Why bungalows for sale always attract attention

24Housing investigates the enduring popularity of bungalows, looking at:

  • Their advantages and disadvantages
  • Why bungalows for sale in UK are in demand
  • Whether bungalows are a good investment

We then ask industry experts for their views and showcase some stunning modern bungalow designs.

Suburban detached bungalows.

But first, what is a bungalow?

The word `bungalow’ comes from the Hindi word `bangala’ which means a single-storey house built in the Bengali style. In the UK, bungalows enjoyed a period of popularity in the 1930s and again in the 1960s, before falling from favour, according to Country Life. By 2015, they accounted for just one in 50 new builds in the UK. Today, however, we are seeing renewed interest in buying bungalows, for their potential as renovation projects as well as their ability to provide independent living for older people.

The advantages of bungalows

  • They are usually detached.
  • Popular with retirees downsizing, as they are easier to manage.
  • Low maintenance – they are easy to keep in good condition and running costs are low.
  • Having one storey to heat means that electricity and heating bills are lower.
  • Fewer windows to clean, and easy to access gutters and roof.
  • Often sited on large plots with gardens providing privacy from other houses.
  • They are often surrounded by other bungalows, which reduces overlooking problems.
  • They commonly have an open-plan layout which is enabled by fewer supporting walls.
  • Room sizes tend to be larger than in new-build houses.
  • Opportunities to add value – potential to renovate or extend into a large garden or convert the loft.
  • They are generally situated in quiet neighbourhoods, with an older demographic, less cars, and fewer noise issues.

The disadvantages of bungalows

  • Being single-storey, they usually have a greater square footage on the ground floor, resulting in higher build costs per square foot and higher roofing costs.
  • It may be more difficult to get a mortgage if a bungalow is built with `non-standard’ building material, for example, prefabricated concrete frames.  
  • High demand: the low supply of bungalows often results in purchasers buying at a premium and paying more per square foot than they would for a two-storey house.
  • Lack of separation between living and sleeping areas – noise travelling through one floor can be a problem for families.
  • If you are buying from older occupants, a renovation and upgrade scheme will probably be needed and the cost of this must be factored in.
  • Security could be a concern if you want to sleep with open windows in summer.
  • Some people dislike sleeping on the ground floor.
Mature detached bungalows always command high house prices.

Why is there an increased demand for bungalows?

  • There are fewer on the market, making them more sought-after.
  • They are usually detached and often on large plots with attractive mature gardens.
  • They are mobility-proofed for the future being easy to access and live independently in.
  • Developers often buy them, spotting a good investment opportunity to add value.

However, despite the clear demand, research from McCarthy Stone in March 2021 revealed falling rates of bungalows being built – 1,833 in 2020, a fall of 23% compared to 2019, and they formed less than 1% of new homes built. Despite this, 70% of those over 65 would consider moving to a bungalow, an increase from 60% in 2019.

Are bungalows a good investment?

Generally, yes, because there are fewer bungalows being built as new homes developers don’t regard them as being a cost-effective use of land. As a result, demand remains high, and bungalows hold their value well. We also have an aging population that is keeping demand strong.

Bungalows are popular with buy-to-let landlords as renters are keen to have the outdoor space they often provide. They also offer opportunities to add value – bungalows often occupy a large plot, giving scope for extensions such as a kitchen diner. A desirable plot may also offer opportunities for knocking down an existing bungalow and rebuilding a new property.

This table indicates the rising prices for bungalows sold in recent years within 3 miles of Chester in Cheshire.

Property typeSold priceDate of sale
2-bed detached bungalow£240,000
August 2022
November 2021
3-bed detached bungalow£263,500
June 2022
March 1996
4-bed detached bungalow£800,000
June 2022
November 2014
May 1996
5-bed detached bungalow£505,050
June 2022
June 2006
March 2004
Sold house prices provided by Rightmove.

Expert views

Wider family appeal

Associate director of Savills estate agents’ Windsor branch, Emma Smith said:

Today, the call of the not-so-humble bungalow is being heard by a new generation of house hunters. The absence of stairs means bungalows are often a firm favourite with older buyers. But, built at a time when land in desirable areas was comparatively cheap, their larger plots and bigger gardens also mean they are increasingly sought after by those with a young family. 

More space between properties also allows for greater privacy, while there is plenty of room for those who are looking to extend or remodel subject to any planning restrictions. Equally, with their typically generous footprint, bungalows also offer younger buyers a springboard to creating their very own contemporary, flexible Grand Design.

For them, lateral living is not only convenient, it’s highly desirable, too. On a practical note, as roofs and guttering are easier to access, routine maintenance is also typically easier than on a two-storey house.

A double bay fronted detached bungalow.

Rarity value

Estate agent Tim Kampel, director of Box Property Solutions said:

There has always been a massive demand for bungalows; in my 25 years in the industry, they have always remained very popular, mainly due to their accessibility for older people, allowing them to retain their independence and enjoy the outdoors rather than having to move into a flat.

From a developer’s perspective, bungalows are easy to add value to: they can often easily extend into the roof and add two bedrooms and sell it on.

Bungalows are a good investment as they are always in demand, and few are being built because when you buy land, of course, the more houses you can fit onto that plot the better in terms of return, which is why three-storey townhouses are popular on developments. You may pay a premium to buy a bungalow, but its rarity factor should ensure it will hold its value.

Easy garden access

 Sasha Bhavan, senior partner with London-based KnoxBhavan Architects said that she is seeing a demand for bungalows from clients.

Single-level living is very popular with older clients anticipating mobility challenges later in life. A detached bungalow offers every room the opportunity of a seamless and easy relationship with the outside/garden.

Between the wars, bungalows were often very poorly built and because VAT for new construction is zero rated, historically buying a dilapidated old bungalow has offered the perfect opportunity, in planning and tax terms, to rebuild new on an existing site. Our current ambition to reduce carbon cuts across this. The aim now is to reuse existing fabric as much as possible to minimise the carbon footprint of development – a great case for changing the rules regarding VAT.

The advantages of bungalows include easy mobility for old age and the opportunity to engage with the garden from most rooms. Low lying by nature, they can also be easily absorbed in planning terms into the fabric of a rural, semi-rural or suburban context. Single storey, low lying bungalows are also often the ideal solution for back land city garden sites where they can sit invisibly between surrounding larger terraced and multi-storey houses.

The disadvantages are that they can be quite land greedy and so unsuitable where dense development is desired. Their form factor ratio tends not to be good i.e., the area of surrounding envelope (floors, roof and external walls) to footprint (surface area touching the ground). Foundations and slab supporting just a single storey is not the most efficient use of structure.

KnoxBhavan Architects designed Crowbrook, which replaced a badly built 1970’s bungalow, and was shortlisted for the RIBA Manser Medal in 2013. It was designed for a client who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and lived in a rambling old house; he said that moving into Crowbrook, with its flush thresholds and no steps, changed his life.

Contemporary bungalows attract all ages

While bungalows have considerable appeal, their build costs make them challenging for new homes developers, according to Guy Greenfield, of London-based Guy Greenfield Architects, which specialises in designing contemporary buildings.

He said:

There is certainly a demand for bungalows, though I’ve never been commissioned to build one with the brief stating it must be a bungalow. The obvious attraction is that not having stairs attracts the older market, though some people just like the idea of owning a bungalow.

The main issue for a developer and bungalows is that they are land greedy and expensive to build. It’s simple mathematics – development land is expensive, so for the main market a density of around 15 houses to the acre is what will be consented.

An acre is about 4,000 sq. m, and around 1/3 of that goes to roads, pavement and open space which means the remaining developable land is, say, 2,600 sq. m. Divide that by 15, that’s 180 sq. m per plot. A 3 to 4 bed house is typically 100 sq. m which in a traditional house is spread over two floors = 50 per floor. 180 – 50 leaves 130 sq. m for a driveway, garage, parking, and garden which is kind of OK for an estate house. In the case of a bungalow, 180 – 100 = 80 sq. m remaining and once you’ve taken off 30 sq. m for the drive and garage there is a very small plot left.

Additionally, there is the build cost. A bungalow, whilst not having a first-floor construction and staircase to pay for, the foundations, ground floor and roof are double the area of a traditional house. Then there is the wall area and roof area requiring more insulation which is expensive and from an environmental aspect, the prospect of greater heat loss.

Interestingly, at our development at ’Sun Houses’ (named because they all face south into walled gardens), because they were a contemporary rather than a traditional design, we had a lot of young buyers who simply liked the look of them, also the fact that all the habitable rooms, including the bedrooms, opened onto the walled garden. Some of these bought on the Help to Buy scheme which was probably also an attraction.

What’s your view about bungalows?

Do they offer a great way to live, or is living on one floor too restrictive?

Perhaps you feel that they are really designed for older people?

Let us know in the comment box below.

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