Whether high street or side street, look up above any shop-lined street in the capital and you are bound to see apartments.
Accessed by narrow doors tucked between the various operators, these spaces are proving an increasingly tempting living proposition. More and more, we are seeing developers turning the ground floor of their new schemes into retail spaces, so it‘s important to consider a number of factors if you’re thinking of living above them.
The idea of living above a mini supermarket might sound convenient, but remember that to stock those shelves and cupboards, the shop has to take deliveries – often in the early mornings. Living overlooking a loading bay could soon get tiresome if you have goods being wheeled in at 4am – so consider the layout of the apartment.
Ideally, you want the bedrooms at the back and good soundproof windows. The line between late nights and early mornings might also be blurred if you purchase above a commercial space classified as ‘A4 – drinking establishment’, which can make a mortgage harder to come by, too. Apartments above restaurants or takeaways may also be blighted with wandering smells – so be sure to visit the property at different times to see if you can handle it before buying.
Convenience and a chance to live in buzzy areas with everything on your doorstep rank highly among the reasons to live above commercial premises. For those who love the buzz of London, having to deal with noise is quickly cancelled out by the accessibility of street life. Good soundproofing goes a long way and you can pop downstairs to grab a late snack or pint of milk – think of it as your own extended larder.
You are also likely to get more space for your money than an equivalent property. In a city like London where space is at a premium, this can be enough on its own to convince people that living above a bar might grant access to a prime area that you could otherwise not afford.
Remember, though, that some classifications are better than others – ‘A1’ for example, which covers most retail shops, means businesses are confined to normal working hours, meaning your slumber isn’t disturbed (bar some early deliveries) and the apartment will hold more value.
We recently sold some apartments above a commercial space which is destined to be a decorative rug store, which didn’t deter any buyers but reassured them, in fact. The right retailer might even add value - surely, we’ve all heard of the ‘Waitrose effect’ on property prices.
Finally, remember that there are no certainties. You might think you’re about to live above your favourite coffee shop or designer outlet, but it may not always be the case.
Check the commercial lease first to see if there are any restrictions on usage and how long the lease with the current occupier is.
Either way, be prepared for the possibility it could change and, if it does, whether you’ll still be happy to live there, even if it’s a Wetherspoons.