Period romance: why do the British love old properties?

Illustration of a row of period houses
© James Oses

After a prolonged December freeze, with fuel bills and the cost of living rising, it is striking that Britain’s most enduringly desirable properties are often the most badly insulated, the most draughty and the most expensive to maintain. The nation has enjoyed a long love affair with period homes. Is it time that heady romance was brought down to earth?

Britain has the oldest housing stock in Europe, with latest Office for National Statistics figures for England and Wales showing more than one in five homes was built before 1919 — more than one in three was built before the start of the second world war.

We not only have an exceptionally geriatric housing stock, we are also unusually fond of older houses. According to the architectural historian Owen Hatherley, the most numerous of these — Georgian and Victorian houses — are “massively fetishised”.

No other country is as nostalgic. The rest of Europe is generally keener than we are on well-constructed newer builds. In much of east Asia, there has never been a tradition of revering old buildings, with traditional homes in Japan, for example, expected to last only 30 years before being razed and rebuilt, due in part to the high risk of earthquakes. It is the same as public buildings. The Ise Jingu grand shrine, which has been on the same site for as long as two millennia, is torn down and reconstructed every 20 years.

In the UK, although it has never been properly quantified, estate agents describe a “period premium”: meaning buyers get less space for their money. Unlike the new-build premium, which, like the extra you pay for a new car, vanishes once you take ownership, the premium period appears to be durable.

The most recent comparative survey by the Halifax bank found that in the 25 years up to 2011, houses built before 1919 increased in value by an average of 461 per cent, compared with 357 per cent for the market as a whole.

I discovered how big the premium period could be when we tried to move to a small house in north Bristol last year. Every option stretched our budget until we found a 1960s house in a prime area that was selling for around 20 per cent less than comparably sized Victorian and Edwardian homes. Taking it looked like a no-brainer, but we still had to overcome the lure of the old.

Why do period homes cast such a spell? The answer most people will give is “character”. Modern homes are said to be bland, boring and uniform while old ones are full of quirks, strangeness and charm. However, as many a charming cad has shown, superficially attractive characters are often rotten to the core.

Most obviously, the ONS reported earlier this year that the age of a property is the biggest single factor in predicting its energy efficiency. It concluded that the median energy-efficiency score for all homes built since 2012 in England and Wales

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Priced Out of House and Home

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) issued a new policy report, Priced Out of House and Home: How Laws and Regulations Add to Housing Prices in Wisconsin. The report examines the ways in which government regulation has contributed to the rising cost of home prices in Wisconsin. The report makes recommendations for both state and local policy makers to remove barriers to the development of more affordable market-rate housing.

The Quote: WILL Policy Director, Kyle Koenen, said, “Arbitrary government regulations that restrict property rights and depress the supply of affordable, market-rate housing options are pricing more and more families out of their version of the American dream. Policymakers at all levels of government should work to remove unnecessary barriers that contribute to the growing costs of homes nationwide.”

backgrounds: Over the past few years, the rising cost of housing has been a growing concern among Americans, particularly those looking to purchase their first home. Fewer Americans believe that now is a good time to buy a home than those who believed this during the Great Recession. Furthermore, a record low number of Americans believe they are ever going to own a home. Historically, low levels of housing inventory suggest that the lack of supply plays a key role in the shortage of affordable market-rate housing options. In a nation where home ownership has historically been one of the primary means of wealth creation for lower- and middle-class families, the increase of people being crowded out of the housing market has the potential to obstruct upward mobility in the long-run.

This tight supply can be attributed to a number of factors, including the inflation of construction materials and a lack of qualified labour. However, for developers who prepare land for housing and builders who build the homes, government regulations from the local, state and federal level make it more difficult and expensive to develop affordable-market rate housing.

Key Findings:

  • The government adds approximately $88,500 to the average cost of each new-built home in the Midwest. Based on national data on the cost of regulation, and regional data on the cost of new homes, this figure represents more than a quarter of the cost of the average new home.
  • The regulatory hoops before new construction can begin are extensive. A survey of Wisconsin builders found that the average development takes 14 months to even begin construction. Much of this is due to a tangled web of regulations where development can be stopped at every term.
  • Hyper-local control obstructs affordable market-rate housing and the exercise of property rights. National research shows that most people are supportive of the development of affordable housing, so long as it’s not in their backyard. The more opportunities for community input on a particular project, the less likely it is that the project will reach completion.
  • “Pro-environment” policies often worsen sprawl and pollution. Requirements for extensive green space in a development sound good on paper, but limit the density of new
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Gardening expert shares what peace lilies ‘need’ – without it the plant ‘won’t flower’

Peace lilies fail to bloom again because of improper care. Owners need to provide these houseplants with adequate light, moist soil, and the correct temperature and humidity to bloom again. Blooming can also depend on the variety of plants, as some peace lilies only bloom once a year during their blooming season.

Ben Hilton, founder and editor of The Yard and Garden has shared several mistakes peace lily owners should avoid, so that they can encourage their houseplants to bloom.

1. Overwatering

Improved watering has adverse effects on the overall health of the peace lily. Overwatering is a common mistake that keeps the soil damp most of the time. This leads to root rot as the roots suffice by staying in the damp soil all the time.

The roots fail to function and provide water and nutrients to the plant, creating an extremely harmful environment. Therefore, an overwatered unhealthy peace lily fails to grow or bloom.

The expert said: “Peace lilies are sensitive to overwatering, as they prefer moist soil, not soaking wet, and certainly not sitting in water. It’s only essential to water when the soil is drying out.

READ MORE: Weeds growing through gravel die ‘instantly’ with ‘effective’ 55p tip

“Use the finger test, push your finger one inch into the soil, and feel for moisture. If it’s dry, water the plant thoroughly and allow the water to drain into the sink.”

2. Lack of drainage

Soil could also be the reason why the peace lily doesn’t flower. If the soil has a poor drainage system, it can cause overwatering.

Soil with a high clay content will cause overwatering as the clay will hold more water for an extended period, whereas sandy soil will drain water very quickly, making the soil dry too quickly.

Ben explained: “Insufficient drainage can cause the soil to become waterlogged, leading to root rot or other forms of bacteria or fungal infection.”

He noted that if a peace lily “has to battle with any form of disease”, it has “no chance of producing blooms”.

Adding compost to the potting soil can help make a sound drainage system. It will help in both retaining moisture and draining water.

3. Insufficient light

Peace lilies are “in need” of bright, indirect, filtered light in order for them to bloom. The expert said: “They are often placed in full direct sun or dark corners, where they simply won’t perform.

“Aim to locate them in a bright room or near a North or East facing window.” These directions will give the plant the right amount of sunlight.

READ MORE: Plants to ‘keep far away from’ tomato plants to prevent ‘damage’

For those who keep them near a south or east facing window, use curtains whenever the sun rays become intense.

Pull down the curtains to create a filter for direct sunlight. This will give the plant perfect indirect sunlight.

4. Low humidity

Peace lilies are native to tropical regions and therefore enjoy humidity. If the air is too

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Best house and home apps on Android in 2023

Now that it’s getting chilly outside, satisfaction with your living space is more important than ever. Wide-scale renovations, redesigns, and relocations are often repellently complicated and unflatteringly expensive. Even with the best communication apps, organizing a big building project or moving is hard enough. Lucky for you, the Play Store offers a few nifty apps for these occasions, equipped to help you maintain your place of residence, contact and lease with building contractors, or get in touch with landlords. These great house and home apps are a good place to start if you’re ready to put a fresh coat of paint on things. All it takes is your favorite smartphone or an awesome Android tablet to get going.




For any home improvement, you’ll need a lot of help, and that’s where Thumbtack is a lifesaver. This nifty app provides a platform for contractors to advertise their services to locals looking to hire, offering an impressive variety of services like movers, builders, interior/exterior renovators, and even DJs. Thumbtack also compares prices from the most professional contractors with whoever you are considering, giving you all the information you need to make the best hiring decision. So if the prospect of organizing a great deal of complicated, overpriced renovations, Thumbtack has your back.

Zillow: Homes For Sale & Rent

Everyone knows that moving can be stressful and complicated, and Zillow is invaluable for taking the complicated stuff down several notches to help you find the perfect change of scenery. Listing millions of properties for both purchases and renting, Zillow ensures you’re always in the loop with constant updates on the latest deals in your area and beyond. The app also provides filters for school catchments, local stores/restaurants, and residential real estate experts to help you make the right choice. No details are left to chance, with options allowing you to speak directly to landlords about deposits, rents, pets, and more. Never feel in the dark and find a new fireplace with confidence.

Planta – Care for your plants

It’s always nice to brighten up your living space with some plant life, and Planta helps you maintain indoor flowers, saving you from killing them from dying. The app identifies your plant’s needs and provides instructions on its unique treatments. Even if you aren’t a hardened gardening expert, Planta tells you when your plant needs watering, repotting, and even what level of light is suitable. If you like having some healthy greenery growing up your window sills, Planta is your best bet for getting through the cold months with your petunias alive and kicking.

Looking for great homes in your area? has everything you’ll need, whether you’re looking for property to own or rent. The app provides extensive filters for variables such as room size, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, and commute times. You are given the tools to assess potential deal breakers such as neighbor noise, proximity to shops and restaurants, and flood risks,

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The best products from H&M Home

H&M Home has revealed its latest spring season edit, filled with bright textiles, boho decor and sleek tableware.

If you’re looking to add a touch of spring style to your home, H&M Home’s spring edit is just the right place to look.

To set the scene for stylish springtime celebrations, including the King’s Coronation this May, H&M home has included timeless pieces that you can use all year round, as well as during special occasions.

With sleek tableware being on-trend right now, the spring season edit includes classic stoneware plates that look great for everyday serving and dinner parties.

The large stoneware plate is a gorgeous addition to any table and is available in stores and online. Also if you’re looking to buy a gorgeous set of tableware, you can buy the matching deep plate, mini plate and the porcelain milk jug, too.

H&M Home Large stoneware plates

Large stoneware plate

H&M Home Large stoneware plates

Credit: H&M Home

Paired with the spring edit’s stunning linen-blend table cloth for a sophisticated spring table.

H&M Home Linen-blend tablecloth

Linen-blend tablecloth

H&M Home Linen-blend tablecloth

Credit: H&M Home

If you’re looking to host a Coronation afternoon tea, this metal cake stand is a timeless piece that is not only affordable, but is chic enough to use it time and time again.

H&M Home Metal cake stands

Metal cake stands

H&M Home Metal cake stands

Credit: H&M Home

Or, if you’re looking to have a fresh start and add a pop of color and light to your home to represent the new season, this large porcelain serving plate is a great place to start.

H&M Home Large porcelain serving plate

Large porcelain serving plate

H&M Home Large porcelain serving plate

Credit: H&M Home

On the theme of color, this chic patterned yellow table cloth in mustard is bold and eye-catching and will look great in any home.

H&M Home Patterned tablecloth

Patterned tablecloth

H&M Home Patterned tablecloth

Credit: H&M Home

While some of us prefer neutral colors when decorating at home, H&M Home’s new edit also recommends decorating your home in soft neutrals and rustic finishes for a spring boho chic look.

These simple 4-pack-hole-patterned coasters made from braided jute effortlessly fit the boho trend.

H&M Home 4-pack hole-patterned coasters

4-pack hole-patterned coasters

H&M Home 4-pack hole-patterned coasters

Credit: H&M Home

The edit is full of fun ways to furnish your home this spring!

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