Why most people look for a 3-bedroom house for sale

The 3-bedroom house is the most sought-after property type in the UK.

We look at the reasons for this and ask industry experts if they see this model changing in the future.

1920s and 1930s three-bedroom semi-detached houses.

Reasons for the popularity of 3-bedroom houses

  • They offer flexibility, providing a small family home with room to grow into.
  • Mature examples of traditional 3-bedroom, semi-detached houses often have spacious gardens which may offer scope for extending into or options within the loft space.
  • While new-build semi-detached houses don’t offer the square footage of a 1930s or 40s style semi, they appeal to couples working from home and needing an office or storage space.
  • Despite rising house prices, buyers continue to search for homes with a minimum three bedrooms, often with a plan to renovate and add future value to the property.
Victorian three-bedroom houses.

Expert views

Market mainstay

3 bedroom houses are a mainstay of the housing market, according to estate agent Tim Kampel, director of Box Property Solutions, who said:

The three-bedroom semi is a good, versatile size, making it ideal as a family house, perhaps as a second or third purchase, depending on where you are in the country. The main reason is that you can go into the roof for an extra bedroom or convert the garage, and it can easily become a four or five-bedroom house.

The three-bed model is ideal for blended families or for people wanting to add value to a property by adding an extension. Two-bedroom houses can offer a guest room but no more – the desire for a home office has led to a demand for more from a house. There will always be demand for three-bedroom houses, despite rising house prices.

This property type can be viewed as a safety net – while in some cases it may mean that buyers maximise their borrowings to get one, it could be at the lower end of their price range for others who buy a three-bedroom house with scope to extend as the family expands. We deal primarily with three-bedroom houses as these are the properties matching most people’s requirements, and I can’t see that changing.

We have a development side to our business and would be looking at minimum space requirements as land values go up, making the three-bed the most viable build. However, some developers build a three-bed house but already go into the loft.

They obtain planning permission and develop with the intention of using the traditional roof space before selling – this enables them to keep land surface to the minimum size. If they find a plot of land is too small for a three-bed build, they will put a room into the roof- this is a necessary evil to keep developing profitably as costs escalate.

New build three-bedroom semi-detached houses.

Expansion possibilities

Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the National Federation of Builders commented:

The average age of first-time buyers is 32, and new mothers 29, this means people are starting families later and are more likely to need a family-sized home or house offering a garden, which is often what three-bedroom properties offer.

High rental costs on bigger properties, particularly in cities, make three-bedroom homes a better purchase option than renting, and for those on a limited budget but needing more space in the future, a three-bedroom house is cheaper than a four bed, but offers extension or loft conversion prospects.

With housing supply not keeping up with demand, childcare costs rising, people living longer and multi generation living growing in popularity due to retirement housing costs and lack of capacity, the case for needing bigger homes can certainly be made.

Some builders already consider how their plots might offer space for future extensions. The industry is always adapting, but builders are guided by a local authority’s housing need assessment, which for local developers can be frustrating.

One example of this is council opposition to bungalows, especially dormers, yet builders know these homes are in high demand and older buyers love them as it means they have a comfortable home, but an out-of-the-way space for visiting grandchildren.

Traditional bow-fronted, three-bedroom semi-detached houses.

Appeal to growing families

Director of communications at the Home Builders Federation, Steve Turner said:

Three-bedroom houses have been, are, and probably will always be a sweet spot in the market that is desired by growing families and those downsizing and wanting smaller accommodation that’s cheaper and easier to manage.

Help to Buy and the success of planning reforms (primarily, National Planning Policy Framework post-2012), have given buyers additional affordability to be able to purchase family-sized homes, and the planning changes of a decade ago provided opportunities for the development of larger family homes, particularly important given that first-time buyers are generally older today than they were a generation ago.

Broadly, the mix of flats versus houses fell from 50% to under 25% during this period and was exacerbated more recently by changes during and post-national lockdowns. The withdrawal of Help to Buy later this year could reduce buyers’ choice and ability to purchase larger homes. Ultimately, housebuilders have to build what buyers can buy and will adapt their product mix to match demand.

Traditional Edwardian three-bedroom, semi-detached houses with front gardens and bay windows.

Rising demand for a 3-bedroom house for sale

Gráinne Gilmore, Head of Research at Zoopla comments:

The demand for three-bedroom homes is a key feature of the UK housing market – and this reflects the fact that there are more 3-bedroom houses than any other type of property across the country. During the pandemic, we saw another step up in demand, however, as these homes tend to have outside space, and potentially an extra bedroom that can be used as a home office, as changing working trends for office-workers mean working from home is an increasing option for many.

Typical three-bedroom homes built during the 1960s social housing boom.

Examples of 3-bedroom houses for sale

Holly Walk, Keynsham, Bristol, is priced at offers in excess of £300,000. This terraced house has front and rear gardens, two reception rooms, a conservatory, kitchen, and garage, and is for sale with Davies and Way estate agents.

This house at Brandon Terrace, Shadwell, Leeds, extends over 1,483 sq. ft. and has 3 double bedrooms, 2 off-street parking spaces, period features, and new windows throughout, along with a south-facing garden. It’s for sale with Monroe Estate Agents, Alwoodley, at offers over £500,000.

10 Tudor Road, Jordanhill, is a semi-detached house in a popular area of Glasgow, close to amenities and transport links. It covers 1,001 sq. ft. and has been beautifully modernised. The accommodation includes a hall, two reception rooms, a family kitchen, and three double bedrooms along with a large rear garden. This house for sale is priced at offers over £415,000 with estate agents Corum, West End, Glasgow.

This 18th-century grade II listed terraced townhouse in the popular area of Little Silver in the heart of Exeter has accommodation over three floors and includes a sitting room, living room, kitchen/dining room, and two bathrooms. The property extends over 1,583 sq. ft. and there is an enclosed rear garden. It’s for sale with Stags’ Exeter office and is priced at £600,000.

This end-of-terrace house on Music House Lane, Norwich, is priced at offers over £525,000. Arranged over three storeys, the accommodation includes an orangery, a sitting room and kitchen, 2 bathrooms, a garage, and an enclosed rear garden. The estate agents are Fine & Country in Norwich.

Seymour Street, Cardiff, is a traditional Victorian mid-terraced property, with three double bedrooms, a lounge/diner, and a southwest-facing garden. It’s conveniently located within walking distance of the town centre and local parks and has good transport links. This house is priced at £249,950 with Daniel Matthew estate agents.

A family kitchen, dining room, conservatory, and lounge make up the ground floor accommodation at this three-bedroom detached house on Thompson Hill, High Green, a desirable area less than five miles from Sheffield city centre. It has off-street parking, a garage, and a rear garden. The guide price is £250,000-£260,000 and it’s for sale with estate agents Blundells, Chapeltown.

Is it time housebuilders offered a more flexible housing type?

A desire for space is clearly the driving factor with today’s purchasers, especially post-pandemic, as gardens and offices become a priority. For now, the three-bedroom house model appears to be here to stay, at least until buyers start to demand an alternative house type from the building industry.

Do you think that housebuilders should be creating a more flexible model?

We would love to know your opinion.

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