Considerations when  buying an apartment

Estate Agents boardsNew apartments

There are many important things to consider before buying a newly built apartment. The headings below are intended as a guide so you can make an informed choice when buying your new home.

See also:  What to look for    Questions to ask   Buying an apartment   pages.

Timber frame construction

This website strongly advises against buying an apartment built using timber frame construction. For more information on timber frame with both noise and fire giving cause for concern.

Maintenance free construction

    •     No render or timber windows to decorate

    •     Plastered or exposed brick common staircases; not plasterboard dry lining

    •     Damage resistant materials used in lift car interior

Car Parking

    •     Allocation and number of visitors spaces.

    •     Security.

    •     Enforcement and clamping.

In new developments you usually pay extra for a garage or a space in an underground car park.

The location of the apartment

Consider an apartment with a balcony, especially if there are great or potential views. This will make it easier to sell when the time comes.

How close the apartment is to the lift and the fire doors.  It can be very noisy if your home is near to these.

Which floor is better?

An apartment that has others above and below it can be generally more noisy than a ground floor or top floor apartment. If you prefer an apartment above the ground floor, it will be further to carry your shopping if there is not a lift. If there are more than three floors a lift is essential. Ground floor garden level apartments and some penthouses are more prone to theft. Insurance companies may insist on extra security before they will insure your contents. Upper floor apartments may be colder in the winter and warmer in the summer but can have the advantage of panoramic views. The top floor properties should also be a bit quieter as there are no occupants above them. You may also be able to use the loft space for additional storage.

The number of apartments per floor staircase. The more apartments the more noise and wear and tear. Three or four apartments per floor should be considered a maximum.

The number of floors. Three or more floors will mean a lift is a necessity, meaning more cost in both a higher price for the property and long term maintenance charges. Many lenders will refuse a loan if the building has more than five floors. It should also be noted that the deposit required for new built apartment can be as high as 30% .


This varies considerably and many newly built apartments are getting smaller, especially in London. Purpose-built studios can be less than 25m2 with one-bedroom apartments of 48m2. When assessing the value of a new apartment take into account the size and cost per square metre. Property experts recommend that studios be avoided as they are cramped and can be very difficult to sell, or obtain a mortgage on. A one-bedroom apartment with a separate bedroom will be a better investment than a studio.

Buying off plan

Previously in popular developments, buying off plan long before an apartment building is completed was the only way to secure the property. In normal market conditions the value of the property would often increase during the construction period. However, in a falling market once contracts have been exchanged, you are committed to the purchase and the purchase price even if the value has fallen. In some cases dramatic falls in values have resulted in purchasers being unable to proceed because the mortgage was reduced or withdrawn altogether, resulting in a lost deposit of £30,000 or more. Remember most apartment blocks can take as long as 18 months to build, far longer than the average detached house.

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Resale values

This is a particular problem if the Freeholder or his managing agent have not carried out regular maintenance and repairs to the property. The resale value of an apartment will depend on how well the development is maintained and managed. If the gardens are not maintained or if the walls are dirty or gutters broken who will buy your property? However, it is possible to go to the leasehold Valuation Tribunal to force the freeholder to maintain the property.  A freehold apartment will always be easier to sell and probably command a higher price than a leasehold property.

Apartment blocks that contain predominantly let properties, will be more difficult to sell and command a lower price than the equivalent apartment in an owner-occupied building.

Apartments in cities are generally a good investment and have excellent letting potential, assuming that the rental market doesn’t become saturated. The best-selling apartments are spacious with at least two bedrooms and good views.

Be aware that properties on retirement developments often charge an exit fee each time the flat is sold.  High annual charges can also make these more difficult to sell.

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Maintenance free construction

The location of the apartment

Which floor is better

Resale values

Car Parking

Buying off plan

Buy to let

There is an inherent danger that you may find you are the only owner-occupier in your block. Not only will this mean an increase in the general wear and tear of the communal areas, which you are partly responsible for, but you may find that the local Estate Agents use your home to advertise their business, bad enough for actual sales but virtually permanent for letting. (To Let & Let By signs) In addition your re sale value will be adversely affected should there be evidence of let properties in the building. Always ask the sales negotiator if there has been any interest from buy-to-let “investors”. If you are still enthusiastic, you should only pay the same price as the investor and you should always ask for a discount on the advertised price of an apartment in any market conditions. Apartments are much more profitable for developers than detached houses.