate distance from amenities.

Stay tuned for the last part of these series on housing typologies!! Meanwhile you can guess on the comments below which will be the next categories of our taxonomy.