Things to consider when buying a flat
Last updated: 27/04/2022
Buying a flat can be an affordable option for first time buyers. And buying a flat can be very different from buying a house. Here are some things to think about if you’re buying a flat.
Most houses are freehold properties, meaning when you buy the property, you own the home and the land that it’s built on.
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 really important to know how long is left on the lease.
Buying a leasehold property involves different rules and fees than buying a freehold house. Our guide can help you understand what’s involved when buying a leasehold property.
Similar to renting, by buying a leasehold flat you’ll have a landlord who owns the entire property that your flat is part of. 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.
A homebuyer survey involves you paying a qualified expert to inspect the property for concerns or problems before you buy it. It’s just as important for a flat as it would be for 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 buying, a survey can help identify and avoid unexpected repair costs further down the line, or at least prepare you for any future investments.
Flats often come with one allocated parking space, potentially one particular bay that’s assigned to the flat you buy. Or you may have the right to park one car in the block’s car park, but on a first-come, first-served basis. You may also need a permit to use the car park.
Make sure you carefully read the details of the lease so you understand what parking rights you have.
The fewer belongings you have to move, the more likely it is you’ll be able to avoid paying a removal company. If you can manage it, why not do the job yourself?
And space can be a premium in a flat, so before you move, try and have a clear out of anything you really don’t need or want. You can even use the flat’s floorplan to think through what will fit in your flat and where.
Buildings insurance covers the cost of repairing damage to the structure of your property. It's usually compulsory if you're planning to buy your home with a mortgage.
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, to make sure you’ve covered.
Unlike buildings insurance, contents insurance isn’t compulsory, but it can be a good idea. A contents insurance policy insures your own belongings and possessions – it likely won’t be covered by your landlord so think carefully about taking out your own policy.
Some leases can come with fairly strict rules attached. For example, residents might be banned from making noise that can be heard outside their own property at certain times of day. In lots of blocks of flats, pets may also be banned.
Whether or not these policies suit your lifestyle depends on your own preferences. But it’s important to know either way before you sign on the dotted line.
Your new flat may come with good security features like video intercom or gated access. It’s worth checking how secure the flat is and how comfortable you are before making an offer. The Police have more information on what to look out for and how to keep your flat secure.
Owning a flat instead of a house can 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, you’re saved the trouble of keeping an outside space in order.
You might find that general 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 through your service charge.
Use our deposit calculator to work out how to save a deposit for your first home.
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