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Interactive House for Sale – No Mortgage Required

by on September 23, 2010

The Portal’s interactive house is one of the most recognisable parts of the site. It was originally designed for use by members of the public who wanted to understand how planning rules work and it has been extremely succesful. Later in the post I recount the history of the house but before doing so I’d like to make you aware of it’s latest exciting incarnation.

House for Sale – no mortgage required

We’ve now moved the house on by stripping it of all content and adding a very simple content management system that will enable anyone (really anyone!) to add whatever content they like, not necessarily planning but anything house or home related.

We’ve already built a Crime Prevention version to demonstrate its potential for non-planning content but the permutations are endless, from providing info to tenants on various scenarios around the home to a sales tool for doors and windows – you decide.

We’ve made it incredibly easy to customise, add new features and content and publish it to the web.

If you’d like to get your foot on the cyber ladder please contact our commercial team
to talk about the costs or access to our demonstrator.

The History of the House

The interactive house has changed a lot over the last five years and I thought I’d take you on a trip down memory lane.

The idea for the house came from watching users struggle to navigate through text-heavy web pages in usability studies back in 2003. Not only was the text dense it was also full of strange technical terms – ‘curtilage’ anyone?

Giving people a simple and visual route into the advice seemed like a good solution.

Here’s the very first version from 2004:

The second version of the house arrived a couple of years later and coincided with the launch of Building Regulations content on the Portal.

This version of the guide let you move inside and outside the house.



In 2008, technology had moved on and we re-developed the house again to offer more information on new developments, such as microgeneration technology. The redesigned house was launched in May 2008 in time for a big trade show at the NEC.

Interactive house 2008

It was relaunched again in September 2008 to communicate the new permitted development rules. CLG referenced the house in the launch and dispensed with the usual practice of releasing a Circular.

A couple of months later in December we launched the terraced house in response to numerous requests from LPAs in urban areas. It also let us accommodate new areas of content such as shops, flats and basements.

It came as a real revelation to us to learn that the house was not just popular with members of the public but also with local authorities and planning professionals.

LPAs used it to communicate planning and building regulations rules to their customers (both at front desks and through call centre staff).

Meanwhile, we discovered that planning professionals used the tool in pre-sales discussions with their clients.

  1. Brian Hutchinson permalink

    It looks very useful but how do we get to use it?
    I dont see any clear instructions to enable me start using it.
    maybe its me, but it doesnt look clear to me.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Sorry if the message wasn’t clear Brian but we’re offering this commercially, hence the title “Interactive House for Sale”.
      I’ve amended the text slightly to make it more obvious.

  2. David Ryland permalink

    This is a very useful tool, but I cannot suggest to my potential clients that they use it as it contains a commercial link to a rival firm of planning advisors, who offer package deals. Surely this is not in the spirit of the original remit of the Planning Portal in my opinion, which should be offering inbiased advice for all to use without advertising. In other words I feel it should not be sponsored in this way.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi David,
      I do understand your position and in all honesty I would prefer not to carry advertising however the Planning Portal has been instructed that it must become self financing or face closure.
      We are investigating other avenues but until such time as we can depend on other sources of income to provide our funding we have no choice but to accept advertising and the revenue it brings.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi David,
      one option we have considered is making a version of the house that is free of advertising that could be made available for download to a mobile device, laptop or company website.
      This could then be used in exactly the way you describe.
      We would need to find a means of funding this development and had consequently considered various subscription models – is this something that you would find useful?

  3. Yes indeed it would. The Interactive House is a superb way of showing a potential client just what Permitted Development entails, so a copy that could be loaded onto a laptop would be spot on.

    I understand the need for funding and perhaps a subscription would be the answer if it could be set at a realistic price.

  4. Brian Green permalink

    It’s also used by the City of Calgary in Canada!

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