What type of property do I own?
Estate agents may have a categorical knowledge of the different property types, but as a layperson, you'd be forgiven for not knowing your semi from your studio.
It’s important to know, as your insurance company will need to assess the likelihood that you’ll need to make a claim – and some property types are more prone to issues than others.
It can be challenging to sort through the various property terminology in use. Why does your friend refer to their terraced property as a ‘townhouse’? What’s the difference between a flat and an apartment? And what on earth is a ‘maisonette’?
Let’s break it down with our no-nonsense guide to the main UK property types.
A single-level dwelling which shares a larger building with other residences and occasionally with business units (such as flats above shops).
Out of the almost 25 million dwellings in the UK, around a fifth are flats.1 Flats are commonly rented but are also a common choice for purchase due to their relatively low price compared to houses.
Some people refer to flats as apartments – for insurance purposes there’s no real difference.
Studios are self-contained units, with the living room, kitchen and bedroom in one open-plan space. They usually have a separate bathroom – either private or shared.
Studios can be ideal for single people or couples, especially if they prefer the minimalist lifestyle.
A loft is a studio or open-plan flat situated at the very top of a building. Lofts benefit from high ceilings and lots of natural light – although your bills might be higher thanks to large windows and lack of insulation.
If the agent is feeling fancy, you might hear lofts referred to as penthouses in the UK.
What the Americans call a duplex, maisonettes are flats – which may be across two levels – which have their own private entryway at ground level. The name means ‘little house’ in French – which is a pretty good description of what a maisonette is.
From grand Georgian crescents to the classic Victorian-era terraces found in virtually every town, terraced houses are a common sight across the UK.
Advantages of terraced houses are affordability, and those looking to buy a terraced property will find they hold their value well. They’re also frequently packed with attractive original features like high ceilings and fireplaces.
End of terrace
Situated at the end of a row of terraced houses, end terraces are similar to semi-detached houses as they only have a neighbour on one side.
End terraces usually fetch a higher price than mid-terraces, as people are ready to pay more for that little bit of extra land and the guarantee of silence on at least one side of the house.
A townhouse is similar to a terraced house, but people generally use the term townhouse if a property is situated in an inner-city setting. Townhouses usually have three or four storeys, including an attic and basement, and are not divided into multiple occupancy or flats.
The beloved semi is the most common property type in the UK. Built as two houses joined together, you’ll only share a dividing wall with one neighbour in a semi-detached house.
From the 18th century onwards, semis were built in suburban areas to house families and hardworking professionals, and not much has changed. However, building materials and styles look a little different today.
Semis offer a more affordable alternative to detached properties, and can be just as pleasant to live in – provided you like your neighbours.
Perhaps the most desirable property type, the detached house offers unrivalled privacy and space. You’ll usually get off-street parking and a good-sized garden, too.
Detached houses come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing’s consistent – they generally cost a good deal more than other property types in the same area.
The humble bungalow is a one-storey house which doesn’t have stairs, making it a good choice for older people or those with mobility issues that make it harder for them to climb stairs.
Some bungalows have had the attic space converted into a bedroom or studio with dormer windows, accessible by a ladder or small staircase – confusingly, they’re still referred to as a bungalow.
Barn conversions are among the most attractive and sought-after property types. A barn conversion is a historic farm building which has been fitted out for residential living while keeping charming original features such as vaulted ceilings and exposed beams. Many have modern bespoke touches such as large plate glass windows to the shell of the building and mezzanine floors within.
Your insurer will ask whether your barn conversion is box construction, cruck framed or post and truss – it’s all to do with how it’s built and how solid it is. You can find this information on a surveyor’s report.
Much like a barn conversion, cottages are built from historic materials and found in rural settings. Cottages are usually relatively small, although this isn’t always the case. Cottages can be pricey to insure, as the rebuild cost should they be destroyed would be high.
If a cottage has a thatched roof, expect to pay a premium for buildings insurance, as not only is thatch a fire risk, it would be costly to replicate.
More unusual dwelling types
The UK is home to some quirky residences, from windmills to oasthouses – and even a converted railway carriage.
They all have their own insurance implications. Anything outside of what’s considered ‘standard construction’ is pricier to insure as your insurer would need to shell out for specialists or artisans to rebuild a historic or unusual property like-for-like.
Things like flat roofs, wooden exterior panelling or any wacky architectural feature will likely increase your premiums. You'll also need specialist cover if a property is a listed building.
We hope this article has helped give you a better idea of the common UK property types and their insurance implications.