City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

UK home buyers: “Design is not important”

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Depressing news in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’s recent report Housing Design: A Survey and Literature Review, as reported in The Times. 56% of respondents (residential chartered surveyors) said that cost and price was by far the most important factor to influence purchasers’ choice of home. In fact, only 5% of respondents said that the “type and design of the dwelling” was the most influential factor in house purchase choice. Also that high-density housing projects are generally thought to be “not in the financial interest of the purchaser”, despite the desperate need for higher-density housing in this sardine-packed country and the fact that flats and terraced-housing have increased by 149% and 202% respectively from 1992-2002 – a higher average increase than detached properties.

These sentiments are echoed in much of CABE’s publication What Home Buyers Want [PDF]:

“External appearance is rated very low on the list of new home buyers’ priorities, just above the appearance of adjoining housing and landscaping, which was bottom … Architectural style turns out to be less important, except that most people want to live in somewhere distinctive and with character – which is often expressed as a preference for old buildings rather than new … The surveys emphasise that modern housing is considered to be too dense … Without an understanding of what makes a scheme sustainable in the long term, we are in danger of building homes that meet targets in terms of numbers but which will fail to meet society’s needs and aspirations and will not be places people desire to live in the future.” [CABE: What Home Buyers Want, March 2005]

One comes away with an image of British house buyers who ideally gravitate towards soulless suburban/semi-rural gated ‘communities’, with as large a home as possible as far away from other people as possible. It seems unlikely that the UK is going to develop a new Barbican or Isokon for this century.

Both surveys further reinforce the notion that the ultimate goal of individual profit has obliterated apparently less tangible values of, say, a sense that the design of your home might also represent some expression of your self or those around you, or might be fit-for-purpose in terms of providing a enjoyable living space, or might simply lift the spirits, or suggest a wider civic sense of an appropriately-sized home, whose design is functionally and aesthetically sympathetic within a wider system of a neighbourhood, or connection with networks of public transport or public space etc etc etc … I guess those sentiments might increasingly sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown.


4 responses to “UK home buyers: “Design is not important””

  1. Hana Loftus Avatar

    Interesting coming on the back of this (which I felt the need to dissect here
    I really question the value of ‘asking people what they want’ in this way as people can only reply with reference to what they know. Other ways of engaging the public in a more creative way open up a much more open-ended dialogue where so many more scenarios become possible.


  2. Junk for Code Avatar

    Architecture: why worry about design

    I’ve noticed this in Australia. Architectural style and design is not important for house buyers. Their concerns are price and…


  3. Mark Baker Avatar

    Depressing results – although I was recently very impressed by the number of people attending Grand Designs Live – it was utterly packed on the day I went!

    Results like this do reinforce my current long-term plan of moving to Holland, where they seems to have a greater acceptance/appreciation of the social impact of housing. They also have some excellent new builds, such as eastern docklands.

    But really there’s no reason why UK home buyers/builders should be so wedded to the past. Perhaps Kevin McCloud and Wayne Hemmingway haven’t been as successful as I thought… 😦


  4. Junk for Code Avatar

    » Trackback: Architecture: why worry about design from Junk for Code: “I’ve noticed this in Australia. Architectural style and design is not important for house buyers. Their concerns are price and…” [Read More]


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