The Revival of City Living: Key Things to Consider if Purchasing a Flat

While the pandemic drove a lust for green space and more living room for prospective buyers, city living is returning to pre-pandemic levels. What was once essential has now moved down back the list of priorities for people looking to buy, with shorter commutes and urban amenities becoming top factors that people now consider.

City living in London

For those considering buying a flat for the first time, Brian Murphy, Head of Lending at Mortgage Advice Bureau, shares his top points that prospective buyers need to consider.

1. Freehold vs. leasehold – what’s the difference?

A freeholder is someone who owns a property outright, including the land on which it’s built. A leasehold differs in that you will own the property but not the land on which it’s built. The length of the lease is subject to the terms/agreement owned by the freeholder. This means that once your lease runs out, the property ownership technically returns to the freeholder unless it is extended. However, this decision is ultimately at the freeholder’s discretion. If you’re buying a leasehold property, make sure to consider how many years are left on the lease and any potential extra service charges that come with it.

2. How does a lease on a flat work?

A lease is a legal agreement between you and your landlord that outlines the number of years that you will own a property for. Once the lease comes to an end, ownership transfers to the person (or entity) that owns the land (i.e the freeholder).
Before viewing a leasehold property, you should check the lease length with the estate agent or seller. A lease below 80 years can start to affect the property value and may cause you issues when trying to sell in the future.

mansion flats

3. Service charge and ground rent

Most leasehold properties come with additional costs, such as a service charge and ground rent. A service charge covers the cost of maintaining the building, such as the cleaning of communal areas, heating, repairs and call-out fees. Ground rent is the money you pay the freeholder to live on the property’s land.

It’s important to factor in and consider additional costs when considering purchasing this type of property, as they could impact the amount you can borrow.

4. Lifestyle differences

Whether it’s your first purchase or your forever home, there may well be a difference in lifestyle when living in a flat compared to a house. For example, living in a complex with many other flats nearby may offer a sense of community, as well as lots of local amenities. However, a house can give you the option to make more permanent decorative changes that wouldn’t be as possible in a flat, such as an extension.

5. Cost vs convenience

One of the most notable considerations for inner city living will be location. This invites the question of space vs location, with many having to compromise on one or the other to find their perfect place. Take London as an example – the more central you wish to live may come with a price that matches, but you may well find yourself in a slightly smaller premises. Whatever you decide, make sure you know what you’re willing or unwilling to compromise on.