Garden size and property desirability

Can a garden be too big? And when is a garden too small?

As professional property finders, Stacks often hear that ‘the garden is not the right size’, which may well be true for the individual buyer, but we do believe that there is a general expectation that the ‘garden is the right size for the house’ which will determine whether a buyer is disappointed or not upon viewing a property.

So how big should a garden be? Stacks Property Search has established some rules about the minimum expectations when buying a property:

  • Urban flats and apartments don’t need a garden, but their value will be enhanced if they have some outside space in the form of a balcony, roof terrace, or communal garden.
  • The less rural a property is, the less garden it needs. So a townhouse garden can be substantially smaller than the garden that goes with a rural property of the same square footage.
  • The closer to the centre of a village, town or city, the smaller the garden can be.
  • Houses in prime central London (e.g. Mayfair, Knightsbridge) don’t need a garden, but outside space will add value.
  • Houses in prime non-central London (e.g. Fulham, Clapham), town centre or village centre properties need a minimum of a small patch, enough space for outside entertaining, or a small dog to do the odd circuit. Think of it as an outdoors room.
  • Houses in prime outer London (e.g. Wimbledon), edge of town and edge of village houses should ideally have a garden that is at least the same size as the square footage of the property.

Rural properties, outside town or village boundaries, need a great deal more space. A six bedroom rural house should have an acre of garden, five bedroom house should have ¾ acre, and a four bedroom house should have ½ acre. It’s important not to get ‘garden’ confused with ‘land’. Any land should be in addition to garden space.

Gardens in new developments started to feel uncomfortably small in the late ’90s and have become increasingly inadequate.  A garden that is smaller than the footprint of its house for a rural or edge-of-village new development is not big enough. Yet this is what many new developers provide.  Developers who follow the above expectations will find that they can get top-dollar for their high-spec property, but not if they think it’s alright to squeeze it into a tiny overlooked plot.

Can a garden be too big?

In Stacks’ opinion, a garden can’t be too big. If it’s too much for the owner to maintain, it’s an easy task to rearrange the space so that the excess is permitted to go wild. There will be some related expenses, but we would rarely suggest that a too large garden is a reason not to buy a property – unless ease of maintenance was the reason for the move in the first instance!

While size matters, it’s not everything. Shape and access are also important. Small gardens will, ideally, be equally wide as the property itself, and will be accessed from the rear of the property. Front garden space is good if it’s in addition to rear garden, but compromises a property if it’s the only garden it has. The best gardens wrap around the property on three or four sides.

Other issues that play an important part are aspect and gradient, whether a garden is overlooked, and how it integrates with the property. 

A good communal garden can make amends for a compromised private garden. One of the most attractive arrangements is a small patch of private garden opening directly onto communal gardens. The advantage is your own perfectly small patch, and wonderful views of green space maintained by somebody else! But check rules and regulations relating to communal gardens – some don’t allow dogs, barbecues, music, and all sorts of the kind of things that most people want to do in gardens! Sara Ransom from our London office has some interesting opinions on London gardens here.

So how much outside space should you buy ?

Rules, of course, are made to be broken, and this is not to say that your ideal garden size is the norm. But buyers of property who are prepared to accept less rather than more should be prepared to also accept that they are compromising, that the value will be affected, and resale may be more difficult when the next buyer’s expectations are not met.

Each individual property will have its own set of compromises to make of course, For example, we often help clients determine whether ‘the view’  – what you are looking at – or ‘the vista’  – the length of view  – is more important to them, the second being potentially harder to control over the years. For more on how we help clients navigate a property search, please see out Property Finder Service.

Buyers looking for land or small-holdings have a different set of concerns, and we have advice for you here and here.

Buyers basing their out-of-London buying decisions on their young children’s requirement for large quantities of outside space should remember that they will soon be teenagers and will prefer to spend their leisure time a little further from home, returning only to be fed or driven somewhere more interesting.  There is lots of advice for family househunting in our Families section.

Downsizers who are keen on gardening often over-estimate the size of garden that will ‘be enough’ going forward – focus on the quality of the garden : accessibility, the view, privacy, practicality and maintenance potential – rather than the sheer quantity.  There is more help with many other Downsizing Dilemmas here.

 

Stacks Property Search helps clients analyse every aspect of a house purchase, including the appropriate garden size and its impact on house value. For more on how Stacks can help, contact us

 

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