The five weirdest property stories of 2017

We walk the fine line between genius and madness to find out which whacky ways of building and buying property that made headlines in 2017 could become mainstream in 2018

Raffling homes: How we sell

From cryptocurrency to buying a new home before selling your own, home buyers are becoming creative about how they scrabble onto and up the property ladder. However, raffling homes has got to the winning entry.

It all started when a plucky 29-year old from Middlesbrough decided to raffle his home after struggling to sell it. After receiving no offers for six months, he decided to have a bit of fun and set up a raffle on Facebook. The idea was so popular, a spate of sellers followed in his footsteps. From Manchester townhouses to million-pound mansions, the prospect of being handed the keys to a mortgage-free home proved popular with punters.

In October, a new property platform was launched based on the successful concept, and in November a budding property entrepreneur launched her own business to help sellers who wanted to raffle their home.

So, is it a winning idea? In a tough market, it could help sellers shift properties that have proved difficult to shift on the open market. The idea also appeals to sellers keen to avoid complex chains and mortgage lenders. However, in areas of high-demand there is little need for a raffle – with housing stock at record lows sellers already have a winning ticket!

Ancient building materials: How we construct

What did the Romans ever do for us? The first big innovation in housebuilding came with the Romans, when they marched into Britain in 43 AD bringing with them concrete, jointing mortar and a blueprint for central heating. Unfortunately, they took these inventions with them when they marched back out in 410 AD.

However, this year scientists finally cracked the Roman recipe for concrete. Unlike modern concrete, Roman concrete became stronger over time – hence why their buildings are still standing thousands of years later.

The ancient concoction of volcanic ash, calcium oxide, seawater and lumps of volcanic rock reacted to create new minerals which reinforced the concrete. By contrast, modern concrete is not supposed to react after it hardens and erodes over time. Scientists say the discovery will lead to more environmentally friendly buildings – sometimes the old ideas really are the best!

Living in an egg: How we design 

Belgian architectural firm dmvA Architekten hatched the latest innovation in housing this year – an egg-shaped mobile unit, affectionalty named ‘the Blob VB3, engineered to be a multifunctional, fully-adaptable home.

Constructed entirely out of polyester, the Blob VB3 can be easily picked up and placed wherever it is needed. The 215-square foot shell functions as a bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom. Its walls are made of a lattice of shelving pods that can be used for sleeping and storage.

With pop-up villages, meanwhile development and micro-homes all fighting for headlines this year, the Blob could be coming to a city near you in 2018.

Smart sleep: How we live

There is stiff competition for the most outlandish smart home technology. From bottles that remind you when to drink to blobs that can hold a conversation, some the of latest smart home gadgets make the Jetsons look more like the Flintstones.

Our favourite, however, is the smart mattress. While most smart home technology is aimed at helping you get through the day, smart mattresses ease you through the night. Eight Sleep tracks your sleep and lets you view the data via an app. It then uses that information to adjust the pressure, temperature and form of the mattress. Now we can all sleep through the digital age!

The trouble with beards: How we build

Outsourced housing maintenance company Mears sparked controversy when it banned workers from having beards, in a move that was branded ‘penny pinching stupidity’ by construction union Unite.

Construction workers were told at a ‘tool box talk’ that they had to be clean shaven to “wear appropriate dust masks effectively”. The outcry was such that Mears took to Twitter to defend its decision, stating “We are simply protecting our workers’ safety in situations where dust masks are required… This is not only company policy but UK law. Alternatives to dust masks are offered, if suitable. We love beards!”

Given that construction is one of the UK’s most dangerous professions, any measures to improve safety are welcomed. However, it seems Mears may be afraid to beard the real issues!

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