The age and communal nature of this type of property leads to some specific factors to understand in your search, and Stacks Property Search experts list here just a few points to look out for…
Things to look out for when buying a flat or apartment:
Service Charges: There are many apartment blocks, old and new, which have a full concierge Service and some which are manned daily by a porter. Service charges vary widely from approximately £3,000 per annum to £20,0000 and more. It is important to check whether any large works are due to be carried out on the block itself, and if reserve funds have been collected in anticipation (known as a sinking fund).
You could be paying for the luxurious extras such as gymnasiums, swimming pools and porterage so find out which blocks offer which services. You don’t want to be wanting to pay for what you don’t want/need.
Floor Levels: if you are starting your search online and see a flat which is on the third floor or above, don’t forget to check whether there is a lift if it is something that you need. There are many beautiful top floor flats which were once part of a house and therefore do not have lifts. These can be as high as the 5th and 6th floors, so if you don’t fancy the climb read the information in the agents’ description – what they don’t say is often as important as what they do say!
Lift capacity: As many of the properties are period buildings, with lifts built a long time ago, they are often very small. If you are a young family using pushchairs, or if you travel frequently and carry large amounts of luggage this is something to bear in mind. Even lugging the shopping up the stairs can be a real burden.
Leases: These may seem hugely complicated and often buyers try to avoid anything other than freehold or share of freehold. However, there are areas where leases are the norm, so ask your solicitor to have a look at a copy of the lease. Knowing the unexpired lease length and what the implications are is something that we and your solicitor will assist with.
Refurbishment options: Ex-Council flats and those that have been in the same family for a long time are often an attractive ‘un-modernised’ project. However, with so much building work having been carried out over the years, the managing agents and freeholders in many blocks have adopted rules to prevent noise problems and other issues such as leaks. Therefore, don’t assume that you can have wooden flooring, or that you can move a kitchen or bathroom to wherever you like, as there are often rules regarding ‘wet over dry’, for example.
Roof Terraces: These sought-after spaces, giving the London resident some ‘fresh’ air is obviously very popular, but sometimes are not demised (owned) by the flat, and again it’s crucial to ask for a copy of the actual demise of the property. Even if when viewing the property, it is clear the current owners use the space as a roof terrace, they may not have supposed to be and this can cause issues should there be leaks to the flats below and whose responsibility this is etc.
Communal Gardens: Properties with outdoor space, such as the beautiful garden squares in major cities, are highly sought after, but make sure that the property you like is on the garden square that you are allowed access to, and find out what the rules are. You may find that using it for garden parties or playing ball games with your children may breach the rules. As a rule of thumb, if the property overlooks the garden square you can use it, but this is not always the case, so check the lease.
Rental purchases: There are a few buildings, particularly across Central London**, which have added a clause into the lease which basically stops properties from being rented out. The lease may state that the property cannot be let out for less than three years if at all. Whilst this may prove difficult to enforce it is a risk not worth taking if you are buying the property to rent out and will clearly impact those using a buy to let mortgage. These clauses may also impact on the resale value of the property because it is not therefore offered on a normal ‘open market’ sale because it is not available to every buyer.
There are many other aspects to look out for when buying a property and this is where using an experienced buying agent can save you time, disappointment and money.
Find your local experienced Property Finder to help you get to the bottom of all these points – and more – is another good reason as to why instructing
**For more on buying in London, contact our London Team the London property experts, who can help you identify and avoid other London-specific issues such as ‘Tube Rumble’!
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