Metro - 19 July 2016
I want to buy the flat above the one I own
By Jo Eccles
Q. The flat above me has come up for sale and I’m thinking of buying it as I need more space. What should I consider?
A: This can sometimes be a great alternative to selling your existing home and upsizing to a new property altogether, especially if you already love your flat and the location you’re in.
Firstly, I would check your lease to see whether there are any restrictions in terms of merging two properties or if there’s anything else that might prevent you from doing so. You are unlikely to own the air space between the ceiling of your flat and the floor of the flat above, so you should check with your freeholder – or your co-freeholders – or the appointed managing agent, to investigate whether you have licence to alter requirements, and if there are any potential restrictions. Also, double check that the property isn’t listed as this could prevent the internal changes you might want to make, such as putting in a staircase to join the flats. You will need to check whether planning permission is required as well, by checking with the local authority planning department.
Next, it’s important to consider what type and size of property you’re going to create. For example, you need to think about how many bedrooms you want, and you need to make sure that the size of your reception space is proportionate to the number of bedrooms. Additionally, research local property prices to check that there is demand for larger flats in the area. In a very family-orientated location, buyers usually prefer a large house rather than a big maisonette. If that’s the case, then this might not be a good idea from a re-sale perspective. However, if you’re in a more central region, where there is demand for big apartments, this could be a great investment opportunity.
A piece of advice would be to show the floor plans to an architect to double check that you can connect the two properties successfully in a way that the accommodation will flow well. If it’s going to be really tight to incorporate a stair case, for example, then you may want to re-consider. There are space saving options such as a spiral staircase, but a lot of buyers really don’t like them as they’re typically not the most practical, especially with children, so be aware of that.
Once you’ve made your enquiries and understand what you can do, then look into what price you should be paying; in London, prices are often considered on a per square foot basis. When you know what you’re prepared to pay, either contact your neighbour directly, if you have the appropriate relationship, or contact the selling agent. One thing to factor in will be that you are technically buying a second home, so the higher stamp duty rates will most likely apply. Speak to your solicitor about whether you can get a rebate or not, once the two properties are brought together. Also, take legal advice on whether the two leases can be combined into one, as ideally you don’t want each floor on a separate lease.
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