Whether buying, selling or renting, it is important to understand different real property terms. Even if it’s just so you can understand listings – or write ones that actually make sense! A housing type that you may not be familiar with is maisonette. Flats, studios, houses… These are common and used continually. But what is a maisonette?
You may recognise the French word here: ‘maison.’ This means ‘home.’ The suffix ‘ette’ denotes a relatively small size. So put it together and we have a small home. A maisonette is a self-contained unit within a larger building. Typically, it is arranged on two or more floors. You have your own entrance (i.e. the front door directly exits your unit), unlike a flat, where you typically access the exit via a corridor that is shared with other flats.
With a maisonette, you do not share any access points or amenities. It is… just like a small house! In the United States, they are known as ‘duplexes.’ How is a maisonette different from a house? While they share many similarities, there are some key factors that set them apart.
- Houses are usually independent, separate properties. A maisonette is most often positioned in a building along with other types of properties.
- Maisonettes typically have more rigorous rules for pets and noise. For example, you may have to forgo adopting Fluffy and turn it down and stop the party at ‘quiet hours,’ (e.g. 10:00 pm to 8:00 am).
- Houses are most often freeholds. A maisonette can be either a freehold or a leasehold.
- Maisonettes are generally less expensive than a standard house. If, for example, it is a leasehold with a limited number of years left on the lease, you may find it more challenging to obtain a mortgage. You may also have difficulty if the maisonette is situated above a commercial property (e.g. a retail shop, office space, etc.).
A maisonette has elements of a house and a flat both. For example, while it may look and feel like a flat, a maisonette will offer a greater level of privacy.
Now that we know the maisonette meaning, what are some pros and cons to consider as you look to rent or buy?
Pros of a Maisonette
- Lower Price Point. Generally speaking, purchasing a maisonette is less pricey than buying a house. If you do not have concerns about other people and households in relatively close proximity (e.g. below you, above you, next to you), this may be a great, affordable option.
- More Privacy. As mentioned, compared to a flat, a maisonette does provide more privacy. You get your own entrance/exit and do not have to share access points or amenities. This certainly gives it a ‘house’ feel.
- Outdoor Space. While not a rule per se, many maisonettes do come with a little backyard or garden. Again, in a flat, such features will be shared. Your own space allows for greater privacy, of course, but also more chances to relax, entertain or simply sit and sip your tea in peace and quiet.
- Two Floors. Because of their layout, maisonettes allow for living over two or more floors. This can be a great benefit particularly those with children and other household members. Again… privacy! The chance to go up and close your door, for example, is a terrific benefit.
Cons of a Maisonette
What about the drawbacks of purchasing a maisonette?
- Shared Features. We know! We said you do not have to share amenities or access points, but by design, some features will have to be shared. These include the driveway and parking spaces.
- Difficulty Obtaining a Mortgage. As discussed earlier, it can be more difficult to get a mortgage when you are planning to buy a maisonette.
- Ground Rent and Service Charges. Maisonettes can be leaseholds. If so, you will have to pay ground rent and service charges. Ground rent is basically an extra rent you pay to live on the property grounds, and service charges encompass the costs associated with maintaining the facilities.
If you are considering a move, a maisonette may be the right fit. Weigh the pros and cons so you know what you are getting into.