Learn­ing how to do the sums over space for liv­ing

It pays to be savvy about the square me­tres when it comes to buy­ing a home, es­pe­cially in York­shire. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE -

SHOW homes are de­signed to be se­duc­tive but the picture per­fect in­te­ri­ors can you leave you blind to re­al­ity.

Be­fore “oohing” at the glossy kitchen and “ah­hing” at the fash­ion­able soft fur­nish­ings, you should check out the square me­tres, say the Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects.

The RIBA’S Case for Space re­port re­veals that the av­er­age new home in Bri­tain is eight square me­tres short of a rec­om­mended min­i­mum size. York­shire is the worst per­former. Here, the av­er­age new three-be­d­room home is 83m2, which is 13m2 less than stan­dards re­cently set out for London.

The prob­lem is that many buy­ers can’t re­late the num­bers to space, which is why RIBA’S York­shire branch is tak­ing to the streets.

On May 10 and 11 from 11am to 3pm, a team headed by RIBA re­gional di­rec­tor Emma Eng­land, will be lay­ing out an 8m2 lino mat topped with a sofa in Vic­to­ria Gar­dens on the Head­row in Leeds.

The aim is to show peo­ple what is miss­ing from the av­er­age new­build, though the square me­tre mes­sage is one that is equally use­ful for those buy­ing older homes.

Re­becca Roberts-hughes, au­thor of the Case for Space re­port, says: “Eight square me­tres may not sound a lot but it is the equiv­a­lent of a sin­gle be­d­room, seven square me­tres is a gal­ley kitchen, so in life­style terms it’s the space for a new ar­rival to the fam­ily, the space that means the kids have a room of their own. It’s the space that could take the kitchen out of the lounge and the sounds and smells that go with it.”

The RIBA is cam­paign­ing for bet­ter la­belling and un­der­stand­ing. It wants house-builders and es­tate agents to high­light the over­all floor area of a prop­erty along with in­dica­tive floor plans fea­tur­ing fur­ni­ture.

It has also called on the Gov­ern­ment to work with the house build­ing in­dus­try to pro­duce a vol­un­tary agree­ment to en­sure de­vel­op­ers pub­lish data about size.

York­shire es­tate agency Dacre Son and Hartley was one of the first to in­tro­duce floor plans on prop­erty brochures, but its New Homes di­rec­tor John Shaw says buy­ers are still largely ig­no­rant about square me­tres and what they mean.

“In my ex­pe­ri­ence most buy­ers don’t ask about floor area, though we were one of the first to in­clude floor plans on prop­erty de­tails and this helps a buyer con­sid­er­ably, both in terms of ap­pre­ci­at­ing the space and the lay­out,” says Mr Shaw, who adds that other fac­tors should be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.

“I would be in favour of the floor area be­ing used more widely by de­vel­op­ers to pro­mote aware­ness of space but by do­ing so buy­ers could fo­cus too much on that num­ber rather than other things such as lay­out, qual­ity and lo­ca­tion.

“If you ask a buyer if they want more space then they are likely to say ‘yes’ but af­ford­abil­ity is the most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion. It’s all very well build­ing more spa­cious new homes but buy­ers need to be able to af­ford them. Size does af­fect cost. In­ter­est­ingly, we have seen one of our house-builder clients re­turn to plan­ning half way through a scheme to ob­tain con­sent for smaller two storey homes as it be­came ap­par­ent that they were sell­ing bet­ter than the larger three storey houses with a big­ger floor area.”

But John Or­rell, chair of RIBA York­shire Re­gional Coun­cil and founder mem­ber of the re­gional hous­ing group is adamant that we should be build­ing big­ger.

“It is very dis­ap­point­ing that the York­shire and Hum­ber re­gion has the worst record in the coun­try.

“It is dif­fi­cult to ac­cept why fam­i­lies in our re­gion have to set­tle for less. Fac­tors that may in­flu­ence the size and af­ford­abil­ity of new homes, such as land val­ues and plan­ning re­stric­tions are equally oner­ous, if not more so, in many other regions, so it is time for peo­ple in our area to be both­ered about be­ing bot­tom and de­mand bet­ter.”

The to­tal floor area of a prop­erty is al­ways in­cluded on the first page of a prop­erty’s en­ergy per­for­mance certificate, which should be made avail­able to prospec­tive buy­ers. Check whether the fig­ure is gross in­ter­nal or ex­ter­nal.

The RIBA’S web­site www. be­home­wise.co.uk in­cludes The Nest Test, an easy-to-use on­line cal­cu­la­tor, that helps home seek­ers to find out what the floor area of their home should be ac­cord­ing to the rec­om­mended stan­dards.

When you have the floor area you can also check whether the price of the prop­erty is good value for the area. To do this, di­vide the price of the prop­erty by the floor area to get a price per square me­tre. For ex­am­ple, for a prop­erty which costs £200,000 and has a to­tal floor area of 50m2 the cal­cu­la­tion is £200,000 / 50m2 = £4,000 per m2. In this way you can com­pare the price per square me­tre of dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties, though other fac­tors such as style, lo­ca­tion and out­side space can af­fect the prop­erty value, so be sure to com­pare like with like.

BREATH­TAK­ING SCENERY: Three Tuns sits in an idyl­lic po­si­tion in Farndale in the North York Moors na­tional park. The prop­erty, a for­mer inn, has four bed­rooms, two bath­rooms and a re­cently con­verted stu­dio.

IN­SIDE STORY: Don’t be blinded by beau­ti­ful in­te­ri­ors, do the square me­tre sums. Would there be room for this sofa from the Sleep Room?

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