When you’re looking at moving to a new house, people tend to look at ‘common’ property types – detached, semi-detached, terraced, being some of the most popular. It’s very rare that anyone immediately thinks of a cluster house as their ideal property type, leaving them often quite overlooked.
Perhaps you’ve never heard of a cluster house and now you’re wondering what they are and how they compare to other properties.
Well, you’ve come to the right place! We’re going to talk through everything you need to know, including the pros and cons and whether or not they’re a good option if you’re looking to move.
Got a specific question and want a quick answer? Use the menu below to help:
- What is a cluster house?
- How does a cluster house compare?
- Advantages of cluster housing
- Disadvantages of cluster housing
- Are cluster houses good?
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What is a cluster house?
A cluster house, also known as a strata-landed house, is a unique property type that is set out in groups close to each other. On the surface, a cluster house can look like a terraced house, semi-detached house or a bungalow, but it doesn’t actually fall into the category of any of these property types.
A cluster house is normally built as a cluster development, within a gated community. There may be open communal land, which provides an opportunity for residential development, such as communal gyms or swimming pools, although the swimming pools are less common in the UK.
As a result of the houses being in a gated community, sharing communal space, maintenance and upkeep costs are split between the houses. Having said this, though, it’s not uncommon for cluster houses in the UK to be built on a street with many other different property types, meaning they’re not always built in a ‘cluster development’.
A cluster house is a freehold property, meaning each owner will own their property outright, including the land it’s built on, meaning there’s no ground rent to pay.
To easily identify a cluster house, the property must have the following characteristics:
- Properties in the cluster must share at least two-party walls, with the rear wall of each property also being a shared party wall
- Cluster houses of six or more properties will share a communal garden space
- The property will be a freehold
- Cluster houses in a group of four will have a side garden rather than a back garden, as the back of their house will be joined to another property
- A cluster house will own its own section of roof, even if it’s attached to multiple other cluster houses
How does a cluster house compare?
A cluster house is an unusual property type and due to its look can be confused with other property types. We’re going to compare cluster houses to more ‘common’ properties, to help you understand the difference.
Cluster house vs terraced house
A terraced house must share at least one-party wall with other properties in the cluster, with their back wall not attached to another property. A cluster house must share at least two common walls, with their back wall also shared with another property.
Some may confuse a mid-terrace with a cluster house, as they both share two common walls, but the key difference is a mid-terrace doesn’t have a property attached at the back, allowing them to have a back garden, which is something a cluster house won’t have.
Cluster house vs semi-detached house
A semi-detached house will only ever share one common wall with another property and will also never have its back wall attached, meaning they tend to have both a front, side and back garden.
This differs from cluster housing, which has at least two common walls and their back wall attached, leaving only room for a side garden.
Semi-detached housing also tends to be more expensive in comparison.
Cluster house vs flats and apartments
Flats and apartments tend to be leasehold properties, that don’t own any section of roof on the building. This differs from cluster housing which are freehold properties and does own their section of the roof.
Flats and apartments also tend not to have a garden, unlike a cluster house.
However, flats and apartments do have some similarities with cluster houses, with them all contributing a fee towards the maintenance of common areas, and they all share at least two common party walls.
Cluster house vs maisonette
A key difference between maisonettes and cluster houses is that a maisonette tends to be a leasehold property, whereas a cluster house is a freehold property.
A maisonette is also split horizontally, with the owner either occupying the upstairs or downstairs. This differs from a cluster house, where it’s split vertically, so each property won’t have a complete floor, but will have a bit of an upstairs and a bit of a downstairs.
Maisonettes will always have service charges to pay, which cluster houses will also pay, but only if there are areas of communal land or amenities.
Advantages of cluster housing
Whether you’re considering purchasing a cluster house, or you’re just curious about what they offer, it’s always good to consider both the advantages and disadvantages before making a judgement.
First up, the advantages of cluster housing:
- Sense of exclusivity – as cluster housing can often be built together as a mini-village in a gated community, with communal spaces and amenities just for those living in the community, this can make residents feel there’s an exclusive nature to living in the cluster development
- Sense of security – with cluster developments tending to be gated communities, this provides a feeling of security for residents
- Cheaper to buy – cluster houses are cheaper to buy when compared to semi-detached and detached housing, making them a more affordable option for many
- Sense of community – as the houses are built in cluster developments similar to mini-villages with communal areas and shared amenities, this can create a sense of community, making it an enjoyable living environment
- Good for first-time buyers – with cluster houses tending to be 1-to-2-bedroom properties, that are cheaper than other property types, they are an ideal option for first-time buyers to get their foot on the ladder, whilst also not being overwhelmed by too much space
- Freehold property – with a cluster house being a freehold property, this means the owner will own the property outright, including the land the property is built on, meaning there won’t be any ground rent to keep up with
- Less environmental impact – cluster houses take up a smaller amount of land compared to other property types, meaning they have less of an environmental impact. They’re also more energy-efficient, as they only have one or two outside walls where heat can escape through, also reducing their environmental impact
- Good for families – with cluster developments generally being gated communities with open greens onsite, they’re ideal for families with younger children, as there are places for them to play without wandering off too far. Also, the developments tend to be close to towns with schools and parks, two essentials for younger children
Disadvantages of cluster housing
Now you’ve got an idea of all the pros, it’s time to run through the disadvantages of cluster housing:
- Potentially high maintenance costs – depending on what is available within the cluster housing development, there can be high maintenance costs. If there’s a vast amount of open space, and onsite leisure facilities, such as a gym or pool, then this will increase the amount of maintenance paid by each property by a large amount
- Noisy – with cluster houses having two or more common walls, there’s a lot more opportunity for noise to travel and a higher chance of the properties being noisier than semi-detached or detached houses
- Shared gardens – with cluster houses having no opportunity for a back garden, with only the properties on the ends of the cluster having space for a side garden, the only real garden space will be shared amongst all cluster house residents. This can be quite off-putting for those who want to have a bit of privacy in their garden
- Similar cost to a terraced house – a cluster house will come at a similar cost to a terraced house but come without some of the luxuries of a terrace, for example, a back garden
- Lack of space – cluster houses aren’t the most spacious properties, with generally only one room downstairs and two or three rooms upstairs. Of course, there are bigger cluster houses but as a general statement they tend to lack a great deal of space
- No back gardens – with cluster houses having a joint back wall, they will never have any space for back gardens. Those which are on the edges of the cluster will likely have a side garden, but these don’t offer much privacy
Are cluster houses good?
Whether a cluster house is good for you will entirely depend upon your needs and reasoning behind looking at this type of property.
If you’re a first-time buyer, for example, looking to get your foot on the property ladder then a cluster house would be a great option, as they’re priced a lot cheaper in comparison to other property types, whilst also not being too overwhelming in terms of size, making them suitable for 1 or 2 first time buyers.
Cluster house developments can also be a great option for families with young children, as they’re an affordable option in comparison to other housing developments, whilst still offering some communal open space.
Cluster houses also provide good investment opportunities, as they’re relatively cheap to buy, appeal to first time buyers and families so will always be tenanted, and also appreciate at the same rate as other property types.
A cluster house will be a good option for those who are conscious of their impact on the environment, as they take up less land and are more energy-efficient, making them kinder to the planet compared to other types of property.
One thing to note when you’re looking to buy a cluster house is they can be difficult to find. This is because popular property portals don’t have cluster houses as an option when inputting the housing type you’re looking for.
As a result of this, you will have to search online for cluster houses in your desired area in order to make them appear on the various property websites.
Well, that sums up everything you need to know about cluster houses, including what they are, the pros and cons and whether buying a cluster house is a good idea. Do you have a question to ask? Or maybe some insight to give on cluster houses? Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
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Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.