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What is a Maisonette, and Should You Live in One?

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You will come across the term maisonette when searching for your next home.  So, what is a maisonette, and should you live in one?

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What does the term ‘maisonette’ really mean?

Maisonette is a French word for ‘little house’.  In Europe, most holiday cottages are called maisonettes. 

In the UK, a maisonette is a self-contained flat over two floors within a larger building, with its own staircase and separate entrance.  You’ll find maisonettes in large town centres above shops or substantial period properties that have been converted.

In Scotland, a maisonette is a group of flats on top of each other in a housing block with a shared entrance.

In the US, maisonettes can be found on the top floor of a high-rise building, also known as a penthouse with split-level accommodation.

What is the difference between maisonettes and flats?

Flats are typically on top of each other in a block with a shared entrance and a communal space outside each flat, whereas with a maisonette, your front door exits your home directly to the outside.

A maisonette provides living space over two floors, similar to a house, whereas flats are on just one floor.  Another difference is that maisonettes may have a small private garden or balcony, whereas flats don’t come with any outdoor space, and if you are lucky, they may have a communal garden.

For our readers who like to research, ONS has some interesting figures on maisonettes v flat sales.

Maisonette living room with bedrooms on first floor
Maisonettes are similar to houses with bespoke living arrangements and your own entrance.

What is the difference between maisonettes and houses?

Houses tend to be larger than a maisonette, with a typical house being 3, 4 or 5 bedrooms compared to a two or 3-bed maisonette.  Much like a house, a maisonette can have a private garden and a garage with a front door that leads to the outside.

Just like a house, a maisonette offers accommodation over two floors. However, a maisonette won’t have attic space, unlike a house.

A key benefit of a maisonette is that it is much more affordable than a house.

Are maisonettes freehold or leasehold?

Usually, a maisonette will be leasehold or own part of the freehold.  With a leasehold maisonette, you’d have to pay ground rent to the freeholder and any service charges relating to the driveway or outdoor space, such as a garden.

If you are buying a maisonette, you may be offered the option to buy the freehold.  This results in other residents paying you ground rent.

You need to understand the responsibilities of owning a maisonette; for instance, a first-floor maisonette owner is required to look after the roof and guttering, whereas the ground-floor maisonette owner is responsible for the foundation, upkeep of communal areas, exterior walls, and the driveway.

The pros and cons of buying a maisonette

The pros

  • Maisonettes are great for first-time buyers as they are cheaper than houses and give you more space than a flat.
  • Maisonettes can offer bespoke living arrangements over two floors with a bonus that they will likely be in a period property. In contrast, a flat only offers you accommodation on a single floor.
  • Maisonettes may offer you a garage space that comes in handy as a storage space, like living in a house with its own garage.

The cons

  • Maisonettes don’t offer Permitted Development Rights, meaning you can’t extend them. Extending them would not be feasible, and you will likely be refused any proposed changes if you apply for planning permission.
  • Maisonettes aren’t forever homes; if you are a growing family, you will soon outgrow it.
  • The idea of shared responsibility isn’t for everyone. If the building requires any work, you’d have to consult with other maisonette owners who may not be too happy to pitch in their financial support.  Ensuring that a professional builder is hired to carry out the work to a good standard could be another bone of contention, as not everyone will agree.
  • Maisonettes can be above busy shops, coffees or takeaways, meaning you’d have to be prepared for noise and smells. It is also a fire risk, one of many reasons why maisonettes are unmortgageable.

Is living in a maisonette right for you?

It is going to depend on your financial situation and personal circumstances. 

For many first-time buyers, a maisonette offers an affordable starter home with easy-to-manage outside space.  But for a growing family who wish to extend their home, a more traditional house or a bungalow might be a perfect fit.

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