Looking for a house isn’t easy. Looking for an area, deciding how many bedrooms AND thinking about costs are all aspects which will take serious considering. Making matters harder, you come across words like ‘maisonette’ and you’re left confused wondering ‘what is a maisonette?! How is a maisonette different to a house?’
Well, that’s where we step in. We’re here to give you the lowdown on all things maisonette and break down the ‘maisonette vs house’ debacle.
This menu is here to give you a guide on everything we’re going to talk about, so you can quickly find the answer you need. Not sure where to begin? Well, start from the very beginning…
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What is a maisonette?
A maisonette is essentially a two-storey flat. However, unlike a flat, a maisonette has its own entrance door, whereas a flat has a shared corridor. A maisonette is often located above shops, offices and garages or, similar to a block of flats, can be located above other maisonettes.
A maisonette is often referred to as a ‘house on stilts’, as they have their own entrance, staircase and sometimes a garden, much like a house would.
How many floors does a maisonette have?
A maisonette has two floors, which may house two different people, meaning two separate staircases and entrances. Sometimes you may see a maisonette called a ‘duplex’. This is an American term and originates from the fact a maisonette has two floors.
Are maisonettes freehold?
This is a good question, one which you should be asking your agent if you’re interested in buying a maisonette…
A maisonette can be freehold or leasehold, with leasehold being most common. If the maisonette is a leasehold, then if you were to purchase it, you would find yourself paying ground rent to the owner of the freehold. Ground rent is essentially you paying rent for the ground the building is on, as when buying the leasehold you own the maisonette but not the land.
Ground rent has left a bad taste in people’s mouths after the ‘Ground Rent Scandal’ hit the headlines in 2017. This scandal saw freeholders including unfair ground rent charges in the lease terms, which meant the ground rent spiralled, leaving those in their homes unable to pay it. The onerous ground rent then meant the houses struggled to sell too, as no one in their right mind would want to pay those ground rent charges.
With this in mind, if you’re looking at a leasehold maisonette, don’t panic! You don’t need to instantly stop what you’re doing and look elsewhere! Instead, make sure you’re clued up with the terms of the lease and the ground rent charges. This will stop any potential nasty surprises later…
Also, with a maisonette, you may find that you have to pay a service charge. This is a fee which is paid by all residents in the same building and it goes towards the upkeep of communal areas. However, as a maisonette has very few communal areas, with the most likely situation being a shared driveaway and/or a shared garden, you should find the service charge in a maisonette significantly below what you would find in a flat.
If the maisonette you’re interested in is a freehold, we suggest digging a little deeper…
For example, is it the freehold to the whole building or is it just the freehold to ‘your’ maisonette? If it’s the freehold to the whole building, you may want to have a good think about it! This is because you will be responsible for the upkeep of all the communal areas (something to factor into your budget!)
Do maisonettes have stairs?
Yes, AND the staircase will belong to that maisonette only. Some maisonettes which are on the ground floor won’t have a staircase at all, which, if you need somewhere with easy access, may be more appropriate for you.
Maisonette vs house
|Own entrance and staircase
|Own entrance and staircase
|Above shops, offices, other maisonettes
|Situated on the ground, not above anything
|Private but less than a house
|Garden may be shared
|Can be Leasehold or Freehold
|Will pay ground rent and/or service charge
|No ground rent/service charge to pay
|Expenses split among residents
|Pays all own expenses
|Close to neighbours
|Likely more space from neighbours
|Strict rules (e.g. no pets, noise levels)
|Your own rules
|May be difficult to get mortgage
|Less mortgage complications
|Top floor will get loft space (extra storage space)
|Loft space – extra storage room
- Maisonette vs house = both will have their own staircases and entrances, something which sets them apart from other buildings, like flats and apartments
- Maisonette vs house = a maisonette is generally situated above another property whereas a house is situated on the ground
- Maisonette vs house = both are considered private in comparison to flats or apartments. However, a house could be considered to be more private as they normally have more space from neighbours
- Maisonette vs house = both may have a garden, but a maisonette is more likely to have a shared garden whereas a house will generally have its own garden
- Maisonette vs house = both can be a leasehold or a freehold, but generally speaking a maisonette more likely to be a leasehold and a house is more likely to be a freehold, unless bought through a shared ownership scheme
- Maisonette vs house = a maisonette will have to pay a service charge and may also have to pay ground rent (if a leasehold) whereas a house doesn’t have to pay a service charge and, if freehold, doesn’t have to pay ground rent
- Maisonette vs house = a maisonette is considered more affordable, as they’re generally cheaper when compared to a bungalow house of the same square footage!
- Maisonette vs house = another quality which can make a maisonette more affordable is the expenses of upkeep are shared between residents, whereas in a house you have to pay for expenses yourself
- Maisonette vs house = a key reason a maisonette may be considered less private than a house is because you’re generally closer to your neighbours. This isn’t necessarily a negative, though, as it can create a sense of community
- Maisonette vs house = a maisonette is likely to have stricter rules than a house. For example, in a maisonette you may not be allowed a pet, or you may have to keep under certain noise levels. This differs to a house where you can make your own rules!
- Maisonette vs house = getting a mortgage with a maisonette can be more difficult, with some mortgage lenders calling certain maisonettes ‘unmortgageable’! A house has less strict criteria and so likely there are less mortgage complications
- Maisonette vs house = both have loft space, giving the properties extra room for storage. Flats and apartments more than likely don’t have loft space, helping a maisonette look more appealing
Maisonette vs flat
Maisonettes and flats tend to be looked on in the same way, with most people not knowing the real differences between them. To help with the confusion, we’re going to give you the breakdown of a maisonette vs flat…
Flats are generally a single storey whereas a maisonette is normally across two stories. Also, in a block of flats, internally a lot of the flats are the same in terms of layout whereas a maisonette is normally more individual.
Flats are often less private than a maisonette, as you share the same entrance with other flats in the building and so aren’t as separate from your neighbours like you would be in a maisonette, where you have your own entrance and more private space. Also, due to a maisonette having its own entrance and not sharing a corridor it could be considered to be more secure than a flat.
Both a flat and a maisonette will have to pay ground rent, if leasehold, and a service charge but the service charge in a maisonette is likely to be less than a flat as there’s less communal area.
Should you buy a maisonette?
Like with most things, there’s no simple yes or no answer to whether you should buy a maisonette or not. BUT we can give you the pros and cons of buying a maisonette, so you can make your own decision…
- Cheaper option – more affordable than a house as it has shared expenses and is often priced lower than a house/bungalow with the same square footage
- Element of community – this is something you may not get in a house, as you will probably have more space from your neighbours. In a maisonette you can get to know your neighbours, creating a communal feel
- Privacy – more private than a flat, with a maisonette having its own entrance and staircase
- Garden opportunity – in a flat you don’t often get the opportunity for a garden so being able to have a garden in a maisonette, even though it may be shared, is a big plus. However, if you don’t like the idea of a shared garden, it may be advisable to look for a house instead
- Shared driveway – a shared driveway may be difficult as you have to factor in other cars use the same drive and you may sometimes need to manoeuvre around them. It may also mean you don’t get a designated parking space or off-street parking (not ideal if your car is your pride and joy)
- Less privacy compared to a house – in a maisonette you’ll likely be in a closer proximity to your neighbours than in a house, for example you may live above them, giving a maisonette a less private feel
- Potentially strict rules – in a maisonette you will have to follow certain rules, with the chance of some of them being very strict. In a house, you’re able to make your own rules!
- Service charge and ground rent – if your maisonette is freehold, you won’t need to worry about ground rent. A service charge, however, is something you’ll need to factor into your budget
- Mortgage struggles – mortgage lenders are less likely to lend on a maisonette or lend as much as they would on a ‘typical’ house. For example, when lenders look at loan to value, what they will lend on a maisonette is much less generous to what it would be on a house. If you want to read more about maisonette mortgage struggles, have a read of this
So that’s maisonettes all summed up, including the key differences when you look at maisonette vs house. Got something you want to share with us? Maybe something to add to our maisonette vs house comparison table? No matter what it is, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
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Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.