Flats have seen sharp price rises over recent years. One recent survey found prices had gone up by around 60% over the past decade, compared to a rise of just 34% in the average house price over the same period. The main reason for this is the demand in London, where around 50% of properties sold are flats. If you are considering buying a flat, whether in East London, South East London or elsewhere, it is important to arrange a property survey before committing yourself to buy.
Reasons for Buying Flats
Price and availability are both important factors for people opting to buy flats. In London, in particular, whole houses are often prohibitively expensive, and as a result in many areas most properties are divided into flats. There are also many new flats being built in London and some other areas, especially in the South East, including Kent and Essex.
This type of property is often popular not only with first-time buyers but also with “downsizers” who are moving out of a larger property to release income. Increasingly, flats are also being bought by people who want to become buy-to-let landlords, in some cases in order to provide themselves with income as an alternative to a pension. High demand from first-time buyers means that in some cases smaller flats can give a higher return on investment in terms of rental income than larger properties.
Choosing a Flat – Points to Bear in Mind
Before choosing a flat, you need to think about what your key requirements are. These will vary depending on whether you want to live in the property or let it out. You will probably have at least a rough idea of the area where you want to buy, but, when choosing a specific flat, it pays to look at what the neighbourhood is like. If the flat is within an apartment block, what do you think of the communal areas and the look of the building as a whole?
Outdoor space is another key area to consider. Does the flat you are considering have a garden? This can help with resaleability, or with finding tenants. Another important question is whether parking is available. If you don’t have a space allocated, this could prove to be an expensive problem after you move in. In very popular areas of London, the lack of parking is so great that some spaces are even being sold separately for thousands of pounds.
Another important question at the outset is whether you will be able to get a mortgage. If you need a home loan to complete the purchase, it’s important to check whether the particular flat you are considering will be eligible for you to borrow on. Some lenders will only give loans on flats situated on the lower floors of a property, so if you want a flat on a higher storey you might have less choice of lender.
Is there a lift? With flats which aren’t on the ground floor, this is often regarded as an essential by older buyers and renters in particular. But, if there is a lift, it’s highly advisable to check who is responsible for maintaining it and keeping it in good repair.
Is the flat you are considering leasehold? If so, an important question to answer is who owns the freehold. If the owner is a property company, it is worth checking out their reputation and how long they have been going, so that you can be sure they will fulfill their responsibilities as freeholder in the future.
As a buyer, you also need to find out what service charges you are likely to have to pay for upkeep of the communal parts of the building. Also, are there any one-off repairs or maintenance planned that you could be required to pay a share of? Yet another point to consider is the length of the lease. Short leases are likely to cause problems, since it could be hard to get a home loan and you may also find it hard to sell on in a few years’ time when the lease is even shorter.
Even if you are a cash buyer who doesn’t need a mortgage, it is always essential to arrange an expert building survey before committing to buy a flat. Whether you intend to live in the property yourself or are buying to let, you need to be sure that the flat is in good condition, with no unexpected bills coming up.
Getting an RICS surveyor to examine the property on your behalf means you can be sure that it is a good investment and if there are any problems these will be flagged up. The survey should include looking at any other parts of the property where you may be liable to pay for upkeep, as well as the flat you are considering.
Anderson Associates has extensive expertise in surveying all types of property in East London, South East London, Essex and Kent, including flats. If you are not sure which type of property survey would be best for you, we can advise you. We don’t recommend home buyer reports, as we do not consider they are detailed enough to allow you to make an informed decision on buying, and instead advise having a full building survey which we can do for a similar price.
Our surveys also include a cost summary detailing any repairs needed including individual or shared costs for this work. Home buyer reports don’t include this level of detail.
(Our website has sample surveys showing the detail and extent of our reports as well as the cost summary showing the sorts of work required and approximate costs involved)
Anderson also offers a building maintenance planning service and can carry out detailed maintenance surveys. These are especially suitable for people who share the freehold of a block of flats and need to arrange repairs.
If you are thinking of buying a flat and need to arrange a property survey - click here to contact Anderson Associates, or call us on 01473 623 656 or freephone 0800 652 8285.