The semi-detached house with its bay windows and net curtains has long been ridiculed as an emblem of safe, lacklustre and desperately uncool suburban life; the homes of the likes of Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping up Appearances and more latterly Alan Partridge – but they could have the last laugh…
The semi can now laugh in the face of its posher detached counterpart, which saw a rise of only 397% in the same 21-year period. Looking at smaller properties, flats/apartments rose 480%, whilst terraced houses did better at 491% (although they were starting from a lower base and demand from buy to let landlords has had a big part in driving the values on that type of house (i.e. the price a buy to let landlord is prepared to pay is driven by the rent the landlord can achieve).
In 1995 the average value of a Cambridge semi stood at £82,800, today it stands at £446,100
Such is the attractiveness of semis, which are cheaper than detached houses but have most of the same benefits for families. Semi-detached houses were built in their hundreds of thousands by the Victorians and Edwardians between the wars and through to the present day. Interestingly in the late 19th Century and early 20th century – they often weren’t referred to as semi-detached – but as villas!
So whilst Europeans live on top of each other in apartments us British chose, in the late Victorian and early Edwardian times, suburban comfort, being near… but not too near, the neighbours! I once heard someone say the semi-detached house was a peculiar crossbreed that doesn’t stand on its own – it is inseparable from its neighbour – yet somehow still embodies a dream of suburban independence.
Over one in four houses in Cambridge is a semi-detached house
There are 15,525 semi-detached properties in Cambridge and they represent 28.26% of all the households in Cambridge. Cambridge has such a mix of semi-detached properties with the older classic bay fronted semis to more modern ones built in the last couple of decades. Especially with the older ones, the semi offered a hall to provided separation between the reception rooms and privacy for their occupants. Also the downstairs offered larger rooms to accommodate dining tables, whilst upstairs, bedrooms were smaller, yet cosy.
However, probably the most overlooked aspect of popularity for semis is the garden. The front garden, designed to separate the house from the world, and the back garden designed for private relaxation. The semi in the suburbs was relaxing, well presented, plumbed and enhanced by a garden so that when a window was opened the air had a chance of being genuinely fresh… and it’s for all those reasons why 259 semi-detached houses have been sold in Cambridge in the last 12 months alone. Still as popular today as they were with the Victorians all those years ago – some things just stand the test of time!