Ask most people whether they would prefer to live in a Victorian Terrace or a new build and they’ll have a strong opinion. As piling contractors, we are often asked which type of house is built better. The truth is, it completely depends on what you need from your property. Here, we discuss some of the pros and cons of period and modern houses.
The general era when talking about Victorian houses is from the 1830s to the early 1900s. The industrial revolution meant there was a boom in property building, as materials were more readily available. Period houses have a certain set of characteristics that make them easy to define and are widely regarded as sought-after family homes.
Victorian houses were built to last and the fact that Victorian and Georgian houses have been standing tall for decades – sometimes even centuries – proves that they are sturdy structures. By today’s standards, Victorian foundations seem very shallow and in some cases, the concrete footings are no more than 200mm deep. However, the way in which they were built allows the houses to spread the load across the ground so the weight is distributed evenly.
There’s no doubt that Victorian and Georgian houses are beautiful to look at, and its this kind of curbside appeal that makes them a good investment. Some of the sought-after features that are associated with Victorian properties include:
- Bay windows
- Stained glass
- Unique tiles
- Feature fireplaces
- High ceilings
If you are lucky enough to find a property with any of these intact, you’ll have little trouble selling it when it’s time to move on.
Victorian houses often offer more floor space than new builds as they were built at a time when cities were not so densely populated. Because of this, they tend to be bigger than new builds in the first places, as well as having ample opportunity to extend (for example with a loft conversion or kitchen extension). High ceilings add to the sense of spaciousness.
Older houses require more attention from their owners to keep them in good condition. You may find that you need to replaster the walls, have a new roof or even address any structural problems that might occur. You’ll often find Victorian houses located on suburban leafy streets. If there are trees outside it’s worth investigating whether your property has any subsidence issues – as the main cause of subsidence is pesky tree roots. If you do find subsidence, your property could require underpinning.
Victorian houses were made with sash windows that look great but can be draughty. If you ever need to replace these windows in order to keep some of the heat in, it can be expensive.
High ceilings and sash windows mean high heating bills, and keeping Victorian homes warm is a notoriously expensive endeavour. Although it can be tempting to replace the wooden sliding sash windows in a Victorian property with double glazed uPVC, it completely changes the look of the house, so if you’re going down that road make sure you explore all your options.
New properties often lack the curbside appeal of period properties, although modern developments such as the Scandi-inspired timber framed models have meant that new builds are becoming more desirable.
It’s difficult to argue the appeal of buying a brand new property. Untouched carpets, freshly plastered walls and double glazing make new builds ideal for families or those looking for a low maintenance way of living. Even better is the warranty that new builds come with, meaning you’re safe in the knowledge that you won’t be lumped with a bill for a new roof a few months after you’ve moved in.
Building materials are always improving and recently there’s been an emphasis on sustainability. Many modern housing developments are now taking the steps to encourage greener living, whether that be using solar panels and heat pumps or planting bee-friendly plants in their gardens.
New properties have to adhere to very high health and safety standards. For example, rooms over a certain size are required by law to have opening windows that are large enough to escape from in the event of a fire. These high safety standards can be especially appealing if you have children, and are not necessarily something that all older period properties will comply with.
Lack of Character
The main complaint with modern properties is that they lack character. New builds are often found on housing developments where every house is a carbon copy of the one next door. For some, this is not a problem. Others enjoy the unique aspects of a period property.
Modern properties are often located in the suburbs or a little further out of town, as the Victorians built properties close to central amenities. This means that new housing developments are often pushed to more spacious areas where there is land available.
There are pros and cons to both Victorian properties and new builds. If you have a busy lifestyle and your priority is safety and security, a new build is a great option. If you think that ongoing maintenance is worth the trade-off for a house that is full of character and a little more spacious, start researching Victorian or Georgian properties in your area.