Guidance on buying a flat
The choice between buying a flat and a house not only varies from person to person, but also depends on personal circumstances which can change over time. This article looks at some of the pros and cons of buying a flat compared to a house.
Advantages of buying a flat
Many people choose to buy a flat for ease of maintenance, particularly flats with no gardens. Maintenance of the building is normally shared with other flat owners either through a Management Company or by provisions with the lease. This can be an advantage to those who do not wish to have full responsibility for such issues.
If you do not live at the flat or are away for long periods then important issues such as maintenance and insurance will be dealt with by the Management Company or Managing Agent on your behalf, even in your absence.
Tips on buying a leasehold flat
Consider having a survey carried out. This would typically include an inspection within the flat you propose to purchase and the relevant external areas. As flats vary significantly, including the size of blocks/developments, obtain confirmation from your surveyor as to the extent of the inspection. The survey will help you to determine whether the block is being maintained by the Management Company and/or the other leaseholders.
In addition, your solicitor should:
- Establish whether there is a properly formed Management Company. If there is a Management Company there will be regular meetings and accounts will normally be submitted to Companies House annually. Where flats are in a smaller block without a Management Company the lease will normally set out responsibilities of the individual flat owners.
- Confirm the service charges to the Management Company and what this includes, eg, buildings insurance. Larger blocks with lifts are likely to have higher service charges.
- Check the remaining length of the lease of the flat. A property with a short lease may have reduced saleability and in some cases may not be mortgageable.
- Check whether any Ground Rent is payable to the Freeholder.
- Check details in the lease. Some works may require approval from the Management Company, eg, replacement of windows. Also, some leases may have a restriction on pets.
- Check whether any repairs are programmed to be carried out in the near future.
- Check the level of funds available in the Management Company’s account.
- Check whether there is an asbestos register for the common parts.
- Check whether a Fire Risk Assessment has been carried out on the block. This is particularly important for blocks of 3 storeys and more where escape from the building in the event of a fire may be more difficult. Check whether any upgrading works are necessary, eg, provision of fire doors, smoke detection and alarm system, etc.
- Whether there is an allocated parking space for the flat and/or visitor parking. This is particularly important for flats in a built up area.
Whilst most flats are leasehold, some areas have a number of freehold flats. If you are considering buying a freehold flat then you must give careful consideration to maintenance and insurance of the building. You should also consider saleability in the event you wish to resell the property as some mortgage lenders do not lend on freehold flats.