During the 1980s the alfresco ‘hot tub’ was an American import largely ignored as mildly naff, unhygienic and beloved of those with a need to bathe outdoors year round, whatever their neighbours thought.
But today huge leaps in technology, quality and public attitudes have transformed these bubbling tubs into a desirable home feature helped by their frequent appearance on TV programmes such as Footballer’s Wives and The Only Way is Essex.
Research out recently revealed how they are now considered the ultimate status symbol by 69% of us, followed by US-style fridges, walk-in wardrobes and room-to-room sound systems that play music all around your home.
Such saucy communal bathing does not please everyone. BBC Gardener’s World magazine last week reported that its readers for the first time listed hot tubs as an irritation, only slightly less annoying than blaring TV and radios, late-night parties, screaming children, power tools and house alarms.
Nevertheless sales of hot tubs are rising year on year despite the recession and Zoopla’s property listings are increasingly full of homes with a hot tub. Some two percent of all homes for sale in the UK feature one and there are an estimated 250,000 out there, bubbling away.
Here are the top five most luxurious for sale today, found using the Zoopla keyword search.
Canford Cliffs is the next best thing if you don’t want to pay the astronomical prices in nearby Sandbanks, which would comfortably double the value of this house. What many of the celebrity houses there won’t have is the vast footprint of this six- bedroom property, which comes with a tennis court, swimming pool, next to which is a large hot tub set into the ground.
This eight bedroom house was built unwittingly to fit the list of popular must-haves detailed above. Not only does the back patio area feature a bubbling wooden hot tub but it has a walk-in wardrobe too and, for good measure, a Swedish-style sauna in the garden.
This house just HAS to have been built by a Scandinavian or Canadian. Wood is the dominant theme inside and out, and its low-rise design, high arched roof and acres of glazed glass would make a perfect location for an episode of TV show Wallander, whose detective might also appreciate the indoor hot tub, which sits within an island of timber.
This four-year-old house is owned by Simon Belofsky, one of Britain’s leading songwriters fresh from his collaboration last year with former S’Express singer Sonique. His home features the kind of understated modernism you might expect of a music biz ‘name’, except in the master bedroom, which features a huge hot tub. More conventional leisure pursuits on offer include a pool in the garden and a vast, wall mounted flatscreen TV in the lounge.
At first this compact but gorgeous cottage overlooking a small eye catching valley floor seems like many of the houses on the narrow road that winds down to a popular local beach and coastline walk. The rear of the property enjoys extraordinary views over this gap in the coast and the stream that gurgles down it, particularly if you’re sat either on its wooden patio or, in the garden, while sipping a Bacardi within the raised wooden hot tub.
The sponsorship of Premiership club West Bromwich Albion by Zoopla.co.uk kicked off in spectacular fashion on Saturday when ‘the Baggies’ comprehensively defeated Liverpool at their Hawthorns stadium by three goals to nil.
A near capacity crowd of 26,000 watched Steve Clarke’s team get their season off to an ideal start as Zoltan Gera, Peter Odemwingie and Romelu Lukaku scored while wearing this season’s new Zoopla-emblazoned strip and surrounded by Zoopla’s distinctive purple hoardings.
The sponsorship deal, which runs until at least the 2014/15 season, also includes Zoopla logos on official club merchandise, across its website, on match tickets and programmes and of course on interview backdrops for post-match TV interviews.
But as well as being the principal sponsor of the club, much more was on offer during the Liverpool game.
At half time three Baggies fans kicked for a chance to win either £1,000 or a house if they could place a ball through one of three openings in the Zoopla Halftime House while former team player and now youth coach Darren Moore (pictured, below) also had a go. To register to have a go in this challenge at each home game, visit the Zoopla Halftime House Challenge page.
Also, Zoopla announced it is supporting the Albion Foundation, a charitable trust set up to work with West Bromwich Albion to help regenerate the local community through sporting, educational and health initiatives and activities.
Zoopla has pledged £50,000 to the foundation over the next two years as well as additional donations each game depending on the team’s performance via Zoopla Golden Goals.
This was launched at the Liverpool game too. Every time the team scores at home or away Zoopla will donate and additional £1,000 split half with the foundation and half with five key local charities. For starters, on Saturday, £3,000 was raised when the team scored its clutch of goals.
If there were a property Olympics for the best conversion in Britain then the extraordinary house for sale on a hill overlooking Sidmouth in Devon would win a gold medal for invention.
While most people opt to convert more ordinary structures such as barns, schools, windmills and warehouses, the owners of The Reservoir, as the name suggests, have opted for what is said to be the only conversion of its kind in the UK.
Back in the 2007 South West Water put an old reservoir on the market with planning permission to create a five-bedroom, partly subterranean home with a circumference of 85m and a diameter of 25m.
To the naked eye the reservoir was just a grassy hummock protruding from a small hill overlooking a maze of residential streets at the back of Sidmouth, which is 15 miles southeast of Exeter and best known as the gateway to Devon’s ‘Jurassic coast’ and poet John Betjeman’s favourite seaside spot.
What Betjeman, who was a passionate supporter of Victorian architecture, might think of this highly modernist piece of architecture is another matter.
Roofed in green material to blend in with the hill (the property is almost invisible until you’re nearby) The Reservoir is a testament to both imaginative architecture and adventurous structural engineering.
The property is built around a circular central patio open to the skies, around which has been built a two-level house with six bedrooms, a games room, two reception rooms and a garage and tunnel entrance to the side. And its journey has been an extraordinary one too.
First advertised for £250,000 in 2003, agent Winkworth Exeter says initial viewings of the property, which came with detailed architectural plans drawn up by SouthWest Water’s development arm Peninsular Properties, were “conducted through a manhole” before the house was bought by an engineer with his own building company and the substantial conversion work completed.
But it’s not just an architectural wonder on offer – The Reservoir is for sale at £1.25m after a price drop “for a quick sale”, according to agent Winkworth. On the other hand, if you have a hankering for a house in the round, then there are other options available.
More homes that aren’t square
Two-bedroom flat on the sixth floor of a circular apartment development within the city’s main marine, shopping and residential quarter to the north of the its centre.
This extraordinary home was the entrance gateway to a dream that never was. Dr William Price had plans for a Museum of Welsh life which he tried to build in 1838 to celebrate Wales’ language and history, which he thought was disappearing. The gatehouse was built but the museum failed to materialise after failing to raise enough funds.
At the front of this relatively conventional development in West Overcliff in Bournemouth is a five storey, three bedroom houses built-in the style of a lighthouse. It’s biggest benefit is the unusual sun terrace at its crown, pictured below.
A surprising niche in the Scottish property market is the large number of small farmhouses or ‘steads’ that survive from the 18th and 19th century. Many of these were built with round outhouses, most of which are now either used as lounges or large kitchens.
To be called narrow minded is for most of us a severe criticism of our tastes. But not for the select group who love homes built in extremely restricted spaces.
The race to find affordable homes in today’s cramped cities and towns has forced some to seek out radical solutions to their housing needs – and the result is sometimes homes that look barely wider than a bookshelf.
The current title holder for the world’s slimmest house is The Wedge, which is 47 inches or just under four feet across at the front, built on the island of Great Cumbrae off Scotland’s North Ayrshire coast, although the house opens out to 20 ft wide at the back, as its name suggests.
Next up is an extraordinary house in Warsaw, Poland that’s 60 inches or five feet across built by an architect between two apartment blocks. But also worth a look is a property (pictured, above) in London’s W2 postcode by architect Luke Tozer of Pitman Tozer Architects, which isn’t far behind on the slim stakes at eight feet across.
But do properties like these ever come on the market? Three in London currently fit the bill, or should we say squeeze in to it.
First up is a house (pictured, above) measuring just seven feet across that came on the market in June on Homerton High Street in Hackney not far from the Olympic Park. Bought for £93,000 at auction by a developer, it’s still for sale at £275,000 and is next to both a small park on the one hand and a fried chicken takeaway restaurant on the other.
Another narrow property for sale is in Walthamstow Village, a house (pictured above) built between two early Victorian cottages at 3a Church Path famed locally both for its glass front and seven-foot-wide frontage but also its former owner – thought to be Bill Drummond, the colourful front man of 1990s acid house band The KLF, who sold the property to its current owner in 1993.
The two-bedroom house is for sale at £355,000 and has found a buyer, although the vendor says he is continuing to accept offers after the buying chain hit the buffers further down the line.
And Walthamstow seems to be a hotbed of narrow homes – three streets away in Grosvenor Park Road (pictured above) is a similar-looking glass-fronted property known locally as The Blue House also on the market but for substantially more at £450,00; although it’s got a fatter waistline at 12ft, three storeys and bedrooms plus a reasonably big terrace garden at the back.
Would you buy a former mortuary even if it was ripe for development? Well, there’s one you might suspend your distaste to purchase – a quirky stone building overlooking one of Britain’s most beautiful beaches complete with bags of – sorry – considerable development potential.
Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council is offering up the small Grade-II listed storage shed for sale in Saltburn-by-Sea, one of the North East’s most sought-after Victorian seaside resorts famed for its historic funicular railway that scales the cliffs above the town’s short but quirky pier.
The mortuary first sprang into life during 1881 to deal with the bodies washed up by the sea along this stretch of coast but, as ship safety increased, was used as a general mortuary by the local council until the late 1960s.
Since then it’s been a store room and, although battered by the stinging winter winds of the area, the interior has been well maintained and comes with much of the paraphernalia of a mortuary including a stretcher, stone slab and washbasin.
But what those looking for an unusual holiday home will be interested in is its position, opposite The Ship Inn (see picture, top) on the main Saltburn to Whitby road overlooking a gorgeous beach dominated by the huge bluffs to the south of the main town.
Just a handful of weather-whipped houses overlook the beach and the property’s most obvious neighbour is the bright red boat often parked alongside by a local fisherman.
The hardest job of all would be to work out how much the former mortuary might be worth both before and after conversion into a holiday home.
Period properties with sea views and one bedroom (as this one would probably have) fetch approximately £130,000 in Saltburn, so as at least £20,000 would be needed to turn it into a home and therefore expect tenders for residential use to be around £100,000.
Hurry though if you want to put a bid in. The council wants tenders in by Friday 10th August by post. More information from the council’s Estates Surveyor, Christopher Black, on 01642 444360.