Originating from the French word - literally meaning ‘bottom of the sack’ – cul-de-sacs are generally defined as a street or road which is closed to traffic at one end. Here in the UK they continue to hold a particular appeal for many and if you’re searching for a new house, perhaps you’re reading this whilst considering living in one?
Although cul-de-sacs have been present in communities since Greek and Roman times, they were in fact largely banned by planners in the UK until the late nineteenth century. However, they subsequently became prominent and remain very popular to this day, but are they right for you?
There are certainly many advantages, which often make these properties more desirable, but equally there are potential downsides, and here we offer some key things to consider before you make your choice.
Britain’s most famous cul-de-sac is Downing Street, but thankfully you won’t need to face a similar barrage of press every time you open your front door. In fact, quite the opposite, as there is almost always less noise than a traditional street, mainly due to the fact that the road is not a thoroughfare and therefore very few vehicles will be passing by your property. This can make for a more peaceful and calming environment during the daytime and can be even more beneficial at night, especially if you’re a light sleeper.
As well as being quieter, another positive is that there’ll also be less pollution from passing traffic.
Fewer vehicles passing by often engenders a greater sense of privacy. If the road is also blocked off at the end to pedestrian access – in other words there is no footpath at the end – then very few people will be walking past your property either, which is appealing to many.
As the road will not be used by traffic as a thoroughfare, cul-de-sacs are often perceived to be safer. As a result, these streets can be particularly appealing to families with young children, who are more likely to play outside.
Whilst less traffic can be a plus point if you have a young family, of course the prospect of children playing outside more regularly isn’t always a selling point for other residents and so this is something to consider, depending on your perspective. That said, irrespective of whether you have young children or not, less traffic is usually safer for all, and that includes affording more protection for wandering neighbourhood cats.
Many people living in cul-de-sacs feel the benefits of a greater sense of security. For example, as a majority of passers-by will be residents, unfamiliar cars are noticed more quickly and the same can be said for pedestrians, if there is no footpath at the end of the close. This can often reduce the risk of burglary or vandalism.
Television shows such as Brookside and Neighbours have helped publicise the feeling of community and togetherness that can come from living in a cul-de-sac, although you’d happily live without the dramas that seem to unfold with abnormal regularity in these two roads!
Most people who live in closed-off streets feel that people are more neighbourly and there’s a closer sense of community. The perception is that neighbours look out for each other that little bit more and, in some cases, this sense of togetherness extends to the occasional gathering or even a commemorative street party.
The final key benefit is that properties are more likely to not only hold value but actually have a premium value attached to them, because of their relatively secluded location. In fact, studies have shown that properties in a cul-de-sac can command a premium of up to 20%.
For most, the pros far outweigh the cons, but it is of course worth considering the counter-argument, as some of the positives mentioned above can actually be perceived as negatives for others.
Living in a cul-de-sac quite simply isn’t for everybody and it’s very much a personal choice. Whilst many like the peace and relative solitude, for others this can almost feel a little too quiet. Cars and pedestrians regularly passing by can help create a feeling of vibrancy for some and, if you value this, living in a closed-off road might not be for you.
Deep down, many cul-de-sac fans perceive these streets as being that little bit more exclusive than most and, as mentioned above, this perception of exclusivity usually puts a premium on the asking price. These streets are also less common and shortage of supply can further hike values.
This is all well and good once you’ve acquired the property but, in the first instance, finding one and securing the purchase can be more challenging than buying on a standard road.
Generally speaking your neighbours are more likely to get to know you and to get to know you well, especially if you’re at the end of the road. Again, for many this is very much a positive, but understandably some can find this a little intrusive - ‘like living in a goldfish bowl’.