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What's it like to live in an older (ie Victorian) house? Pros and cons please.

109 replies

TsarChasm · 27/02/2008 19:06

If we ever get out of out of our 3 bed semi I would love to buy an older house.

I've not lived in an older property before but it seems to me that they are bigger inside (ie you get more for you money) are better built (ie not plaster board walls and chipboard floors) and have more character.

Can you tell I'm very disenfranchised by my house

I'm starting to hate the way newer houses are asking more money for so little living space and quality.

So what are older houses like? Draughty and expensive or better than newer houses? Do you love or hate yours?

OP posts:
GreenGlassGoblin · 28/02/2008 11:56

Agree with those who have said you can't rely on the older houses having nice thick walls - our old Victorian terrace was a nightmare, you could hear the neighbours sneeze (and the rest) through the walls. But it did have character, which our current 1960's house doesn't. Other cons - dark, no parking, no garage... But it looked far better with loads of books, mismatched pictures etc than this place does, the same stuff that made the victorian house look artsy makes this one look messy

JillJ72 · 28/02/2008 12:40

It's true that Victorian houses vary in size. Ours is a semi but has the classic narrow hallway. The one we were originally going to buy was a terrace with a terribly tiny garden, I had misgivings about that and the interior being to small for us. But everything fell through, the semi came back on the market (4 months after we'd originally viewed it), and here we are now (phew).

We don't hear our neighbours but we hear people walking past as we have double glazing at the front, original double glazing, and it's thin...! Curtains could be expensive, but if you don't mind Ikea, they do a decent range off the shelf with the kind of drop a bigger window may command. I'd like 'swanky' curtains but alas the budget doesn't stretch that far, so Ikea it is.

There are pros and cons for modern and older properties, the modern ones I like are way beyond affordability (... but then, so are the older ones) and I love buying property mags to see other peoples' interiors and gardens, and then dream

fortyplus · 28/02/2008 12:49

In our case:


Lovely high ceilings and architrave that was done on site so the curve goes right back into the ceiling - modern ones that are put up afterwards just aren't the same.

A cellar (fab!)

Decent size garden

Lovely old fireplaces

Carved newel posts and bannisters on the staircase

Loads of character including hundred year old downstairs loo!

Stripped floorboards


Cold walls, especially if (like ours) your house is L shaped so every other room has 3 outside walls

Steep stairs - bloody lethal ones down to the cellar

Musty smell in cellar

If you put wardrobes up against the outside walls your clothes get musty and the wall gets mildew.

hippipotami · 28/02/2008 12:50

We too have the classic long narrow hallway in our semi. I always wondered how the Victorians managed with their mahoosive 'perambulators' when I struggled with a Pliko!

I agree about the location of older houses. In our village there are 4 roads which all come off the high street, which have a selection of Victorian detached, semis and terraces.
Then there is an out of hte way estate of 1930's semis, a long walk to the high street for your paper, pint of milk or to visit the coffee shop The houses there are nice, but the location does not suit me.
Then there is another out of the way 1960's estate. Don't mind the house style (have fond memories of the 1960's terrace in Holland I grew up in)
And the modern estates (all built in the last 10 years) are filling in hte gaps between the village centre and the out of the way estates.

Yes I don't live in a quiet culdesac where the dc can play on the street (but the 100ft garden makes up for that), but I have a lovely independent Italian coffee shop at the top of my road, plus a school wear shop, a small co-op, chemist, lawnmower specialist, small diy shop, a beed shop, florist, library and post office, optician, painting gallery type shop, three hairdressers, plus countless pubs, restaurants and takeaways (and this is by no means a big village, just a well stocked and very alive one)
And I love that. I love the hustle and bustle, the sense of community.

hippipotami · 28/02/2008 12:52

beed shop? bead shop! (yes really, a haven for all those who make their own jewellery)

We were all (surprised)when that opened thinking it would never survive, but it is surprizingly busy in there every time I walk past.

Tanee58 · 28/02/2008 16:12

Love our small 1890s terrace - it's like a Tardis, looks small from the pavement, but big rooms, a morning room that I love with a huge south facing window, three good sized bedrooms, (not two bedrooms and a box room like many houses we viewed) and a reasonable amount of original features left. The walls aren't as solid as I'd like - many of the internal walls seem to be lathe & plaster, not the solid brick that my parents' house has - similar period but more substantial. I try not to think of the draughts as draughts - more as 'good ventilation'!

I like its idiosyncracies, uneven walls, slightly wonky floors (all the cats' balls end up in one corner of the bay window), ceiling rose, cornices and architraves. Wallpapering DD's chimney breast was a challenge!

But I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only one with humungous heating bills. I'd been wondering where we're going wrong, since we only use gas for heating & hot water, not cooking - guess I have to blame my Victorian house for that!

missingtheaction · 28/02/2008 16:21

currently living in a big childs-drawing-style victorian house.

Can be fantastic - character, spacious, can take victorian furniture etc - but it depends on your area and budget.

Lots of victorian homes were thrown up on the cheap by speculative buildrs; lots built for poor people with mean windows, small rooms. Designed for servants and shade and people wearing loads of clothes - often small kitchens at the back of the house, north-facing gardens, and leak heat like sieves.

If you are viewing one to buy, you need to look out for

  • floor layout: does it work for you, and if not could you knock down the right walls to make it work?
  • is it light and spacious (middle class+) or dark and pokey (working class-) and can you live with that?
  • electrics and plumbing
  • roof
  • damp
  • HIP - how leaky is it and is there anything you can do about it (if original sash windows, then can you afford to double glaze them in wood?)

BUT they can be FANTASTIC if you get the right one!
scaryteacher · 29/02/2008 00:12

Mine in Cornwall is a bit earlier than Victorian (1835), but has loads of advantages over the modern house we rent in Brussels.

Rooms are quirky, I have one open fire and a woodburning stove. The kitchen has two fireplaces, one for the wine racks and the other house the Stanley (like a Rayburn - does cooking/hot water/heating).

The walls are extremely thick - no need for cavity filling, they're solid all the way through, and the house is warm in winter and cool in summer. We have a cellar, and the previous owners to us boarded out the attics so we have storage space and what would have been DSs playroom had we stayed.

A period house will need to be kept aired - when out tenants moved in they didn't put on the Stanley, and it got a little bit damp, and I agree with the comment about the dust.

Living in a modern house is costing us the same in heat and light as it did in UK, and the walls aren't as thick as my house. I can also feel the draughts more than at home, but this place was built for the rental market, and mine was built to last.

All 3 of the houses we've owned and lived in have been built between 1800 and 1912, and I have to say it would have to be a very special modern house to make me buy one in preference to a good solid 19/early 20th century one. Must admit, I'd go for Georgian or Tudor if I could.

kerala · 29/02/2008 14:08

Loving reading this thread of people discussing their old houses.

Fingers crossed our purchase of a really mad old house happens. Yes its over budget and we will be living on baked beans but is great - half of it built in 1750 the rest in 1800. Meeting the owner tomorrow who will tell us the history of it.

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