What is a maisonette? Everything you need to know before investing

When searching for properties, many property investors are unsure exactly what is a maisonette. Could these kinds of properties be a good form of investment?

Some homebuyers and property investors are confused by what the term maisonette means as it differs across the world. Here we dive into what is a maisonette in the UK, how it compares to flats and houses and if they are a good kind of property investment. In addition, we take a look at the pros and cons of buying a maisonette.

Contents

  • What Is a Maisonette?
  • Are Maisonettes Freehold or Leasehold?
  • Maisonette vs Flat
  • Maisonette vs House
  • Advantages of Maisonettes
  • Disadvantages of Maisonettes
  • What to Consider before Buying a Maisonette
  • Are Maisonettes a Good Investment?
  • What Is a Maisonette?

    The word Maisonette means a self-contained flat with its own private entrance. These kinds of properties are typically two-storeys and often located above shops, offices, garages or other maisonettes. With their own staircase, entrance and sometimes even a garden, these properties are often described as a “house on stilts”. 

    Maisonette’s meaning derives from French, meaning “small house”. Introduced in the 1960s and 1970s, maisonettes were used to promote higher density living into suburb areas. This was before tall blocks of flats were as common in these areas. Assistance with the pronunciation of maisonette can be found here.

    In the UK, maisonettes are often found in terraced and semi-detached buildings. These kinds of properties can be purpose-built or created when converting a house. Large period properties are often suitable for converting into maisonettes.

    Note: Maisonette’s meaning is different depending where you are in the world. In Scotland, a maisonette can sometimes be one of several duplex flats in a single building all with a shared entrance. In the US, the word is often used to describe the penthouse of a high-rise building, while in France the term is used for a countryside cottage or small house.

    Are Maisonettes Freehold or Leasehold?

    As a general rule, Maisonettes are leasehold properties.  In fact, Maisonettes can be either leasehold or freehold. It’s important to know which the property is when considering a maisonette as a property investment.

    For a leasehold maisonette, the owner owns the property but not the land it sits on. The lease allows owners to occupy the property for a certain period of time. The leaseholder will also need to pay ground rent or service charge to the freeholder. Maisonette service charges are typically not as much as flats as there is not as much spared space.

    If the maisonette is freehold, this could be as an individual freeholder or a share of the freehold. This means the owner owns both the property and the land it sits on. With a freehold maisonette, the owner will have the responsibility of maintaining the property.

    With a shared freehold, there will be a joint ownership of the freehold between the owner and neighbour, meaning together they own the land the properties sit on. You will need to manage the exterior maintenance together, so it’s helpful to have a good relationship with each other.

    In terms of maintenance cost, this is often split between the lower and upper maisonettes. The owner of the lower property is typically responsible for the lower part of the building, including the ground floor and foundations. The owner of the upper property is usually responsible for the upper part of the building’s structure, such as the roof and guttering. However, there could be other plans in place.

    Maisonette vs Flat

    Maisonettes and flats are often confused. However, there are some key differences. Typically, without a shared corridor, maisonettes have their own entrance directly to the outside, while flats usually have a front door leading to a common hallway, staircase and/or elevator. To leave the flat, the occupant will need to enter and exit through these shared areas.

    Maisonette located over retail shop.  Entrance to maisonette is located at rear of property.

    Maisonette located over retail shop. Entrance to maisonette is located at rear of property.

    A maisonette often provides more privacy than a flat. With its own front door to the outside and stairwell, a maisonette has more of a house feel. And with a private entrance, it can provide easier access to post and safer deliveries. 

    As maisonettes are typically spread across two floors, these properties have much more space and storage than a normal flat. Additionally, maisonettes have different features flats usually can’t provide, such as gardens and garages.

    Maisonette vs House

    Maisonettes are often smaller than the average house, but they can provide similar amenities and storage space than a small house. With a house feel, maisonettes have a much cheaper price tag. There can even be a better community feel, where residents are typically living closer to their neighbours.

    Maisonettes are often located above shops, offices, garages or another maisonette. This can sometimes make these properties noisier than houses, which are situated on the ground. Many houses come with a private garden, but with maisonettes, gardens may be shared areas.

    Houses are typically freehold, while maisonettes can be freehold or leasehold. A maisonette also typically doesn’t benefit from the same Permitted Development Rights that houses do. This means many proposed works will require planning permission. However, with some maisonettes, there will still be the potential to expand through an extension or loft conversion – as long as whatever permission is needed is obtained.

    Advantages of Maisonettes

    Maisonettes come with a number of advantages. For starters, these properties provide the feel and privacy similar to that of a house but at a much more affordable cost. A maisonette can be a great property in between a flat and house.

    The top floor of maisonettes can provide appealing storage space and the potential to expand into the loft. These properties often have gardens, but they may be shared with the neighbours. With shared freehold maisonettes, owners often split the cost of exterior repairs and maintenance, which can help make these expenses more affordable.

    Disadvantages of Maisonettes

    There are some disadvantages to take into account when considering purchasing a maisonette. Parking can sometimes be an issue as some of these properties have no off-road parking or a shared driveway. In a heavily residential area, it can be difficult to find places to park on the street. With some maisonettes, there are strict rules about pets, noise levels and what can’t be left in communal areas. 

    It can be slightly more difficult to get a mortgage when buying a maisonette, so a property investor may have more limited mortgage products available to them. However, if you are planning to buy with cash, this isn’t an issue. It’s typically easier to get a mortgage for a leasehold maisonette, and it’s best for the property to have at least 90 years remaining on the lease.

    What to Consider before Buying a Maisonette

    Now that we’ve covered what is a maisonette and the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of property, there are a range of areas to ponder when considering buying this kind of property. If you are interested in purchasing a maisonette, here are some things to consider and find out about the property before buying it. This includes the following:

    • Is it leasehold or freehold? If it’s freehold, who is responsible for maintenance and repairs? If it’s leasehold, how long is left on the lease, how much is the ground rent and service charge and can these fees increase over the years?

    • Are there any restrictions on the property? For example, can you make alterations, are there noise restrictions and are pets allowed?

    • Is the garden shared or communal?

    • What are the parking arrangements?

    Are Maisonettes a Good Investment?

    As a cheaper property investment option, maisonettes can provide a great return on investment in certain areas, especially if you have the potential to add value to the property. As maisonettes typically are two floors, this means the property may have loft space, which can be attractive for tenants. 

    House converted into two maisonettes.

    House converted into two maisonettes.

    A loft conversion or extension could provide a suitable way to add value to the property. However, keep in mind that you may need planning permission for this, depending on the work involved and local council. Contact the local planning authority if you’d like advice or more information.

    There’s a strong argument for maisonettes as a good form of property investment. These kinds of properties are often attractive for young professionals, who make up a large proportion of the renting demographic. Additionally, maisonettes are often more appealing to tenants than flats for security, community feel and access to a garden. These property types are most commonly found close to cities and in areas with a large student population.

    Interest is growing in maisonettes as a property investment and a place to call home, so it can have good resale value and appeal to renters. If you do your homework, a maisonette can be a great investment. However, it’s imperative to do your due diligence, look into the maths, weigh up the pros and cons and thoroughly research the location – just like with any property investment.

    Concluding Thoughts

    To conclude this article, we have put together a summary table below which compares maisonettes against flats and detached houses.
    MAISONETTE FLAT DETACHED HOUSE
    Own front door? ✔️ ✔️
    Multiple floors? ✔️ ✔️
    Price point Middle Lowest Highest
    Noise pollution Highest Middle Lowest
    Ownership Leasehold Leasehold Freehold
    Service charges ✔️ ✔️
    Parking availability Limited Limited High

    Peter D Doherty

    Peter D Doherty is the founder of the Property Investor Academy.

    A Masters graduate in accounting and finance from Dublin City University, Pete worked in the City of London for 14 years. He held senior finance roles (Financial Controller) in several substantial UK commercial banks. He is a graduate of Macquarie University.

    With over 10 years property investing experience, he is the owner of a London based lettings agency as well as proptech consultancy. He regularly contributes to online landlord forums such as Propertytribes and Reddit.  Peter is a member of National Residential Landlords Association (“NRLA”).

    https://uk.linkedin.com/in/peter-doherty-tal
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