Should you buy a garden flat?

Garden flats are a fine compromise, combining the perks of city-centre living with a flavour of suburban comfort. Like all kinds of properties, they have their pros and cons, and if you’re thinking of buying one, there are a few things you might want to consider.

Advantages of garden flats

  • Outdoor space gives a whole extra dimension to your property. You can have barbecues, sit out in the sun, and undertake messy hobbies without dirtying your limited indoor areas.
  • You can grow things, whether it’s bright, scented flowers or veg for the table, Good Life-style. With a bit of imagination (raised beds, hanging baskets or climbers, for example), even tiny outdoor spaces can support a veritable jungle of plant life. Apart from being fun, growing stuff is good for you. Gardening can have a positive impact on both your physical and mental wellbeing, and charities such as Thrive, TCV and Mind have all used it as a tool to improve mental health in urban areas.
  • Depending on the size and security of the garden, it might enable you to keep pets. Many feel that it’s cruel or impractical to keep animals when they live in flats, but with outdoor space, some people are able to keep rabbits, cats or smaller breeds of dogs. Some bold folk even raise chickens, with special products on the market for urban chicken-keepers.
  • Gardens are good for getting to know your neighbours. A gardener is very unthreatening, and you can easily find yourself chatting over a fence or holding a conversation with someone leaning out of an upstairs window. And communal gardens are great for fostering a sense of community among people who perhaps wouldn’t otherwise cross paths.
  • If you’re buying to let, outdoor space can make the property much more attractive to certain groups of prospective tenants.

Disadvantages of garden flats

  • Garden flats tend to be larger and more expensive than some others.
  • Most garden flats will be on the ground floor, and in cities, this carries an inevitable security risk. Those lovely French doors opening up onto the back patio are much easier pickings for a determined burglar than a tiny fourth-floor window, and sticking lockable grilles across your doors and windows sort of defeats the point. Intruder alarms, adequate insurance and a conscientious approach to security are all sensible precautions, but ultimately you’ll need to decide how much you value your stuff versus your quality of life.
  • If you’re a private person, a garden flat might not be for you. Chances are there will be 15 windows overlooking you, and several pairs of eyes will be making judgements about you based on the overgrown flowerbeds and the fact that you’re sitting out in your scruffy pyjamas eating a mid-afternoon pizza in the sunshine.
  • Gardens can bring you closer to your neighbours, but they can also be a source of conflict. Some people may not appreciate your late-night barbecues, or the small terrier that tears around the yard barking when you let him out before work each day. On the other side, it can be frustrating when you’re trying to tinker with your bike in the back yard on a Saturday afternoon and the lady upstairs starts heckling you from the window because the noise is interfering with her hangover.
  • Depending on size, a garden can be a lot of work, and there can be consequences to not keeping on top of it. If it’s visible from outside and is making the building look disreputable, the neighbours/freeholder may ask you to do something about it. Similarly, failure to maintain a communal garden may lead to a freeholder employing costly contractors to deal with the issue.

In short, deciding whether or not to buy a garden flat (assuming your budget will stretch to it) is mainly about whether you’re willing to trade the advantages in quality of life for the possible complications that come with having outdoor space in an urban area.

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