What is a terraced house?

Whether you are looking to rent or buy a property, one of the main things on your list of considerations is the house type. When you dig under the surface a little, there are actually a bewildering array of different types and names for each type. We’ve all heard of detached, semi-detached and terraced, but there are cottages, flats, bungalows, mews, townhouses, end-of-terrace, studio flats, split level flats and even mansions. In this guide we are going to take a look at terraced houses, what defines them, the different types and a little about their history.

What is a terraced house?

A terrace house is one that shares both side walls with a neighbour, i.e., is in the middle and joined to two other houses. Typically, these individual dwellings form a long row of houses along a residential street although a terrace can be only 3 houses long, which is the minimum. Typically, a terraced house will be 2 or three stories high and only 2 or 3 rooms deep. Traditionally the room which is entered directly from the street, the front room, would be used to greet guests and the back room would be used as a private living area. Quite often there will be alleys between terraced houses with a room from one of the properties above it. This allows access to the rear gardens.

What type of Terraced houses are there?

Essentially there are two main types of terraced houses and these are mid-terrace houses and end-of-terrace houses. They are pretty self-explanatory. A mid terrace is any property which is bordered by two others. In a row of say ten properties, every property apart from the two at the end would be classed as mid-terraced. End-of-Terrace properties are those at the end of the row of properties and are bordered only by one other property. That sounds like a semi-detached property, doesn’t it? That is not the case and we will look at this next.

Terraced house vs semi-detached

You could be forgiven for thinking an end-of-terrace property is a semi-detached house, as it is only attached to one other property. This is not normally the case though and that is to simply distinguish the two types more readily. A semi-detached property is deemed to be a property that is built as a pair and connected to one other property. An end-of-terrace is built at the end of a larger row of properties. Although perhaps a distinction without a difference to a buyer or renter, the difference in definition does allow an easy understanding of the type of property being referred to, which is important for other considerations like home insurance.

Why are terraced houses so common in the UK?

Terraced houses were first introduced into London from Italy in the 1600’s. After the great fire of London in 1666 large areas needed to be rebuilt and terraced houses were the solution to the problem. 

The terraced house increased in popularity. In the 1700’s rich landowners built properties on their estates to rent out and generate cash. The quickest and cheapest way to do this was to link the properties together to form the terrace. 

During the industrial revolution, when large factories sprang up all over the country, the factory owners wanted their workforce to live close by and started to build properties which they then rented to the workers. Again, due to the speed and expense terraced houses were the preferred option, but also because more properties could be built in a smaller space. This led to thousands of terraced properties being built up and down the country to service the surge in manufacturing.

Types of Period Terraced House

Although many terraces were built in the industrial revolution and even after the first world war as the country rebuilt, due to their history many period terraced houses still exist and each has slightly different features:

  • Georgian Terraced Houses started life in the 1600’s as expensive, luxury properties designed for the wealthy. Typically, very tall at 3-4 storeys, they boasted large sash windows
  • Victorian Terraced houses typically had large bay windows, ornate fireplaces and stained glass windows, which, these days, are sought after original features. 
  • Edwardian Terraced houses tend to be shorter than their predecessors and feature more ornate chimneys, decorative windows and porches and often have mock Tudor cladding.

Is a terrace house a good investment?

Terrace houses are still very popular with smaller families and first time buyers and, as such, are a good investment. The reason for their popularity is that they tend to be well located in most towns and cities and they are also relatively well priced compared to equivalently sized semi-detached properties. Looking at the office for National Statistics house price data for September 2022, the average price for a semi-detached property in England was £302,715 and a terraced property was £258,044. What is also clear, though, is that the prices of terraced houses have been climbing year on year with a 9.1% increase from 2021 to 2022. So, are terraced houses easy to sell? Terraced houses are very popular and it is less about the property itself than the location as is often the case with a property transaction. So, a well-maintained terraced property in a good location, will be in demand.

Why are terraced houses cheaper?

There are a few main reasons why terraced houses are cheaper than other types of houses:

  • Less outdoor space. Typically, a terraced house will only have a very small, enclosed and overlooked garden.
  • Less indoor space. Because terraced properties were mainly built for factory workers in the industrial revolution, little thought was really given to space and comfort. As such, many terraced houses, especially the older ones, tend to be smaller internally
  • Limited parking. When terraced properties were originally built there were no cars around so parking was not an issue. In the modern world families have multiple cars, but with no garages or drives, parking around terraced properties can be difficult.

It is clear then that there are pros and cons to terraces so let’s take a look at them.

Pros and cons when buying a terraced house

Mid-terraced properties are energy efficientParking can be an issue
Terraced properties cost lessPotential for noise from neighbours
Solid build qualityGarden mostly overlooked
Sense of communityRenovations or extensions can be tricky

Having looked at the pros and cons, let’s have a look at addressing a few of these cons. Perhaps one of the biggest to address is the potential noise issue from neighbours so the question on everyone’s lips is “can you soundproof a terraced house?”. Luckily the answer is yes, but the solution will likely eat into the space in the property a little. Most terraced houses have a plastered brick wall between the properties. The only effective way to soundproof the walls is to build a stud wall over the brick surface and install foam sound insulation between the stud wall and the original wall. Although this won’t cut out 100% of the noise, it will significantly reduce it.

Another question asked by those considering a move to a terraced house is: “are terraced houses warm?” The answer really depends. By default, they have nice thick brick walls either side and are attached to other properties which are presumably also being heated. As such they should be more thermally efficient, but it all depends on the quality of the windows and the insulation in the loft. With good quality windows and decent loft insulation a terraced property will be warmer than an equivalent semi-detached.

Terraced House Alleyways

As mentioned earlier, quite often terraced houses have alleyways between them and some even have part of their property above these alleyways (these are called flying freeholds) and that can cause some contention if the ownership and access rights are not sorted properly. So, who owns the alley between terraced houses? For registered properties or alleyways, the ownership of the alleyway will be shown on the title plans. A good conveyancer will be able to determine this. The important thing when looking at alleyways is to determine who has right of access through the alley. This would typically be in the form of a private granted easement for the specific purpose stated. These Easements will be seen on section C of the title deeds which is the charges register. Again, a good conveyancer should be able to search for this. If you are buying a terraced property with an alley you might be the title holder with the easement, in which case you have to allow access as required by the easement. If you are purchasing a property with an alley next to it which you don’t own you will need to check the easements to see if they allow a right of way. When it comes to terraced properties with a flying freehold, be this an overhang above an alley or a cellar under an alley, things can get complicated. We would recommend, whenever there is an alley between two terraced houses to enlist the services of a conveyancer who has specialist experience in terraced house legal aspects.

What to look for when viewing a terraced house to buy

There are plenty of things you’ll want to look at when viewing a property in general, but there are some extra things to look at when viewing a terraced property:

  • Alleyways and flying freeholds. As we just discussed these can cause some complex legal problems, so if these are present ask the owner all about them
  • Parking and garden space. Check to see if there is a residents’ parking scheme or allocated parking. As far as the garden is concerned, how big is it? How overlooked is it? Check for any alleyways at the bottom of the garden 
  • Check the overall construction of the property and the adjoining properties. Are there any issues with roof tiles, gutters, brickwork or windows. As properties are joined together any problems with neighbouring properties could affect the property you are looking at.
  • When in the property, try to be really silent for a moment to see what the noise from neighbours is like and also check for the amount of light coming into the property too as some terraced properties can be quite dark.

Although there are many different types of property in the UK, terraced houses are a common feature up and down the country. Many come with some amazing original period features which are a real selling point. If you have any questions on terraced properties, are specifically looking to buy a terraced property or for any property related queries you might have, why not pop in to see one of our local experts they will be pleased to be offered any assistance you need.