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POSTED 28 February 2018 General

What is a Semi-Detached House?

The first ‘semis’ were built by 17th century landowners, wanting inexpensive homes for their workers to match the grand appearance of their estates.

Today, your opinion on semi-detached houses probably depends on what you’re used to; they usually offer more space and (unless you’re unlucky!) privacy than a flat or terrace, but unlike detached homes, raise concerns about noisy neighbours.

We look at the pros and cons and answer key questions about semi-detached houses; what can and can’t you do to that ‘shared wall’?

Save money, waste space

You don’t need to be Stephen Hawking to see that replacing the air on one side of a detached house with another home, heated at another person’s expense, will save you energy and money!

Check your prospective house’s Energy Performance Certificate to see how it compares to your current set-up. Semi-detached houses also generally offer more outdoor space than terraces, from gardens to parking spaces and places to hide the bin; it’s this balance that makes them the most popular homes in the UK.

Noisy neighbours 

A con of semi-detached over detached is the potential for noise coming from next door. Concerned your neighbours will drive you mad? Arm yourself with an excuse - from asking who owns the garden fence to what they think of the local school - and go and meet them!

If you’re still concerned, view the property at different times and listen out for yourself. Being close to neighbours can also be a pro, offering more security and the chance to share expenses. 

Ownership technicalities

There’s no rule over who owns which fence in a semi-detached property; you don’t necessarily own the fence on the left, or the one with the structural components facing into your garden, although the original landowner should have noted it in the deeds.

We recommend establishing who owns what. Strictly speaking, even painting your side of your neighbour’s fence without permission counts as criminal damage!

Home improvement restrictions

Basic DIY to your side of the shared wall (known as the ‘party wall’), such as plastering or putting up shelves, is no one else’s business, but to insulate or cut into it (say, as part of a loft conversion) you will need to follow the Party Wall Act, which involves giving notice to your neighbours. The good news is they have to do the same for you! Find out more about the Party Wall Act here.

The cons of semi-detached houses - structural changes throwing up more paperwork than in a detached home, and the added risk of being disturbed by neighbours - are of course reflected in the price.

For over a quarter of the UK, semi-detached houses offer an affordable balance of space and privacy, just as they did in the 1600s!