Think of a maisonette house as something akin to a hybrid between a flat and a house. It offers key benefits of both – albeit with a bit of compromise. As with any home or investment decision you make, it is important to weigh the advantages and the disadvantages of a property before making a choice that is right for you, your needs, your goals and, of course, your budget.
That said, let’s dig in. Is a maisonette a good investment – or a good place to call home?
What Is a Maisonette?
First things first: let’s clarify what, exactly, a maisonette is. It comes from the French term for “little house.” Well, it’s not quite a little house, literally, though it shares some similarities. This type of home is self-contained, has its own entrance and is usually two (and sometimes more) storeys. In the United States, they call it a “duplex.” And small? They can actually be very spacious in some cases! They may have a separate garden or one that is shared, and some offer garage space as well.
Maisonettes became popular in the 1970s as a way to encourage more urban density for the growing population. Today, you can find them above shops and stores, garages or other maisonettes.
The benefit of a maisonette over a flat is that there is no shared entrance or corridor and while still contiguous to neighbours, they do offer a greater level of privacy. Let’s cover some quick pros and cons:
- Maisonettes are typically less expensive than houses – which is why you’ll see them more commonly in areas that need student housing. That said, they are quite suitable for any age group or demographic!
- Compared to a flat, they offer more privacy, given that you have your own access point and don’t have to share a corridor or as many common areas.
- As mentioned, you may be able to score a maisonette that offers a separate garden, garage and/or storage space, making it feel and function more like a house.
- Ground Rent. If a leasehold (which we will discuss in a moment), you will have to pay ground rent in addition to your regular monthly rent.
- Shared Facilities. While you do get more privacy compared to a flat, there will be some shared facilities (e.g. driveway, parking spaces and, in some cases, gardens).
- It may be more difficult to obtain a mortgage for a maisonette, particularly if a leasehold. More on this momentarily.
Now, here are some factors to consider when you are considering buying a maisonette:
It May Be a Leasehold
This is one factor that makes it more challenging to obtain a mortgage. If the lease is nearing the end of its term, lenders may steer clear. Because this reduces the value of the property, many will not want to take the risk of allowing you to borrow money. There is also the issue of ground rent.
You’ll Need to Have Good Working Relationships with Neighbours
In some cases, owners of shared freehold maisonettes join together to cover the cost of work, maintenance, improvements etc., on the exterior. This is usually ironed out ahead of time in the sales contract.
Privacy Can Be an Issue
Again, while more private than a typical flat, you are in relatively close proximity to neighbours, and there may be some restrictions around noise, parties/gatherings and the like. And, if you live above a shop or another business, you will also have to factor in the comings and goings of customers.
There May Be Restrictions On the Property
There may be restrictions in terms of what type of modifications or alterations you can make to the property (e.g. extensions). There may also be limitations regarding pets.
It May Be Harder to Get a Mortgage
As mentioned, securing a traditional mortgage can be more challenging. Obviously, this is not an issue if you intend to buy with cash. If you need financing, though, make sure the leasehold has at least 90 years remaining to bolster its value in the eyes of lenders.
A maisonette house may be a great investment or home for you. Weigh the pros and cons, think about financing, privacy and other issues and make the decision that best suits your goals, needs and budget.