Buying property is a sizable investment. Unlike renting, you can’t just up sticks if things don’t quite work out — so it’s important to consider all the factors.
One of the biggest decisions first-time buyers grapple with is whether they should buy a flat or a house. From the outside, it might seem like a simple case of getting onto the property ladder with whatever you can afford. But the reality is not so clear-cut.
There are advantages and disadvantages of both kinds of property, and it’s also important to consider long-term value. To help you weigh up the options, we’ve laid out the pros and cons of buying a flat; from leasehold agreements to nosy neighbours.
Starting with the more obvious advantage, flats are generally more affordable than houses, and require a smaller deposit. This makes flats a more accessible option for first-time buyers, and a great stepping stone for single buyers (or small families).
Because flats tend to be cheaper, you’ll be less restricted in where you can live — for example, living in a much more central location, or closer to where you work.
Because flats are smaller, they’re easier to manage — which is great for first-time buyers who have less experience with property maintenance. Having a one-floor property is also much easier to clean, which might suit buyers with a busy lifestyle.
You might not be able to get the big garden you wanted, but some more modern flat buildings come with amenities like an on-site gym or swimming pool, shared terrace space, planted outdoor areas, or bike racks.
Depending on the building, you may have access to increased security measures — like coded doors, CCTV, or even night security. Flats that aren’t on the ground floor generally feel safer.
Most flats in the UK are leasehold, which means you’ll own your flat but not the building or land. While you’ll have less ownership over the building, you can rest easy knowing the maintenance of the building is someone else’s responsibility.
Many buildings have restrictions in place for residents, especially for new builds. These include not being able to sublet your flat, restrictions on owning pets, and not being able to make any big or structural changes to the space.
Another obvious one — but definitely something to consider, especially if you’re looking to grow your family in the near future. While you can get three bedroom apartments, you may find yourself compromising on things like second bedrooms or a garden.
While flats are generally more affordable than houses, you could still run into additional costs you hadn’t initially budgeted for — especially with new builds. These could include service charge, ground rent, parking, building maintenance costs, and leasehold costs.
Living in a flat means having a lot more proximity to other people, and in some cases putting up with loud or nosy neighbours. While some people like the community feel, others prefer more privacy in their day-to-day life.
Flats are traditionally slower to sell than houses. This can be caused by a range of factors, including things like cladding — which has meant flat owners have struggled to find trusting buyers who are ready to move quickly.
Unfortunately, there’s no straight answer to whether you should buy a flat, or a house. The answer largely depends on your lifestyle, future plans, budget, and priorities.
If you are considering buying a flat, there are a few questions to ask to make sure you’re making the best investment:
- Is the flat leasehold or freehold? Leasehold and shared freeholds can sometimes be complex, so it’s vital to understand how much ownership you have.
- How long is left on the lease? This will determine the long-term value of the property, so be sure to check.
- What other costs are involved? Before signing anything, be sure to get a full picture on what additional costs you might have to fork out for (e.g. service charge or ground rent) and whether it still makes financial sense to buy a flat over a house.
- Can you rent the flat out? The answer to this question will determine how much freedom of movement you have as a homeowner. If you have a more transient lifestyle, a flat might not be right for you — as it doesn’t make sense to have the space sitting empty for months on end.
- Who’s responsible for the maintenance of the building? Will you deal with a freeholder, or a management company? This is very important, as you need to ensure they’re trustworthy and responsive.
- Who else lives in the building? You’ll be living in close proximity with your neighbours, so it’s good to scope out who else lives in the building. If there’s a lot of families, it might make you feel more comfortable as a family.
- What structural changes are you allowed to make? It’s important to know how much freedom you have to extend or change things.
Still unsure about whether to go for a house or a flat? Speaking to a mortgage broker is the best way to assess your financial situation, so you can get a more realistic sense of the types of UK property you can afford.
Affordability is a growing issue in the UK housing market, so if a flat is all you can afford, it’s still a fantastic investment (and cheaper than paying rent in the long term).
Remember; any property you go for won’t necessarily be your forever home; so it’s important to be flexible with your must-haves if you’re not planning to stay somewhere for longer than a few years. If you do struggle to sell, we buy any house — and will happily take yours!
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