The semi-detached house, long derided as an emblem of safe, boring and desperately uncool suburban life, could have the last laugh – having enjoyed the highest price growth of any property type in London, up by an average 41 per cent in just five years.
The semi can now laugh in the face of its grander detached cousin, which saw a rise of only 25 per cent in the same period, with the terrace house up 37 per cent and flats up 38 per cent.
Indeed, the semi is on the rise not only in London, but across the nation. It has seen “the highest change for any property type in any region across Great Britain”, according to Lucian Cook, director of residential research at Savills and author of today’s report.
The average price of a London semi now stands at £626,348, a cash increase of more than £180,000 on 2011 levels. A London semi costs the equivalent of two-and-a-half detached homes in the North-East.
Such is the popularity of semis — which are cheaper than detached houses but have most of the same benefits for families — that their average price has topped the £1 million mark in a third of London boroughs.
The average semi in Richmond upon Thames now costs £1.4 million, and in Merton, buyers will typically pay £1.01 million. Within these boroughs the most expensive semis are to be found in Barnes, where the average price stands at almost £2.5 million, and South Richmond, where the average price is £2.2 million.
The best-value London semis are to be found in Bexley and Havering, where about a third of all homes are of this type. An average semi in Bexley costs £382,000, while a similar home in Havering would cost £388,000.
Today’s figures are a reflection of the heat in the capital’s property market, which is now contained in the outer boroughs as buyers ripple further out from Zone 1 in search of better-value property.
Semi-detached houses were built in their hundreds of thousands by the Victorians and Edwardians, and in the interwar years, often tracking the development of the London Underground.
They have long been the butt of jokes. In the Sixties the pop group Manfred Mann had a hit single with Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James, a song mocking the dull life to be had in the suburbs, while Nineteen Eighty-Four author George Orwell, in his 1939 novel Coming Up for Air, calls suburban streets “a line of semi-detached torture chambers”.
On TV, comedic characters from Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping up Appearances, to Alan Partridge, to William and Kate — reimagined in The Windsors having moved from Kensington Palace to Northwood — live in semis.