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What is the difference between a cottage and a house?

by | Jan 5, 2023

Home $ How to buy a property $ Step by step guide: How To Buy A House $ What is the difference between a cottage and a house?

You may have wondered what the difference is between a cottage and a house and how the two are very similar but have different names. In this article, we will be going over the differences so you can figure out if your house is a cottage or a house.

From how the two differ in their definition to the structural differences that separate the two. We will look at cottages, the popular choice for a lot of retirees looking to buy a second home or perhaps invest in a property in order to hedge their bets against inflation.

Cottage that is used as a home by someone

How do cottages and houses differ in their definition?

When it comes to definitions and comparing a cottage vs a house, there is a slight difference between the two.

However, a large amount of the factors that determine if a cottage is defined as a house or not is due to structural differences between a house and a cottage.

Therefore, it is important that you use the definitions of a cottage and a house alongside how the building looks structurally to make a good decision on what to call it.

You could also ask for the help of a surveyor or someone who is well educated on the topics to help you out.

What is the definition of a house?

The definition of a house is any building that is usually used for accommodation that usually has multiple floors.

Because a cottage is more than likely to be over one floor, and it is often used for short term accommodation, this is why they are given different definitions.

However, going by a definition, it is perfectly fine for a cottage to also be classed as a house as it can still be used as a building for human habitation.

For example, a cottage that is two floors high that is used as a home for a family is still a house. It just has a lot of characteristics that would also class it as a cottage

What is the definition of a cottage?

The definition of a cottage is a small house that is typically situated in the countryside.

There is therefore no complex definition. However, houses are usually only one floor and may have features only found in cottages such as wooden beams, thatched roofs and are often used for summer retreats or vacation homes.

Adding to this, a cottage is usually detached and on open land rather than being a part of a larger housing development where there is a terraced housing development.

It is also common to find cottages in need of repair because of their older architecture in auctions. As a result, it may be worth going through a property viewing checklist when visiting if interested in purchase.

Furthermore, visit our article on advice about what are the right questions to ask when buying a house so you’re clear what to ask an estate agent or cottage owner too.

What are the main structural differences between a house and a cottage?

So, a house vs a cottage are different by definition, but there is still some overlap. So how do you make sure the structure is still different between the two?

The character of a building

First of all, unlike homes that are constructed using the same materials and methods as each other in an entire development like new builds which are help to buy properties.

For example, cottages are usually built individually with nuanced and specific materials that make the cottage seem more cosy and built of organic materials.

Following the theme of the thatch roof which is made out of thatch straw, the interior of a cottage can also follow this organic inspiration and thatch can be found on the interior alongside wooden beams and flooring.

The location of the area

Cottages are usually based in rural areas. Being based in rural areas such as villages and countryside towns. Unfortunately, as cities become larger, cottages are often demolished for the building of larger buildings that make use of the space in a better way.

As a result, the only cottages left are those outside of cities in places where there is a lot of farmland. 

Also, cottages are generally less safe as they have older windows and doors. So, for areas of the UK where there is a lot of crime such as in cities, this would not work well anyway.

Cottage owners therefore usually add in gates, fences have guard dogs and use modern technology such as CCTV to monitor their house and the land surrounding it too.

Also, lenders will advise this is in place to protect the asset before issuing a house mortgage. Much like how they would make sure there is home insurance as if they were lending a mortgage for a buy to let.

The amount of outdoor space

Because cottages are built in farms, the amount of outdoor space that must be acquired is different. Cottages are often found where there is enough space for animals on the farm and enough space for the equipment of the farm to be kept. 

This means cottages often are built on acres of land that is extremely rural and may be classed as agricultural. This means a lot of cottages are given a different rate of stamp duty and land tax which you can read about in our article or you can find the full government guidelines for here.

How much indoor space compared to outdoor space should there be?

There is no specific amount of outdoor space that is necessary for a cottage to be classed as a cottage. In fact, it is just more likely that a cottage has more outdoor space to begin with.

After a certain size, additional planning permission will need to be required in order to do work on the land where there is more space.

cottage with a lot of outdoor space

The structural details of a cottage

Alongside the broader aspects of the property, there are also structural details that are specific to cottages. Because of some of these details, cottages could be a high risk investment.

Especially if you’re looking to use unorthodox methods like buying a property with no money. You can mitigate this risk by opening up a limited company for property investment in this case.

Either way, when you take a look at a cottage from the inside, you may find some of the following:

Bathrooms and toilets

Unlike houses, cottages are often equipped with much smaller bathrooms and toilets.

Baths are often installed into cottages as more of a modern feature and only if there is room to do so as the typical shower is all that is usually able to fit into the snug space.

Also, ensuites are almost unheard of in cottages because of their older design. Bathrooms are often found in separate rooms in the corridor as a shared feature in cottages.

In addition to this, because of the additional piping and material that must be installed in a bathroom, they are often left to the ground floor if there are more than two floors in the cottage.

As a result, it may be the case that the cottage has a bedroom on the top floor and a bathroom on the ground floor so people have to use both floors when getting ready.

This inconvenience is often worth it for those who enjoy living in cottages nonetheless and most will gladly pay off a mortgage till is it unencumbered.

Solid walls

Because cottages often weren’t built on strict budgets nor were they following any building regulations because of the time and era they were built in, builders often followed whatever was best for the users of the building at the time based on common sense.

Those who lived in cottages often had a wood fireplace for heating and generally found it harder to heat their homes because modern technology was yet to be invented. This means the insulation in the walls is more solid and keeps the heat in cottages a lot better.

Having said this, you will have to take this on a case by case basis as it could be that some cottages are built with less insolation than others and even homes that are built on a generally cheaper budget with cheaper materials like modern build to rent developments will hold in the heat more effectively.

As a result of cottages being of a higher build quality, it is likely they will have a higher price in a residential property valuation.

Unlikely to have attics

For those who are fans of having an attic for the useful storage or potentially for the conversion of this upper storey space into somewhere that you can spend time in, purchasing a cottage may not be for you. 

As a result, if you’re a buyer who looks to find a cottage to add value to in order to make money, it could be hard to find one on the market with an attic that you can convert. 

Likewise, if you know you’ll have a lot of storage due to moving into a property with a large family for example, choosing another type of building that resembles a house rather than a cottage may be the best thing for you.

Post and beam architecture

Post and beam architecture is a specific type of design that isn’t solely used in cottages but they make the ground floor of a building have particularly low floors. This is typical of a cottage built in the UK.

This is why there is often no attic in a cottage as these beams are built into the roof to support the thatches and this is also why it is rare to find a cottage with a first and second floor.

An old cottage that is different to a house

Wrapping things up

When comparing houses and cottages, the comparison isn’t as clear cut and black and white as you may have first thought. Cottages are a very specific type of build and can also fall into other categories of housing like detached housing or link detached housing.

In terms of definitions, a cottage can be classed as a house, nonetheless, most of the time they will be referred to by their different names because of how they are different in terms of their appearance both inside and out. 

Throughout this article discussing the details of a cottage, there have also been some pros and cons revealed about them which may serve as an indication as to whether buying a house that is a cottage would be a good idea.

So, read this article in detail and be prepared for what you may expect if you’re interested in living in one or if you are just curious and want to work out what makes a cottage so special or why there is a difference in rental income and rental yield for cottages compared to houses.

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Donnell Bailey

Property expert

Donnell is a property expert focusing on the property market, he looks at a combination of legislation, information from property managers, letting agents and market trends to produce information to help landlords.