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The UK’s housing market horrors

12 minute read

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Getting a foot on the housing ladder can be extremely difficult in the UK, and it’s only getting harder.

  • The housing market is full of absurd homes
  • Get to grips with some real estate buzzwords
  • Make sure you sort your building and contents insurance ahead of buying a new home

Since the pandemic the housing market has been booming with house prices increasing 11.8% between July 2021 and July 2022. With this boom comes some housing market horrors that are making it into the property listings.

These days the news and social media is flooded with outrageous properties. Whether it’s tiny flats that go for an arm and a leg in central London, or a derelict castle in the Scottish Highlands which looks a steal but is actually a real penny pincher, us Brits love listings that make the jaw drop. So, let’s take a look at just a few of these housing market horrors.

Warning, this article really does contain the good, the bad and the ugly.

Tiny studio or twenty family homes?

You’d anticipate that spending £599,950 on a home or £2,505 on rent per month would get you a rather fancy residence with lots of room, a wonderful layout and a spacious garden. But you can think again if you're house hunting in central London. 

Whilst house prices have been above average in the capital for a while, the average price of a tiny studio flat in Marleybone is equivalent to the cost of 20 terraced homes in Shildon, County Durham which is coincidentally the cheapest town to purchase property in Britain. 

A one bed flat based in Marleybone made headlines as the listing described the property as ‘a beautifully bright studio’ with ‘open living/kitchen sleeping area’ it also mentioned that the shoebox flat had ‘ample storage’. This embellished description may have been an attempt to distract from the fact that the double bed is in the kitchen and the ample storage appears to be a few shelves in the hallway. 

Breakfast, lunch and dinner in bed, anyone?

Geography matters

Britain is known for some of the smallest homes in Europe, with the average total floor area for UK homes being 96 sq metres.

Outrageously, the smallest flat to ever grace the market was a mere 7 sq metres. The apartment was located in Lower Clapton, London and sold in 2017 for an astonishing £103,500. In 2019 another absurdly small property hit the housing market, at just 9 square metres, the Hackney flat was listed for £130,000. But the landlord had to settle for renters when even after 28 viewings no one snapped it up.

These homes may be unusually small, but the average sized home in Greater London is 45.74 square metres. To put that into perspective, that’s around the size of a Jubilee line Tube carriage - does the London commute ever end?

In contrast to these shoebox properties, the average West Midlands buyer is looking at 104.92 sq metres. Residents of Yorkshire and the Humber will be pleased to know they can get a great deal of space for their money, ranking second in terms of square metres at just under 100. 

Talking of size, these ridiculously small flats are an example of the emerging trend of super small homes. Experts are attributing the rise in popularity of small homes to rising rent and house prices, and people becoming more savvy with the way they spend. 

Microflats seem to be getting smaller as the demand for them grows, 1 in 15 apartments in London fall below the national minimum standard of 37 square metres for a one-bedroom home and the number of microflats is only increasing.

While some might enjoy the fact you can cook without leaving your bed in some of these places, the reality is that a tiny home might not be good in the long run. With the ability to divide your living, working and leisure space being crucial for sleep and good mental health. Don’t believe us?, then trust Just ask the experts… Philip Hubbard, a professor of urban studies at King's College London recommends buyers look for flats that are comfortably larger than 37 square metres. 

The UK housing market is full of absurd homes

Looking to insure your home?

Whether you're buying a microflat with just enough space for you and your laptop, or a spacious home, make sure you take out buildings insurance, depending on whether you’re buying it on a leasehold or freehold basis. Check out our simple guide to flat insurance to find out which level of cover you might need.


Everyone loves a view

For many, a good view is a priority when it comes to property hunting, with rolling hills in the countryside or beautiful cityscapes at the top of many peoples' lists.

When a two bedroom bungalow went on the market in Nursling, Southampton for £350,000, around £75,000 less than the average house price in the street, buyers might have gotten excited at the prospect of bagging a bargain.

The property was described as ‘well presented’ and ‘in a popular area’, the bungalow even had a lovely log burner in the lounge and a spacious conservatory for the new residents to relax in. But the listing forgot to mention the 118ft metal pylon, complete with its own barbed wire and danger sign, sitting slap bang in the front garden.

Perhaps the estate agents should be forgiven for the lack of description as photos of the property make the enormous electricity pylon pretty hard to miss. The floor plan of the bungalow revealed that with only the entrance hall and one bedroom at the front of the house, once inside, the pylon would be much less noticeable.

On the positive side, the eyesore might make your life easier when it comes to ordering takeaways or getting things delivered - it’s not like the local delivery guy is going to miss the only house on the street with an electricity mast outside.

A bit of a fixer-upper

So, you fancy buying a fixer-upper and putting your own stamp on your new property?

It’s your lucky day, a Grade-II listed castle hit the market in Wales offering 26 bedrooms, with views of Conwy and Snowdonia peaks and 2.6 acres of grounds surrounded by a gothic castle wall it seems a steal for £1.25 million.

However, while picturesque, the castle is rather rundown with any future owner needing to be prepared to provide some serious TLC. So, maybe that’s not such a bargain after all. 

If you’re looking for a serious renovation project, and a location with no neighbours in sight, why not consider this derelict house on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. It’s optimistically described as having ‘real potential’, and whilst it’s in need of a new roof, new windows, and new doors it is on the market for just £15,000. 

For some, these options could offer the perfect escape from city life - and can you really put a price on that?

The reality of real estate buzzwords

Whilst a picture can say a 1000 words, when those pictures aren’t too pretty and the appearance of a property might be a deal-breaker for buyers or renters, real estate agents and property owners need to think outside the box. They have to rely on some clever real estate lingo and creative descriptions to emphasise a property’s benefits…

  • Original condition: A charming way of saying that the previous owner didn’t maintain the property and it’s pretty run down. So if you like a project listen out for this.
  • Cosy: There is no room to swing a cat. Absolutely none.
  • One-of-a-kind: The decor is likely from a different era and not to everyone's taste. Think 70s carpets, peach or mint green bathroom fixtures and retro fireplaces that may become a nightmare to remove.
  • Low-maintenance garden: The polite way to say the backyard has been paved over or the soil is so rocky that nothing will grow there.
  • The last one: Often used when a development is selling fast, but the property may be the ugly duckling that nobody wants to buy so watch out.
  • Perfect starter home: It’s cheap with bad transport links, or it’s so crammed that you may not be there for very long if you’re looking at starting a family.
  • Three bedroom delight: The cute way of saying the property has two real bedrooms and the last is pretty much a cupboard which a single bed might just squeeze into.

Home sweet home

These are not the only unusual properties to grace the market, and they certainly won’t be the last. The UK housing market is suffering from an imbalance between supply and demand, and with stocks of houses stretched thin, sometimes ridiculous properties are the only option.

Whether the home you’re looking to buy is a little absurd or just the right fit, one thing all homeowners need to consider is insurance. When it comes to building insurance, getting your cover arranged in advance of the sale exchange is highly recommended, as this will enable the policy to come into full effect on the exchange date.

Once you do manage to navigate the absurdities of the housing market, insuring your home and your belongings can give you some peace of mind that your property is safe and sound.

Have we got you thinking about home insurance?