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"You should always buy a house over a flat"?

Grime Forumite Posts: 8 Forumite
edited 22 September 2009 at 10:49PM in House buying, renting & selling
Hello all.

A bit of background - I'm a (single) first time buyer - so to be honest I don't really know what I'm talking about - and I'm looking for a place in Ipswich. The situation here is that there are a ton of swanky new flats popping up all over the town and they're struggling to get rid of them.

I'm considering buying one flat, which has yet to be built - it's a top floor flat with a balcony, 2 bedrooms and everything - the kitchen for example - will be crisp and new and lovely. For £85,000. Or there's a similar one without a balcony for £80,000.

I'm also looking at a one bed starter home, about 20 years old. Among other things I'll need a new front door, the dodgy vinyl flooring needs to be replaced, the fence needs replacing, and a bloody great tree in the garden needs to come down. But nothing major. On the market for £95,000. But it has a garden! :D

I have to admit I'm seduced by the flat's new build warranty and the crisp newness of it all - I've always been a bit anal about presentation. There are also the savings I'd make on mortgage repayments. But the general consensus seems to be that you should always choose a house over a flat. Even the lady in the sales office at the new development said those words "you should always choose a house over a flat" when I told her what I was looking at.

Why do people say that? Would a house give me a bigger return on my investment? My priority is living well within my means and being able to enjoy life rather than struggling to pay the bills each month as opposed to making money out of it in the long run. The value will increase whichever I choose, surely?

Sorry if this is all over the place. Hope it makes sense. Many thanks.


  • McKneff
    McKneff Forumite Posts: 38,757
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper
    edited 22 September 2009 at 10:50PM
    A house, one day will be completely yours.

    A leasehold flat will never be properly owned by you. you will have monthly/annual service fees for the length of time you live there. and parking could also be a problem.
    We looked at a flat (oh sorry, an apartment dont ya know) in York - inner city - the wanted an extra £20k for the parking place - again that was just for the use of it, we would never have owned it.

    A little house, home, no weekly monthly costs, no ground rent, no service fees. yes, granted as and when maintenance fees but most of those can be done by you.

    A house every time. (with a garden - bliss)
    make the most of it, we are only here for the weekend.
    and we will never, ever return.
  • poppysarah
    poppysarah Forumite Posts: 11,522 Forumite
    newbuild will be old
    flats have many more people around you. service charges, communal area arguments.

    private garden, own front door, no communal repairs to pay too... somewhere to dry the clothes, park a bike, without annoying everyone.

    If you want to have a family a flat is the wrong place imo.
  • Grime
    Grime Forumite Posts: 8 Forumite
    poppysarah wrote: »
    If you want to have a family a flat is the wrong place imo.

    Should have mentioned I'm single. I'll be living on my own.
  • EdInvestor
    EdInvestor Posts: 15,749 Forumite
    Grime wrote: »
    The value will increase whichever I choose, surely?

    Not at the start.The value of a new build will go down, because it's not new any longer - same principle as a car.

    If the market in general goes up (it doesn't always, of course :D) then eventually this will lift the flat as well.

    I would personally never buy off plan, there are too many risks involved.
    Trying to keep it simple...;)
  • McKneff
    McKneff Forumite Posts: 38,757
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper
    Grime wrote: »
    Should have mentioned I'm single. I'll be living on my own.

    Doesnt matter, when you move into a little house, you close the door when you get home from work, think wow I;m home, invite the neighbours to an impromptu barbecue. You couldnt do that in a flat. Your neighbours wuld think you were crackers. In fact you could probably live in a flat for years and never see your neighbours.

    Good luck whatever you decide
    make the most of it, we are only here for the weekend.
    and we will never, ever return.
  • Doozergirl
    Doozergirl Forumite Posts: 33,569
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper Photogenic
    It's all about the unpredictablility of service charges, your neighbours and the lack of control you have, even if you own a share of the freehold.

    Flats are fine until you own a freehold house and then you realise that you'd never choose to go back. Like you'd never choose a semi again when you've bought a detached. You appreciate the benefits when you have them.

    You will find that a new build flat carries not a cheap service charge with it - now consider again that the flat is brand new and costs nothing to maintain - why exactly are you paying that much? And what do you think will happen to that service charge when the building does need proper maintenance?

    If you can afford a house, buy a house.
    Everything that is supposed to be in heaven is already here on earth.
  • Grime
    Grime Forumite Posts: 8 Forumite
    Thanks everyone.

    I guess if I'm going to be paying ground rent and service charges - which are subject to change - I might as well be paying the higher mortgage payments and have the money going into the house rather than throwing it away.

    Oh and I've just crunched the numbers and found with the service charges and ground rent that the flat is actually more expensive... maths was never my strong point :o
  • BitterAndTwisted
    BitterAndTwisted Forumite Posts: 22,492
    10,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    See? It's all falling together. Just think, you might actually enjoy gardening and pottering around doing little odd-jobs. And you're single, think of the mad parties you could have instead of squeezing about half a dozen into a new-build dolls-house with cardboard walls. Bliss!
  • Thermidor
    Thermidor Forumite Posts: 269 Forumite
    It all depends on what the flat is like compared to the house. SOME flats are awful (and costly to maintain) just as some houses are. On the other hand some flats are wonderful as are some houses.

    Before deciding on a flat or a house of a comparable price you need to do your homework on both properties.

    Although a house may seem as if you're getting more for your money, that isn't necessarily so. Some flats have more living space than houses. Terraced/semis etc can also have noisy nuisance neighbours, just as some flats can; but if you choose your flat wisely and buy into a small block or coverted house you'll often find your neighbours will keep their noise volume down so that you don't disturb them either! You may still have parking difficulties with a house(some roads have yellow lines for example). Some houses even have a leasehold (rare - but can happen) Some houses are small/pokey/unattractive etc...........

    Flats can also suffer from the above problems, but some flats can be nicer than houses. Some flats have a share of the freehold - so it does belong to you! Some flats have gardens, wonderful views, off-street parking, garages etc. A flat in a conversion for example can often have more living space than a small house, and if, say, a once grand old mansion has been converted into flats you'll ALWAYS get more for your money. You'll have the benefit of living in a beautiful building without the costs of running a house. And you'll share a small insurance with the other flat owners (perhaps £15 a month) to cover for maintenance works to the roof etc... so if buying a flat, you really want to look for one such as that, rather than a new build with high maintenance costs/leasehold etc Some people also like the fact that their neighbours live close-by for safety reasons (good burglary deterrants)

    So you shouldn't knock flats just because they're not houses. Lots of very wealthy people live in flats in the centre of cities, or in flats in converted mansions - and that's by choice.

    Remember - there are houses - and there are rabbit hutches called houses.
  • property.advert
    property.advert Forumite Posts: 4,086
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    I bought an off plan place in London in the late 90s. It went up 50% in the year before I had to pay for it. With hindsight, that is when I should of sold it.

    The numbers are different but it taught me something about flats versus houses. Flats are fine if the service charges are ok. If, like I did, you have porterage, cleaning, multiple staff, gardens and all manner of lifts and other things, your service charges drag down the value of your property, even more so when interest rates are low.

    At 5%, the £2500 service charges on my old place would fund a repayment mortgage of £35,000 or allow you to borrow an extra £50,000 on interest only. When you factor in house price inflation at 10% per year (easy number for this example), you will see that borrowing 50k more makes you 5k extra each year rather than paying £2500 a year in service charges.

    In fact, if you go right around the houses and effectively securitise this 5k (and rising) income, you see that you are seriously losing out in the long term.

    The answer is buy without high service charges.
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