Are Top Floor Flats Harder For Estate Agents To Sell?
The sale of flats and apartments makes up around 1 in 5 homes in the UK (and about half of all property transactions in London). Recent price inflation has lagged behind the growth enjoyed by houses and many factors have contributed to slower capital growth for leasehold flats, among them the leasehold and cladding scandals of 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, in 2023, the demand for flats and apartments in the UK is expected to strengthen. Urban living is gaining traction again post-covid, while budget-squeezed households and high mortgage rates mean property buyers are looking for affordability and value for money.
Of course, it’s easy to make sweeping statements and predictions, but don’t forget that demand is also majorly affected by property specifics. Flats come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in a wide range of locations, sited on different floors in purpose-built blocks or converted buildings. Some are new-builds and are assumed to be in pristine condition, while others are charming period flats with original features. And that’s before their leasehold status is taken into account…
In this article, we’ll take a look at the desirability of top floor flats. Is it easier or harder to sell a property on the highest floor of the building? What are the advantages of living on the top floor? Are there any perceived drawbacks of this type of property and how can estate agents address potential buyer concerns and allay any fears?
What are the key selling points of top floor apartments?
Top floor flats have several obvious advantages over properties on lower floors, and these selling points provide excellent opportunities for marketing the sale:
One of the main attractions of living in a flat on the top floor is the views over the neighbourhood. Depending on location, this could be a panoramic sea view, a sweep of the eye across the city’s rooftops or a glimpse of greenery in a public park on the opposite side of the road. Urban property buyers, in particular, will be looking for great views, with London’s iconic cityscape being top of the list of desirable vistas.
Abundant natural light is high on homebuyers’ wish lists, especially in smaller properties where it can add a sense of space. In a recent survey, nearly 85% considered this the most important criterion when buying a property. Compared to ground floor or mid floor accommodation, top floor apartments have a natural advantage when it comes to light. Maximise the effect by opening curtains and window dressings to let the light flood in and show off the bright and airy feel that buyers love.
Privacy and seclusion are also highly prized, particularly among city dwellers who tend to be looking for a peaceful sanctuary to retreat from the urban hustle and bustle. Moving to the top of the building means less traffic noise from the streets below, less commotion on stairways and lifts and generally fewer disturbances. With nobody living above and the windows ideally not overlooked by nearby buildings, a top floor flat combines the convenience of urban living with the ultimate in privacy.
Being the least accessible property in the building has definite advantages when it comes to home security. Most burglaries are initiated by thieves spotting an opportunity such as valuables left in plain sight, an open window or unlocked door to gain entry. It is the reason why ground floor and basement flats are at greater risk of break-ins. None of this applies with a top floor flat, which is inherently the safest place to be.
While it is much more difficult to add capital value to a leasehold flat compared to a freehold property, there may be an opportunity with a top floor flat. It may be possible to develop the unused loft space above, subject to the lease and the necessary consents being obtained. If the attic does not form part of the demise, could the freeholder be approached with an offer to buy the space in the loft? It’s worth pointing out the possibilities to any interested buyer.
What are the potential drawbacks of top floor properties?
Top floor apartments can be an excellent purchase, and the best properties should have no difficulty achieving the optimum price. In some cases, people prefer a low-rise flat because they are scared of heights or are worried about the re-sale value. Flats on a short lease might be even tougher to sell if they are on an unpopular floor in a building. That said, agents need to be prepared to address some of the downsides potential buyers may identify and counter any negative perceptions.
Too many stairs
A flat at the top of the building means many flights of stairs to climb, unless of course there’s a lift. Older properties and period conversions may not have one, which could be a real problem for young families with babies in prams, elderly people and those with mobility issues. Even fit and healthy buyers may feel uncomfortable having to go beyond the second floor to carry the shopping up or the bins down, and bulky deliveries such as furniture could also be an issue.
It goes without saying that properties on the top floor, with no one living above, will be most vulnerable to any damage caused by roof defects and water leaks. Most top floor flats will be absolutely fine and unless there’s any evidence to the contrary when buyers come to view, there’s no reason to draw attention to issues that don’t exist. In any event, should water start leaking through the ceiling, the freeholder is typically responsible for any roof repairs.
Lack of outdoor space
Ground floor apartments and basement flats may have the benefit of a patio or private garden, which constitutes a valuable asset that top floor accommodation simply cannot provide. In fact, outdoor space is much harder to come by in apartments at the top of the building, but usually, the abundance of natural daylight and great views make up for it. Top floor flats with a balcony, a roof terrace or even a roof garden, and luxury penthouse apartments, are clearly premium properties and need to be marketed as such.
In the end, there's unlikely to a simple answer and most often it will come down to the individual apartment you are trying to sell. Whilst many of the negatives to top floor flats are self evident to potential buyers, it's important to check for all the positives as well, know the positives as some might be more easily missed. This should help you to achieve maximum value for your clients.