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Tips on How to Buy a Flat in London

By Fraser Gregory  //  Mon 16th November 2020
Flats in sought after areas with features such as outside space will fetch premium prices which may be out of your budget. However, we would advise you to buy in the best location you can afford, even if this means comprising on the size of the flat.
Central London aerial picture

Tips on How to Buy a Flat in London

Central London is still as sought-after as ever and high property prices make finding a flat in London a challenge.

Whether you are buying a new home or looking to invest in London property, you will probably have to compromise on factors such as location or property type in order to find a flat that is within your budget.

Here are a few hint and tips to help you find a property that meets your needs at a price you can afford.

Leasehold or freehold

If you are buying a flat in London it is likely to be leasehold. A leasehold gives the purchaser the right to occupy the property for the period specified in the lease. Leases are usually long term – often 90 years or 120 years and as high as 999 years – but can be short, such as 40 years.

Some flats are share of freehold, this means that the leaseholders each own a share of the company who owns the freehold. This gives the leaseholders more control over their home, as well as giving them the power to extend their lease for up to 999 years.

Check the length of the lease

The costs of extending a lease are high so when buying a leasehold property, check how many years are left on the lease and how many will likely remain by the time you come to sell. The value of properties with short leases will rapidly reduce as the lease period decreases. A residential lease with less than 80 years left to run constitutes a short lease.

Check the annual charges and building costs.

As you will most likely be buying a leasehold flat, you will need to factor in costs such as annual service charge and ground rent. The service charge covers all the activities that are required in order to maintain the building including, buildings insurance, maintenance and repairs, provision of leisure facilities, concierge services or additional security. Ground rent is typically a token fee paid to the freeholder in exchange for renting the land the property sits on.

Find out what the annual charges or maintenance/building costs are. Apartments with more communal areas or leisure facilities such as gyms will have higher service charges. High annual service charges can tip the balance in favour of an apartment in a non-communal building which doesn't come with these extra costs.

London locations (where to buy a flat in London)

What constitutes a 'good location' will vary from person to person, so it's as well to do your research and keep an open mind.

Decide what features and amenities your ideal flat and location would have and identify what aspects you would be willing to compromise on.

Flats in sought after areas with features such as outside space will fetch premium prices which may be out of your budget. However, we would advise you to buy in the best location you can afford, even if this means comprising on the size of the flat. This protects you against the risk of a weakening property market because prime properties tend to hold their value better. For the best locations in central London you can’t beat Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Kensington.

Proximity to public transport?

To get around London it is essential to have easy access to public transport, preferably a tube station and ideally within walking distance. Access to rail services and regular bus services are also a significant advantage.

Most London homebuyers looking for easy access to public transport so expect to pay a premium for flats within walking distance of a tube station.

What type of London flat?

London has an endless variety of flats and apartments on offer, including modern property developments, converted houses, period apartment buildings and flats above shops. Each property type has its advantages and disadvantages, keeping a flexible attitude may mean that you can get a hold of a great property at a good price.

Look beyond flashy design and furnishings.

Appearances can be deceiving. When viewing an apartment, try and be as (quietly) critical as possible, and look at the property with an objective eye. The fixtures and furnishings might look good, but have they been installed well? If you bear this in mind, you might be able to pick up on things you otherwise wouldn't have spotted.

Walk around the neighourhood

Walk around the area to get a feel for the neighbourhood, look out for anything potentially problematic. It’s worth doing this at different times of the day as a quiet residential street in the daytime could be busy and nosy with evening revellers. Walking around the area at night will also give you a feel for how safe it is.

Find out what shops, restaurants and other facilities there are nearby. Check out how long it takes to get to theatres in the West End or top shopping spots in London.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate

Demand is high for flats and apartments in London, which pushes up prices but don’t let that put you off trying to negotiate on price. Research selling prices in the location and consider offering a lower price and negotiating from there.

Consider hiring a search agent.

Take on a reputable local agent. This can make all the difference to the process of searching for, finding and buying an apartment, or any property for that matter. A local agent will know the market you're interested in well, and they will be able to offer advice and support when you need it most, which, with the general stresses involved in buying property, can prove invaluable.

Plaza Estates are one of the capital's leading independent specialist agencies. If you would like expert advice on buying a flat in and around Mayfair, Knightsbridge and Kensington get in touch with us today.

Offices at

Marble Arch
29 Edgware Road
W2 2JE
f: 020-7258-3090
34 Beauchamp Place
f: 020-7581-7005