Things to consider when buying a flat
Last updated: 27/04/2022
For home hunters on a budget, particularly first time buyers, a flat is often the most affordable option, and can be great if you want to live close to the hustle and bustle of a city centre.
But buying a flat can be very different from buying a house. Here are some considerations and things to know about if you’re thinking about buying a flat.
Most houses are freehold properties, meaning if you buy one, you own the home and the land on which it is built.
But most flats are leasehold properties. This means you buy the right to occupy the property, but the land belongs to someone else. Leases tend to last from 99 to 999 years and when they come to an end, ownership of the property returns to the landlord. So when you take on a leasehold property, it’s essential to know how long is left on the lease.
Buying a leasehold property involves different rules and fees than buying a freehold house, so read our guide to understand more about what’s involved when purchasing a leasehold property.
Similar to renting, by buying a leasehold flat you’ll have a landlord who owns the property. They may have a management company that manages it for them.
You’ll pay them service charges and in return they’ll arrange services, repairs, maintenance and any improvements.
When you’re buying a property, there are plenty of expenses, and you might wonder if you could get away without having a survey done when buying a flat.
But, a survey is just as important for a flat as it would be any other home. As well as your flat, the survey should also cover the building the flat is in.
Whatever type of property you’re considering, a survey can help identify and avoid unexpected repair costs further down the line, or at least prepare you for any future investments.
Do you depend on a car to get around? If so, parking will be a big consideration when buying a flat.
Flats often come with one parking space. This may be a particular bay that’s always reserved for you. Or you may have the right to park one car in the block’s car park, but on a first-come, first serve basis, meaning there may not always be space. You may also need to show a permit to use the car park.
If you could get away without a car, and instead use options like public transport to get around, then bear this in mind, as a flat without a parking space may be cheaper.
Either way, be sure to carefully read the details of the lease so you understand what parking rights it does or does not include.
If you’re moving from a house into a flat then you’re likely to have less space to fill in your new home. So before you move, try and do some decluttering and clear out anything you really don’t need or want anymore.
It’s a good idea to plan ahead, using a floorplan, to think through what will fit in your flat and where.
You may be able to avoid paying an expensive removal company and do the job yourself, by hiring a van and roping in some mates to help out.
If you’re a leaseholder, the landlord usually arranges buildings insurance, which you’ll contribute to as part of your service charge. It’s best to check this is the case though, to ensure you’ve covered.
You’ll still need to insure your own belongings though, with a contents insurance policy.
Try and get a sense of how noisy your flat might be when you view it. Some leases are quite strict and prohibit leaseholders from making noise audible outside their property at certain times of day, or may ban pets or musical instruments.
It depends on your taste and lifestyle as to whether you’d welcome these policies or not, but it’s important to know either way before you sign on the dotted line.
Many modern apartment blocks offer good security with features such as video intercom and gated access.
However, like any property, security should always be a consideration. The Police have more information on what to look out for and how to keep your flat secure.
As well as the potential money-saving of opting for a flat instead of a house, they can also be more convenient, especially if you have a busy life and are short on time.
For a start, they tend to be smaller, so you’ll have less to clean. Also, if you have no garden then that means you’re saved the trouble of keeping it in order.
You’ll also find that upkeep is simpler, as the property itself is managed and looked after by the management company. Of course, you do have to pay for the privilege.
Click on the sections below to explore what you need to know at each stage of your home buying journey: