Your complete guide to buying a bungalow

The humble bungalow may get sniffed at in some quarters but it is a desirable living option. This guide to buying a bungalow will help you.

6
minute read
Last updated:
August 25, 2020

The humble bungalow may get sniffed at in some quarters as being a bit dull and stuffy and rather out of date, but these single storey homes regularly top the polls of the best places to live. In research carried out by MORI for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, no less than 30% of people named bungalows as the most desirable housing type, beating the traditional ‘village house’ into second place.

Yet despite being firmly in fashion amongst homebuyers, especially the older generation who are attracted to the single-level ease of access, the building of new bungalows is in steady decline.

So, why should you consider buying a bungalow, what are the advantages of bungalow living, and how can you beat the shortage of bungalows on the market?

In a recent study, 30% of people named bungalows as the most desirable housing type

The history of bungalows

For many people, the bungalow symbolises the typical British way of life. However, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

The name comes from India, where the Hindi word, bangla, which means ‘of Bengal’, was used to describe simple, single storey dwellings during the colonial years. As these western colonists returned to the UK, they brought with them the bungalow concept.

The first bungalows appeared in Britain on the Kent coast in 1869, and their popularity grew steadily during the early part of the twentieth century.

The housing style was given a boost by the demand for quick, cheap homes after the second world war, with more than 150,000 ‘prefabs’ built as temporary housing in the second half of the 1940s. Many of these so-called temporary homes remained until well into the 21st century.

Far from being a purely British idea, bungalows are hugely popular across the globe, especially in countries such as Australia, South Africa and the United States, where building land is much more abundant than it is here in the UK.

The benefits of bungalow living

For many buyers, the primary advantage of buying a bungalow is the lack of stairs. With the Papworth Trust estimating that there are around 1.8m disabled people living in the UK, and a general population that is ageing rapidly, there is a great demand for level-access living.

Many older people choose an over 55 retirement bungalow either to give them better access now, or preparation for their needs in later life. Since they have fewer supporting walls, and are usually built on larger plots, bungalows are easier to adapt as your needs change. Doorways can be widened to accommodate a wheelchair, and subject to planning, you can easily extend outwards or upwards to make your home bigger.

If you are looking to expand, either laterally or up into the roof space, then you need to check in advance that you will be able to get planning permission to do so.

Of course, access isn’t the only reason for choosing a bungalow. Some families are attracted to the open plan style of bungalow designs, which bring people together socially rather than separating them in different living rooms like a traditional three-bed semi. Even without changing the structure, the flexible layout of a bungalow allows you to arrange the way you use the rooms to suit your lifestyle.

The downsides of buying a bungalow

While there are many advantages of buying a bungalow, there are also a few drawbacks. Many people ask why are bungalows so expensive, and it is simply down to the space per plot. Naturally with just one floor, you will get far less living space and therefore pay more per square foot for your home. This explains why bungalows are more expensive than houses.

This lack of space can also create a flip side to the open plan living arrangements. Bungalow floor plans often mean that peripheral rooms, such as bedrooms, are compromised and storage space is at a premium. As a result, you may not enjoy the luxuries, such as a laundry room or en-suite, which you might find in a two storey home.

Security and privacy can also be an issue for some, as all your rooms, including your bathroom and bedroom, are on the ground floor and therefore easier to see into or access from the street. Planting shrubs, bushes and hedging can increase privacy, but this in turn makes your home more vulnerable, as thieves can operate out of sight of passers-by.

Is buying a bungalow right for you?

Looking at the pros and cons above, it is clear that there are a number of both practical and lifestyle factors that must be considered when choosing a bungalow to buy. Bungalow life isn’t for everyone, and you need to be sure you will feel at home there. Just the idea of sleeping downstairs, opposite the lounge, can feel unsettling if you have only ever lived in a traditional house.

A similar, desirable alternative could be living in a park home. Read more about the benefits of Residential Park Homes here.

When looking at bungalows, it is important to do your research into the neighbourhood. Talk to your potential neighbours about safety, security and privacy, and make sure that the local community matches your needs and your lifestyle. Many bungalows are set in quiet, secluded cul-de-sacs and closes, which might be a little too quiet and retired for family living or the more youthful end of your golden years!

The new bungalow building crisis

Despite being one of the most popular housing types with buyers, bungalows are apparently not so popular with property developers. Inside Housing estimates that there are just half a million bungalows in Britain, just 2% of the total 27.2m homes registered in 2017, and it is not getting any better.

Bungalows accounted for just 2,482 of the new homes registered in Britain in 2015 (2%) compared to 42,173 detached homes (27%) and 35,423 semi-detached (23%) according to the National House Building Council figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) identified 18% of the UK population as over the age of 65 in 2016, and predicts that this will rise to almost 24% by 2036. Yet despite this surge in demand for retirement housing, bungalows are simply not seen as a profitable enough use of land in the current economic climate.

Bungalows are simply not seen as a profitable enough use of land in today's world, so only around 2% of the new homes being built each year are bungalows.

When developers can often get twice as many two storey homes on the same amount of land as a bungalow, and they can generate even higher returns per square foot if they build flats, there is simply no incentive for them to create this type of home.

The current shortage of land, and the ever increasing demands on developers’ profits, are starkly reflected in the figures. More than ten times as many bungalows were built in 1986 as were built in 2015 (26,406 compared to just 2,482 according to NHBC figures), and 2016 saw more than 200 fewer still, with just 2,210 bungalows built.

In fact, the report by the Papworth Trust goes as far as to predict that new bungalow building may stop altogether within a few years.

Just 2,210 bungalows were built in 2016 compared to 26,406 in 1986

Fewer old bungalows in the market

Not only are there fewer new bungalows being built, there are also fewer opportunities to buy older properties in the bungalow market. Unlike other house types, which are bought and sold frequently, bungalows tend to change hands far less often, as people retire to these properties and are less inclined to move again in their later life.

House Simple’s analysis of Rightmove home sales data, reported by Moneywise.co.uk, found a serious shortage of bungalows. Their study found that fewer than 7% of homes on the market in the UK are bungalows and this is often exacerbated by significant regional variations. Cities such as Portsmouth (2%) Oxford (2.2%), Cambridge (2.5%) and Manchester (3.8%) were found to have even less bungalow stock to choose from.

On the positive side, this means that bungalows will always be in demand and so will retain their value well compared to other properties, even in adverse conditions such as in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic.

Be ready to buy

So, with so few bungalows available, and a YouGov poll claiming that as many as 30% of us would like to move to one in our retirement, how do you go about beating the competition and finding your dream home?

The most important aspect in buying a bungalow is to get yourself into a position where if an opportunity does arise, you are ready to grasp it straight away. Tony Fullbrook, Head of Purchase Mortgages at Barclays, interviewed by the Times, had this advice for potential bungalow buyers:

Ensure your finances are in order and that you are in a position to move fast.
- Tony Fullbrook, Head of Purchase Mortgages at Barclays

So if you're hoping for a bungalow, you our service may be the perfect option for you. Our home-buying service means you can sell your house quickly, with a formal offer in as little as 2-3 days, and completion within a timeframe to suit you. (Much quicker than the 7 months and average house sale takes).

Our service is all about putting you in control, allowing you to make an offer straight away when a bungalow first appears on the market. We can arrange completion at your convenience to help secure the property. And with ready cash, no chain and total flexibility to fit around the seller, there is no chance that you will be beaten by another buyer.

Call us on 0800 133 7687 to learn more and see about getting an offer from us. You’ll be ready to bag that bungalow as soon as it appears, and start living the single storey lifestyle that is so popular around the world - from Bengal to Brisbane.

To read more about downsizing and retirement liing options, visit our main Retirement & Downsizing Hub.

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