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An Englishman's home is his castle, well that's how the saying goes, but it's not so much a castle as a shed. It's official...

The British have the smallest homes in Europe!

In fact they are downright pokey, with only an average usable floor space of 76m sq according to a new report by Bradford & Bingley. The Italians lead the rest of Europe with the most space - an average of 92m sq per dwelling, over a fifth larger than us Brits enjoy.

The report undertaken by the Centre for Economics & Business Research for Bradford & Bingley compares the UK property market to Germany, France, Italy and Spain. It reveals British living space per home is 12 percent smaller than the average Spanish home, 14 percent smaller than in Germany and 16 percent smaller than in France.

Moreover, the gap between the UK and the continent is widening with new homes in France, Germany and Spain getting bigger. On average, newly built homes in France and Germany have over 100m2 of usable floor space, while in Spain modern homes have 95m2. In Britain, new homes remain the same size as existing properties at 76m2.

These figures are more surprising when the types of properties are taken into account as over four-fifths of British households prefer to live in a house. The report reveals that 82 percent of British families live in a house and only 15 percent live in a flat. This is in stark contrast to families on continental Europe where flats are more popular. In Spain, Italy and Germany more than 50 percent of families live in a flat and France is not far behind with 41 percent. Yet almost bizarrely the average British family home has the least usable living space of the countries surveyed.

Nickie Aiken of Bradford & Bingley Estate Agents commented on the findings: "It is interesting that the UK is trailing the continent in terms of living space, particularly when you take the fact that we tend to live in houses rather than flats into account. Quality of life is not only about income and spending, comfort is a core component. Hopefully the Government is aware of these figures as it tackles the increasing demand for new housing in the UK."

Owning your own property is popular to differing degrees and despite the widely held perception to the contrary, Britons aren't Europe's most prolific homeowners. The Spanish (80%) own more of their homes than the Brits and Italians (69%). The French (54%) and Germans (43%) own less.

Despite the right to buy initiatives of the Thatcher governments, Britain still has the highest number of 'social housing', namely council or housing association dwellings (22%). France has the second highest provision of social housing with 18% living in social owned homes. Whilst Spain barely has a social sector at all with only 1%.

Compared to our counterparts on the continent, the UK has the least developed rental sector with less than 1 in 10 (9%) British homes being rented privately. This contrasts sharply with the staggering 46% in Germany - over five times the UK level. This news is surprising given the recent surge in popularity of buy to let mortgages in the UK.

There are marked differences between the residential property prices in the five countries and the types of homes people can purchase. For £60,000 a homeowner could buy a semi-detached home in the north of England, a rural home in Italy, a villa in Spain or an apartment in a French ski resort.

Interesting Links

Port Sunlight - One of the first and finest examples of social housing in the UK.

Up my street - If you are going to visit the UK find out about the area here. You only need the postcode.

Property Finder - Find a property to buy in the UK. Or just be nosey and have a look.

The Royal Residences - An on-line guide to the most sumptuous places in the UK.