/ Home & Energy

Would you buy a micro-home?


In response to the housing crisis, developers in cities are buying empty office space and turning it into tiny flats. But would you be prepared to sacrifice space and buy micro-home for getting on the property ladder?

An Englishman’s home may be his castle, but for an ever-growing number of buyers, that may mean a property less than 37 square meters – or the size of a tube carriage.

Technically, properties should meet minimum space standards of 37 sqm for a one-bedroom home. But since the government relaxed planning regulations, developers in cities like Liverpool, Leicester, Oxford and Croydon have been buying up office space and converting it into many tiny flats.

Work place to living space

Only this week, housing developer U+I announced a range of homes with floor sizes of either 19 or 24 sqm, to be built in blocks with shared communal areas in nine inner London boroughs.

The developers say the flats would be available under the London Living Rent scheme, where tenants pay rent that is a third of the average household income for their borough. Fortunately for prospective buyers, these homes use space in a fairly intelligent way through compact kitchens, flexible furniture and clever storage solutions.

This property by Inspired Homes – which boasts a separate bedroom – has just 31.5 square metres of floor space:

Our research, published last month, found that 8,000 homes smaller than 37 sqm were built last year in the UK, the highest number on record. Meadow Residential, meanwhile, plans to convert an office block in Barnet, London, into flats – some of which are just 16 sqm in size.

However, our data also suggests they don’t grow in value like their larger counterparts, and might not necessarily make a sound investment.

Micro-home mortgages

One reason may be due to ‘mortgage-ability’: two of the country’s biggest high street lenders, RBS and Nationwide, said they wouldn’t lend on properties smaller than 30 sqm. Yet for many young people desperate to get on the housing ladder, a headache-inducing process in and of itself, they represent a more affordable option than regular-sized homes.

In 2016, properties smaller than 37 sqm cost just £279,000 in London, compared to the capital’s average price of £580,000.

What would be your top three considerations as a first time buyer?

Price (24%, 314 Votes)

Area (21%, 266 Votes)

Distance from work (13%, 163 Votes)

Mortgage (9%, 121 Votes)

Deposit (7%, 95 Votes)

Local amenities (7%, 93 Votes)

Space (6%, 80 Votes)

Distance from family (5%, 67 Votes)

Cost of utilities (4%, 52 Votes)

School catchment areas (3%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 446

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Would you be prepared to sacrifice space to own a home close to the centre of the UK’s largest cities? Or are you put off by the prospect of a fold-up bed? Let us know your thoughts.


I’m all for small spaces for three reasons: 1) I love the city and will try my hardest not to be booted out by prices, 2) I enjoy living in a minimalist kind of way (just don;t take away my TV or PlayStation, and 3) the idea of intelligent, space saving furniture really interests me. ‘Look it’s a table! Now look, it’s a bed!! And now it’s a hot tub!!!’

Space is important. Ask the chickens in the battery farm. Prisoners have cells to punish them. To coop people up in small boxes is anti-social in all sorts of ways and is not good for mental welfare either. Developers are simply using the spaces to make more money per square foot and it has little to do with solving the housing crisis. They might have a point as a mini bedroom for the working week, but as a place to settle down and be comfortable in, they are a non starter home.

If these micro-homes are re-saleable and increase in value they are one way to avoid rent and get onto the housing ladder. Let’s hope they go to genuine buyers, and not landlords to make large profits, nor those with homes elsewhere who want a city pad for occasional, or weekday use.

When at school it was my ambition not to live near city centres because I was affected by atmospheric pollution. In my view it is nicer to live in an area with a lower population density, cheaper housing, easy parking and freedom from traffic jams. 🙂 Pity about the lack of buses and local facilities. 🙁

I did once have a flat with a decent sized lounge and bedroom, but the kitchen was tiny and I hated it.

It seems that we are moving towards living in dolls’ houses in the UK: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/feb/11/welcome-rabbit-hutch-britain-land-ever-shrinking-home Denmark looks good.

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Duncan: please check your facts. Collecting and using rainwater in the USA is not illegal. Because of a variety of factors, including population growth and weather changes, a small number of states have brought in restrictions on how much you can harvest and use but it is not illegal in most states to collect and use as much as you want.

And this has nothing to do with profit: it has to do with long-term sustainability. The full details are here

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🙂 You forgot to mention that Gary Hamilton’s ‘collection’ amounted to 13 million gallons, Duncan. That’s a tad more than a few barrels. It’s a dam full. In this country you would need to have a permit to ‘collect’ that amount, or anything close. He was sentenced because he hadn’t bothered getting a permit.

And the average monthly household water use for a family of 4 in the UK is slightly below 4000 gallons, so the US level of 12000 gallons per month is very generous.

And you’re even wrong about Utah: “Many people still believe that rainwater harvesting is illegal, but this is a myth. On May 11, 2010, Senate Bill 322 went into effect which allowed for legal harvesting of rainwater in Utah. This law was partially amended in 2013 with House Bill 363 effective May 14, 2013 to help simplify the regulations.”

Duncan, you need to be far more cynical about what these sites are telling you.

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Here is official information: http://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/rainwater-harvesting.aspx I’m not quite sure what it has to do with micro-homes.

It’s not that I disbelieve you, Duncan, but you often seem to look only at the headlines and not the background.

I’ve demonstrated you were wrong about the amount you can collect, shown that your comment about the chap being given 30 days wasn’t because he was only collecting rainwater in a barrel but in fact building his own dam without permission and provided clear evidence that you were wrong when you stated “in Utah YOU dont own the rainwater that falls on your roof”. Although, in fact, that applies in the UK since no one can claim to ‘own’ rainwater.

I also don’t doubt that bottled water companies would like a monopoly; I can’t think of any country where they wouldn’t. All I”m saying is the picture is far more complex than the one you paint.

Housing crisis ? Only in some places How many houses are there for sale or even empty unused in the country Can someone give me the figures ? People have got too fussy about where the want to live only wanting to buy on new estates built on greenfield sites Greenfield sites should not be built on while there are empty and for sale houses available Build on brownfield sites but leave green spaces unused until absolutely necessary Anyone prepared to give figures certainly not those building or selling new build houses

A minor [but massive] correction needs to be made in the preamble. A property that was 19 metres squared would have a floor area of 361 square metres.

Comparing 37 sq mtrs to an Underground car is helpful and I would say it would be quite adequate for one occupant. A normal UK bathroom & WC is 4 sq mtrs, a kitchen 5 sq mtrs, and a single bedroom 9 sq mtrs. That leaves 19 sq mtrs for living room, hall/entrance area, and storage – reasonably spacious. I am sure some of the prefabs put up after WW2 were hardly any bigger than that and had whole families living in them. “Park homes” and similar places must be about the same size and considerably bigger than a caravan. People also live in narrow boats, houseboats, trailers, tiny cottages and small chalets. In America millions of households live in trailers on large ‘parks’ on the edge of towns.

In Norwich city centre there is now a considerable surplus of office space as blocks erected in the latter part of the 20th century are no longer suitable for current needs and these are progressively being converted into apartments, not necessarily small but usually of the ‘studio’ type with the kitchen integrated with the living room plus one or two bedrooms. In one such building all the studio flats have sold before the conversion is anything near complete and I guess they must have been acquired by landlords or speculators; the larger apartments in the upper storeys are not selling so well and it is possible that the developers have got the mix wrong – for a variety of reasons, a larger or older household might not want to live in a block predominantly occupied by people starting on the housing ladder.

The scandal in all this is the huge price demanded for poky accommodation, but that is a factor of unrestrained demand. As Bishbut points out, there are places where adequate homes meeting the standard requirements are available at very low prices; unfortunately the places they are in have poor employment prospects. The government could turn this around, reduce pressure on the conurbations and regenerate towns that have lost their traditional industries.


I was rather hoping a London based charity would decamp to Norwich and up-date and use those empty offices. And it seems reasonable accommodation would be available.

The linked article is well done :
but with two caveats. One is that given the recent advent of micro-homes they would be fully priced when sold so the talk of value and percentage increases I think is open to discussion.

Secondly that liking a size of a flat to that of a sumo ring is only actually useful to those familiar with sumo rings – which I believe is a small proportion of the readership. Most people are familiar with beds so more usefully the 11 square metres is three king size beds plus a single.

Incidentally given the problems known to most readers about unfair leaseholds I am surprised that this area is completely neglected. The regulation of these “flats” in relation to noise, waste, smells and storage I can see as being major problems unless rigidly enforced standards are in place. The current arrangement of leasehold laws hardly seems designed to cater for these developments.

Micro homes are nothing new. They were all the fashion in the 19thC.

£10k for a Grade II Listing building seems attractive and it is welcome that the property in not described as ‘deceptively spacious’. It is not made clear what lies within the curtilage or what services available, and obviously there is no on-street parking outside. The floor plan is helpful.

The tiny 17th century listing building mentioned by Ian has been sold at auction for £10k – see link above. I’m not sure where the new owner will store their book on claustrophobia.

If I could have a micro-home with a balcony, as in the interactive one embedded in Tom’s convo, I’d be chuffed. I also do like creative furniture and house design… @eelahi was talking to me about an awesome one today

I meet up with friends from my university days at least twice a year. On a recent visit I was the first user of a double bed that converted into a desk effortlessly, even though the desk had a heavy A3 printer on it. Including the cupboards above and at the side it had cost about £2k but I was impressed. Another member of our group has converted a garage next to his son’s house, as a second home, so they have more independence when they visit their son’s family. It has a fold-down bed, heating and hot water comes from the boiler in the house, and natural light comes via large light pipes in the roof. It’s amazing what can be done.

Welcome to the day in 1683 when Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek became the first to report the existence of bacteria. Help yourself to some hopefully pathogen-free scones and drinks.

Deleted. I thought we were in The Lobby.

I was raised as an only child, which really annoyed my sister

Most of my life is spent avoiding conflict. I hardly ever visit Syria.

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You can’t lose a homing pigeon. If your homing pigeon doesn’t come back, then what you’ve lost is a pigeon.

Profound apologies, folks. I see we’re not in the Lobby, and all my above posts have been misplaced, realised – belatedly – after I saw Wave’s post.

Admins: please delete my posts my four posts above. I’ll be recreating them in the Lobby. Thanks.

I love the idea of a micro-home, especially if it comes with a micro-price tag. It would make living in a city much more affordable.