Buying First Apartment

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by -Ryan-, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. -Ryan- macrumors 68000

    Jan 28, 2009
    Hello all,

    Right now I'm looking at buying my first place. I've found a couple of really nice apartments, and because of the market at the moment, prices are great. A couple of questions though;

    1. 500 sqft. This seems pretty small to me, but having viewed an apartment of 520 sqft, it actually seems fine for a 1 bed. What are thoughts of people who have lived in small spaces? If anyone currently lives in a space around this size, maybe show pictures of it with furniture inside?
    2. I'm looking at the top floor of the building (I've decided I don't mind paying slightly extra for a roof terrace and view, given the small space). What are the pros and cons of this from experience?
    3. What kind of money should I set aside for some good furniture? The apartment I'm looking at is at the very top end, and I want furniture to match the style. I wouldn't mind just buying the basics, and adding to it as and when I have money.
    4. Is there anything else I should be looking out for when buying? The whole process is extremely daunting, but I am enjoying it.

    Anyway, please let me know your thoughts! :)
  2. And macrumors 6502


    Feb 23, 2009
    92 ft above sea level, UK
    Regarding furniture, don't bite off more than you can chew. Good furniture like you are describing costs a lot of money. See how much an Eames chair costs for example. Maybe buy one key piece that is good, but go to Ikea for the rest like everyone else!
  3. iStudentUK macrumors 65816


    Mar 8, 2009
    I moved to London a year ago with my gf, and we live in a flat around 500 sqft (+ small garden).

    The main thing that keeps our place looking tidy is having what we call "the cupboard of random crap". It is just a cupboard about 6x4 ft that has the washing machine and some shelves. A real life saver! You can fill it with rubbish you only need occasionally, rather than spread it out in draws, corners etc round the house. (Think of that episode of Friends with Monica's cupboard in her apartment!).

    We are on the ground floor and have our own garden. It is maybe 12x8, but it is really good and private. Just being able to have a BBQ with a couple of friends or sit outside for breakfast is wonderful. I wouldn't want to lose it, so I would keep and eye out for a balcony or terrace.

    Furniture is a middle-ground. We rent, and we were lucky our landlord furnished very nicely. I bought a few bits extra, for example a desk. As money was short (moving is damn expensive!) I compromised with a basic £40 chipboard desk. I spent 6 months hating it and working on the dining table. Got a new proper wooden one for £200 and it is so much better, but you can spend £600 which is silly. John Lewis is great for getting a balance between price and quality. Obviously you are a bit further on than me (still got one year before I finish studying and start at my job) but I'd add slowly over time to get quality, but hunt around for the best deals.

    My final point is location, location, location. We could have got somewhere bigger further out or in not such a nice area but I'm so glad we didn't. I really love where I live, and I imagine I'll keep renewing my tenancy until I can buy a place- so probably 6 years! Unlike some of my friends who will move around a lot in the next few years being in one place makes it really feel like home. Take a really good walk around the area, and I would compromise on the house to get the good location.
  4. -Ryan- thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 28, 2009
    Great advice guys, thanks!

    @And: This has been a worry of mine for some time. I think that I will compromise when I move in by decorating the bedroom with cheap furniture, but purchasing expensive for the mattress and sofas. There is absolutely nothing worse in my opinion than an uncomfortable place to sit.

    @iStudentUK: I completely agree on location. The reason I can only afford 500sqft is precisely that - I want to be in the city. I could be 10 miles out and get a 3 bedroom house at 1200sqft for the same price, but at my age that doesn't interest me. What I'm looking at is a 5th floor (top of building) apartment with a considerable roof terrace. It looks like a great entertaining space! As nice as a garden would be, you can't beat the cracking views from your roof terrace with a bottle of wine and a barbeque! :)

    Anyone else got any advice? Cheers
  5. Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    I've always loved Le Corbusier lounge, but you can find very nice looking alternatives much cheaper. My point being, it's not all about brand name - let your apartment be it's own, don't force it to be a style you can't afford.

    If you really, really, really, really, etc, like a certain piece of furniture, just go with that one. I absolute love the Airplane wing desk, and the companion arm chair, but having too many can be overkill. For me, even if I could afford the whole set I'd only get one and make it a focal point.

  6. iBlue macrumors Core


    Mar 17, 2005
    London, England
    The place itself is initially more important than what you furnish it with. Think first and foremost of its location and what matters most about it for you. Sometimes you have to sacrifice on the decoration/furniture but that doesn't mean you can't build up to getting what you ultimately want later on.

    Consider what you want in the layout. The floorplan of a place can change the entire "feel" and experience living there. Knowing what you will see out your windows (including how much sun and what time of day that will peer through) can be pretty important as well.

    You can get creative with the furniture in a small space. There are websites out there for the specific purpose of helping one to maximize available space.

    Best of luck in the search!
  7. jeremy h macrumors 6502

    Jul 9, 2008
    A few things I'd ask if I was buying a flat/apartment. These are probably very UK (as opposed to US) focussed so take from them what you will.

    How is the whole building maintained? Is there a service charge? Is it managed by a residents association or an agent etc How much control do you have? (Not sure how this works in the US but catches lots out here in the UK)

    Lifts - if you're at the top floor and there's a lift - is the gubbins that runs it noisy and, say next to your bedroom wall?

    Car parking - is there any, can you buy a space - is it included etc? Or is the seller selling it separetly without making it obvious.

    Do you cycle? - Bike storage - if you cycle do yo have to carry your bike up 5 storeys or is there secure storage? (I've got a friend who had a very expensive bike nicked from his balcony - he now has to keep his bike in the lounge!) Not ideal in a smallish flat.
  8. AppleMatt, Apr 18, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011

    AppleMatt macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2003
    Number one thing to remember, above all, is that estate agents act for the seller - not you. So take everything they say with a huge pinch of salt. If it's not in writing from the vendor themselves or their solicitor, assume it's untrue. Also, they higher they sell it for the higher their commission. Try somewhere like here for background info, but bear in mind it can be quite bias:

    I think going for the top floor is a great idea - you won't get people crashing around (laminate floors?) and hoovering/washing machine noises. One this is that heat rises and you're more exposed to wind, so your heating bills will possibly be slightly higher than those below you.

    Urgh leasehold. Loads of things to watch out for, but I'd start with how long is left on the lease. This is what your mortgage provider will care most about. Best bet is to spend your money on a good lawyer. If it's a newbuild block of flats it's unlikely you'll need a full structural survey done (need more info about the building to say definitively though) so use that saving. As others have said, check the service charges:
    - How much payable, and how often.
    - Whether they've been doing the work (ask other tenants in the block).
    - What their power is to change the structure of fees. This has caused a lot of people a lot of pain.
    - What the lease says about ground rent (it frequently doubles every 25 years, another reason to check how long left on lease).
    - Whether or not they are managed by OM/Solitaire. If so, simply walk away.
    - What you're liable to contribute costs for (if the roof leaks, parking gets vandalised, hallways need modifying to meet new regulations etc). You'll likely need to see the lease to discover this.

    1. Do you know if you get a share of the freehold along with the lease?
    2. A long way off, but check what chattels (roughly speaking, movable objects) are included. You can negotiate a sperate price for these which means you'll pay less stamp duty.
    3. Not to sound patronising, but do you fully understand how estates of land work in the UK? Once you know that, you get a much greater insight into exactly what you're buying.

  9. barkomatic macrumors 68040

    Aug 8, 2008
    Good luck with your search. You may find this site somewhat helpful. There are often very good ideas on how to decorate and manage small spaces.

    Don't rule out places that may need a little minor renovation work--if the price is right. Buying a turnkey apartment is the most convenient but you have to accept the aesthetic choices made by the previous owners. If you renovate yourself you can ensure that the place is exactly what you want.
  10. iJohnHenry macrumors P6


    Mar 22, 2008
    On tenterhooks
    Two sky hooks, above the couch. Done.
  11. Mousse macrumors 68000


    Apr 7, 2008
    Flea Bottom, King's Landing
    500 sqft is okay for a singles pad, but if you plan on entertaining guest, you'll need a bigger place.

    The furniture of my first apartment consisted of milk crates, the Spool (old timers know what I'm talking about.;)) and a $4000 entertainment center.:cool:

    Anyhow, I'd look at furniture that can pull double duty, like this stuff.
  12. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    I think it depends on the configuration of the apartment. I've seen apartments that size that were great for entertaining. They do tend to have smaller bedrooms and kitchens but if you want entertaining space, that's the trade off.
  13. tobefirst macrumors 68040


    Jan 24, 2005
    St. Louis, MO
    I live in a studio that is about 420 sqft. I have pictures in this thread (also this post on page 2). Since then I've rearranged a bit, and it actually feels a bit bigger now.

    I've been there for 3.5 years and love it. It's super easy to clean and take care of, and I haven't found it to be too small.
  14. -Ryan- thread starter macrumors 68000

    Jan 28, 2009
    Thanks for this - I'm a wannabe lawyer (postgraduate) and so have some experience at undergraduate level of property law. I'll certainly be consulting with some property lawyer friends before I make any purchase.

    Luckily for me, the place I'm looking to buy is brand new (not yet on the market, although the building is effectively finished), so all interior choices will be my own. I've visited Apartment Therapy for a couple of years now - I've been keeping a close eye on similarly sized apartments in the SmallCool competition.

    Thanks for posting this. I hadn't seen the photos before - I suppose the place I'm looking at is relatively speaking substantially bigger, but it's also got the bedroom. It's good to visualise what the size will be like though. Do you ever feel too cramped?

    Thanks for the advice all. :eek: Sorry for the late reply, but I've been away for the past few days. If anyone has any further insight please let me know!

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