Last edited 03 Mar 2021


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A house is a building that functions as a type of dwelling (or domestic building) used for residential purposes, i.e. as a place of permanent or semi-permanent habitation. House style and design can range from simple huts or shacks in places like shanty towns and favelas, to multi-storey mansions containing a huge variety of amenities and services.

The social unit that lives in a house is known as a household. According to the Household Projections: England prepared by the Department for Communities and Local Government, a household, as defined in the 2011 Census is; ‘one person living alone; or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room or sitting room or dining area’.

For more information, see Household.

Conventional modern houses tend to contain the following:

Houses can be attached to outbuildings such as a garage, porch or shed, and may have a front and/or back garden, driveway, and so on.

There are a number of different types of house, including:

Traditionally, houses are built speculatively by a developer (or housebuilder), and people then buy them and move in. Homebuyers typically require a mortgage to enable them to purchase a house. This is a loan ‘secured’ against the value of the house until it is paid off over several years. There is often a sequence of homebuyers and sellers whose transactions are dependent on one another. This is known as a property chain.

Houses can also be self-built, which is where the prospective homeowner instigates the development of the house themselves, whether by purchasing a kit house, employing a design and build contractor, employing consultants (such as an architect) and a contractor, or managing the entire process and ordering all the goods and services required themselves. However, self-building does not necessarily mean that the physical construction is undertaken by the homeowner.

For more information, see Self-build homes.

There are various different forms of tenure which apply to houses, such as owner occupation, private renting, social housing and so on. For more information, see Housing tenure.

Houses are the main asset that is bought and sold on the housing market which follows the economic principles of supply and demand. When the production of housing outpaces the demand there is a housing surplus. When housing production falls behind demand there is a housing shortage.

For more information, see Housing shortage.

Since houses produce significant carbon emissions, there has been a strong emphasis in recent years on increasing their energy efficiency , both in terms of the way new-builds are constructed and the way existing houses are retrofitted. Various initiatives have been developed such as zero carbon homes, the Code for Sustainable Homes, Passivhaus and so on.

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