Moving to a new home is exciting, especially if it means moving to a brand new area, or if you’re moving out of your parents’ house for the first time. But from how many bedrooms you need to whether or not you need a garden, there are a lot of decisions to make – and one of these might be whether it’s better to rent a house or a flat.
Here are some things to consider.
The availability of houses and flats is something that you should take into account. It varies massively by location – for example, a 2017 survey by Barratt Homes found that across the UK 14% of people lived in flats, but in London that figure was 43%. When you’re deciding whether a house or a flat is right for you, have a look on online property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla to see what kinds of properties are available.
You’ll need to think about your budget, and what the prices of houses and flats are in the area you’re looking to rent in. As a general rule, flats tend to be cheaper to rent than houses as they're usually smaller and may lack certain assets like private outdoor space. Be honest with yourself about what you can afford – you might find your budget makes the decision for you!
Flats tend to be smaller than houses, especially in big cities like London. Think about how much space you realistically need. Don’t just think about the number of bedrooms – think about how big the space has to be. You don’t want to rent a tiny flat and then realise you can’t fit your sofa in the living room!
If you’re moving in with a group of friends or a big family, or you’ve got lots of belongings and furniture that you want to take with you, a house might be better suited to your needs (although decluttering before you move will save you money on removals).
Type of agreement
If you’re renting with other people, it’s worth giving some thought to what kind of rental agreement you want. You can either rent the whole place and split the rent, or you can rent your rooms individually in a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO). In order for a home to be classed as a HMO, there must be at least three tenants forming at least two households. As a result, HMOs are more likely to be houses, whereas if you get a flat you’re more likely to rent the place as a whole.
You should think about how important having outdoor space is to you, and what kind of outdoor space you might need. As a general rule houses are much more likely to have private gardens. Flats are less likely to have gardens and, if they do, they’re more likely to be communal, meaning you might need to share the space with other residents. However, depending on your location and budget, flats might be more likely to have other forms of outdoor space such as balconies.
Remember to think about other outdoor facilities, such as parking or outdoor storage, when you’re making your decision.
There are a number of things to take into account regarding security and feeling safe in your new home. Blocks of flats may have additional security, for example coded entrances. You also may have the added bonus of being able to live in a property which is entirely above the ground floor. You also might feel safer in a shared building as opposed to living in one on your own, especially if it’s your first time living away from home (although this obviously depends on what your neighbours are like).
But with flats you should also remember that, whilst you have control over your own front door, you have little control over who has keys to the front door of the building. It’s important to take all of these things into account and consider what would make you more comfortable.
Some blocks of flats might have extra amenities, for example gyms, that houses don’t. Think about whether this is something you’d be interested in paying a little more for. If it is, a flat might be more suitable for you.
Privacy and noise
For obvious reasons, houses are more private. In a flat, you’ll likely be able to hear your neighbours through the walls, and if you can hear them, they can hear you. Think about whether you’re happy with that and, if not, if it’s worth paying extra to avoid. Think about what you’ll want to use your home for as well – if you work from home, you might want to live somewhere quieter, or if you play a loud musical instrument you might prefer a house so that you don’t disturb your neighbours.
Consider also that many new build flats are built with noise control and insulation in mind, so if you are limited to flats because of your budget, make sure you look at a new build if you can.
A top floor flat might seem like a great idea, but are those panoramic views really worth the three flights of stairs? A house might seem like an appealing option, but is it better for you to have your home all on one floor? Accessibility is something you’ll need to consider for both a house and a flat, especially if you have additional needs.
When you’re thinking about accessibility, think about how long you plan to live there for and how your needs might change. For example, nearby parking might not be a problem if you don’t have a car, but will you buy one at some point while you’re living there? If you’re planning on having children, how would that affect what you need from you home? The great thing about renting is that it’s flexible, so you can move fairly easily if your home becomes unsuitable. But it’s always worth thinking about your long-term plans.
As with any property-finding process, you should decide early on what you need from your home and what you are willing to compromise on. As long as you’re honest with yourself – and realistic about what your budget can get you – you’ll be settling into your new home in no time.
For more advice on choosing a property, check out our property viewing checklist.