Apartments, or flats, are a popular choice for property purchases. They're often cheaper than buying a house in the same area, especially in crowded urban locations. While having an apartment often means sacrificing some amenities, such as a private garden or parking space, there are plenty of upsides to buying an apartment. However, getting a mortgage can be confusing and will be dependent on whether you plan to live in the apartment or rent it out.

In this guide, we'll discuss different mortgage products for apartments, as well as some of the issues to check before you start applying for a mortgage.

Do I Need a Special Residential Mortgage for an Apartment?

No, you can typically get a standard mortgage for an apartment, including a new build apartment. Many will be counted as standard residential properties like most types of houses. Many lenders are happy to offer mortgages for these properties. There are some special cases though, where you might need a slightly different mortgage type for your apartment.

Criteria for a Standard Apartment Mortgage

As long as you’re looking at a standard property for residential purposes, the criteria for an apartment mortgage will be very similar to the criteria for a residential house mortgage. This usually means that you’ll be able to borrow around four times your income, and you’ll need a deposit of at least 5% of the property's value. You’ll also need proof of income, identification, and other personal details.

If you’re looking to get a second home mortgage for an apartment, this will change the criteria. You could expect to pay a higher deposit and have higher interest rates compared to a primary home mortgage.

Types of Apartment Mortgage

The exact definition of an apartment will depend on the mortgage lender. If you’re uncertain about what type of mortgage you need, get in touch with a broker to find out more.

Studio Apartments

Studio apartments, with one main room housing the kitchen and living area, can be harder to get a mortgage on compared to normal flats. This is for multiple reasons. Firstly, most lenders have a minimum apartment size for mortgage applications, which normally is around 30 square metres. You might also struggle to get a mortgage for a studio apartment if the joined kitchen area is either seen as a risk or something that’s likely to decrease value and affect resale marketability.

Ex-Council Apartments

Ex-council, or ex-local authority, apartments can be very appealing to some buyers since they’re usually significantly larger than other flats in the area, having been built for families. They also usually cost less than a comparable flat in the same area. However, there are some things that might make it harder to get a mortgage — for example, the fact that these apartments might be seen as undesirable due to the stigma on council properties, especially if they’re in a neighbourhood where there are lots of other council properties. A lot of older council properties are also made of non-standard construction techniques such as concrete, which can lead to concerns over the stability and long-term return of such an investment.

The cheapest way to purchase an ex-council property is to buy a council property you live in through the Right to Buy scheme. This does not let you choose which council property to purchase. If you do not currently live in a council apartment, you would have to find an ex-council apartment that has been bought and sold as a private property.

High Rise Apartments

For mortgage purposes, a high-rise apartment is anything that is seven storeys or above. A lot of mortgage lenders will refuse to give a mortgage on a high-rise apartment, especially if there are non-standard building materials such as concrete used - which can be the case for a lot of older high-rise apartments. This means that you’d probably need to go through a mortgage broker, like John Charcol, to get a specialist lender for this type of purchase.

Single or Multi Bedroom Apartments

The number of bedrooms that an apartment has will not usually affect the mortgage application process in any major way. You should be able to get a standard residential mortgage for an apartment regardless of how many bedrooms it has, unless there are other factors involved.

Maisonettes and Duplexes

A maisonette and a duplex are both apartment types where the properties are joined but have separate entrances. The individual apartments could be spread over two storeys. These properties are also eligible for standard residential mortgages, which means that you should have little difficulty in getting an offer, as long as there are no other difficulties to consider.

Apartments Mortgages for Investments

With apartments often being in built-up areas, there is a lot of demand for them in the investment market. Apartments can make for a great rental opportunity, both as a long-term rental or a holiday let. The type of mortgage you need will be based on the property type and what kind of rentals you want to do. Bear in mind that any of the issues raised above will still be relevant to investment properties.

Can I Get a Buy-to-Let Mortgage on an Apartment?

Yes, there are plenty of options for getting an apartment mortgage for buy-to-let. This would be the right type of mortgage if you plan to rent the property out on a long-term basis to one tenant. Most mortgage lenders will want a buy-to-let property to be rented out for at least six months, sometimes at least twelve months, so that you have a guaranteed income from it. An assured tenancy, where tenants are already arranged, could help you get a mortgage for a buy-to-let apartment.

You should always read the terms of your mortgage carefully. A buy-to-let mortgage is only for long-term rental options. If you want to later switch to short term holiday lets through Airbnb or other websites, you might have to change your mortgage type to avoid breaching the terms you agreed to.

Buy-to-let mortgages often have a higher deposit requirement - usually around 25%. You would also need to show that your expected rental income would be at least 125% of the interest-only payments on your mortgage. This is because investment properties are seen as higher risk by mortgage lenders.

Serviced Apartment Mortgages and Holiday Let Mortgages

If you want to rent your apartment out for short stays, you’ll need an appropriate mortgage. Services apartment mortgages are not as common as traditional buy-to-let mortgages, but you can still find plenty of mortgage lenders who are willing to take these on. Again, you’ll need to show that your rental income is expected to cover a minimum of 125% to 145% of the interest-only mortgage payments. This will need to be calculated by looking at the average rental income over the entire year, including high, medium and low seasons, as well as any time when you do not rent out the apartment, or when you use it yourself. You’ll also need a higher deposit still, usually starting at 25%.

Mixed Use Buildings

Buying a semi commercial freehold property can be more difficult. This is usually a building where the downstairs is a shop, restaurant, or other commercial premises, and the upstairs is one or more flats. This can get more complicated because a residential or buy-to-let mortgage can’t cover the commercial portion of the building, so you need an apartment freehold or mixed-use mortgage.

There are typically 2 options for a mixed-use property like that. One of the simplest ways is to get in touch with one of our expert brokers who can help you get a mortgage from a specialist lender. These lenders are uncommon, so you would need the help of a broker to find the correct type. The other option is to get two separate mortgages - a commercial mortgage for the downstairs, and a residential or buy to let mortgage for the apartments upstairs. This can mean a lot more paperwork and co-ordinating to make sure that everything goes through smoothly.

Mortgages for Apartment Buildings

If you’re looking at larger investment purchases, you might be looking for a mortgage for an apartment building. This is also called a multi let property mortgage. This is less common, and you will need to contact a broker to find a specialist lender. Depending on the lender and the exact plan you have for the building, you will either be able to get a buy-to-let mortgage or a commercial mortgage to buy an apartment building. If you’re looking at the apartment complex as a development opportunity, you could also look into development finance.

Freehold vs Leasehold

One of the main things to look at when buying an apartment is the freehold or leasehold. Most apartments will be leasehold, but if you’re buying an apartment building, a semi commercial apartment building, or a maisonette, you might find properties with freehold.

What Is a Leasehold?

Leasehold means that you rent the actual land under your property. This can lead to some risk, of course, because you cannot guarantee that you’ll always be able to rent the land. However, leaseholds are generally a very long-term arrangement. You’ll often find properties with hundreds of years on the leasehold, meaning that you’re in no danger of having to deal with it in your lifetime. Leaseholds can also be renewed in most cases.

Leaseholds are common for apartments because of the shared footprint of the different properties - it is hard for one person to own the freehold.

Leasehold Mortgages

It’s relatively simple to get a mortgage for a leasehold apartment. Leaseholds are often seen as a lot simpler for lenders. As long as the leasehold has over 90 years left on it, you should be able to get a mortgage without issue. If the leasehold only has 60 years left on it, you’ll still probably be able to find a lender, but this will limit your options. This is because a shorter leasehold can make the property hard to sell. Ideally, you should make sure that the leasehold has at least 60 years on it from the date your mortgage ends.

If you’re looking at a property with an expiring leasehold, you should see if you can extend it. There will be a cost for extending the leasehold, which must be factored into your budget. This is important whether you intend to keep the apartment indefinitely, or whether you intend to sell it in the future, as not many buyers will want apartments with very short leaseholds.

What Is a Freehold?

A freehold is where you own the land under your property as well as the property itself. This can be beneficial for houses, but it can make situations more complex for regular flats. Freeholds are of course indefinite, so you won’t have to look at renewals unlike with a leasehold.

Freehold Mortgages

There are several different mortgage situations for freehold apartments:

  • Buying the whole building -if you’re buying an apartment block or a mixed-use - building, owning the freehold should not be a problem and will make it no more difficult than normal to get a mortgage
  • One apartment with the freehold - sometimes you’ll find one apartment that owns the freehold to the land, which the other apartments are leasehold. Some lenders will avoid lending on these due to upkeep concerns, liability risks, and other problems
  • Share of freehold - if a property used to be a single dwelling and was then converted into apartments, you might find share of freehold. This is where the apartment is still a leasehold, but when you purchase the apartment, you also get a share in the freehold. A lot of mortgage lenders will refuse mortgages on these

Things to Look Out for

A few other issues that can affect getting a mortgage for an apartment are:

Cladding Issues

Some cladding types can be a structural and safety risk. Standard mortgages might not be available on apartments with certain cladding types. It’s always worth getting a homebuyer's report on an apartment before you start applying for a mortgage.

Access Ways

Shared access ways can be a stumbling block for some lenders, especially if the access is deemed inadequate. This is because it can affect the resale market for the property if they must repossess and sell the apartment. You should be sure to get full details of access ways and shared areas when looking at buying an apartment.

Non-Standard Construction

This can be a large problem with some flats and apartments, especially ex-local authority apartments. Non-standard construction methods include concrete, steel framed buildings, prefabricated homes, and more. A lot of these are harder to get a mortgage for because they’re considered less structurally secure. This can put off buyers, meaning that mortgage lenders are less likely to offer a mortgage. It’s worth getting full structural surveys done on apartments if you need to check what construction type they are, or if you want to check for any early signs of damage to non-standard construction buildings.


Getting proper home insurance is a requirement for getting a mortgage. Your mortgage lender will usually outline what type of insurance you need. Getting insurance on some properties might be more expensive or more difficult than others, especially in the case of non-standard construction, shared access ways, and mixed-use properties. You might also want to consider content insurance and other insurance to properly protect your home and property.

Apartment Mortgages - Roundup

Generally, getting a mortgage for an apartment is very similar to getting a mortgage for a house. If the apartment is of standard construction and has no other risk factors, you should be able to get a residential mortgage from any number of lenders.

There are several apartment types where this can be more complicated. For example, ex-council apartments, concrete apartments, studio apartments, or apartments with a share of freehold could fall outside the scope of some lenders. If you’re looking at buying a multi-let apartment building or a mixed-use commercial unit, you’ll almost certainly need to contact a mortgage broker to help you find a specialist lender.

Before you look at buying an apartment, you should make sure to have a proper survey done, find the state of the leasehold, and check that you can find suitable insurance. You can find more advice in our home buying guide.

Once you're ready to buy your apartment, get in touch to see how we can help you find a great mortgage deal. John Charcol has experienced brokers who can help you find specialist mortgages for unusual properties, helping you buy any type of apartment, whether you want your first home, a rental opportunity, or a mixed-use building.

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