Top tips when buying an apartment


If you’re looking for a new home you may be considering an apartment. We’ve already looked at what you need to think about if you can’t decide between a house or a flat.

And if you’ve decided an apartment is right for you, then there are plenty of things to consider before you make your purchase.

You’ll need to carry out the same checks and follow the same rules as when buying a house, including employing a conveyancing solicitor. But flats are different to houses – and not just in the way they’re built. So, there are additional questions to ask if you’re buying an apartment.

Flats usually have leases, ground rent and also service charges. But if you follow our helpful guide, you’ll know what questions to ask if you’re looking for an apartment in Tyne and Wear.


Lease length

Most leases run for 99 to 125 years. But you can find some with 999-year leases! The longer the lease the better – and if it’s below 75 years then beware. It is usually more difficult to obtain a mortgage as the majority of lenders avoid them.

If you’re selling, then make sure the lease is longer than 75 years before putting it on the market. You can ask the landlord for a lease extension, which will increase the chances of a sale. More information is available from the government’s website.

You can check your lease details via The Leasehold Advisory Service.

Also, check the lease carefully to see who is responsible for maintenance issues.


Ground rent

The owner of the land where your property sits usually sets an annual ground rent. It’s often around £50 but it can be set at any amount the freeholder wants – from £1 to hundreds. If it’s more than £200 that can make the flat more difficult to sell, so bear that in mind before buying.



Speaking of the freeholder (which can be an individual or a company), check the lease and what the freeholder has agreed about making changes to your property. You usually have to gain permission from the freeholder for major changes.


Service charges


Service charges cover the costs of maintenance, such as garden areas or the upkeep of communal areas. They can vary from a few thousands pounds up to £20,000 in some. You should also ask if there is a ‘sinking fund’ which covers any unexpected or unplanned works.


Repairs and alterations


Your service charge may not include the cost of major repairs, such as the roof. Find out who is responsible for such costs (the lease should tell you) and whether there is an agreement about sharing the costs with other owners.


If you’re unsure, check with your solicitor.

Mortgages for flats


As with any mortgage, you need to find the right lender for your circumstances. Most lenders will offer a mortgage for an apartment but they make a number of considerations, including:


  • New-build flats tend to devalue once purchased, which means some lenders will avoid them.
  • Some lenders might have an issue about flats above shops and within other commercial buildings.
  • There are some flats that are freehold, but it is rare. In these cases many lenders will not offer a mortgage.
  • The Building Safety Act (which became law in April 2022) mean many mortgage lenders are reluctant to lend on flats in buildings with five storeys or more.

We advise speaking to a mortgage broker as they can access specialist lenders. Here’s our blog about brokers to help.


What to do next?

If you want help buying or selling an apartment, the experienced team at Jill Moore Select Properties can help. Contact us today for an appointment.

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