Purpose Built Flats

4 min read
Purpose built flats are flats which have been constructed from the beginning as flats rather than flats which have been converted from what was originally, for example, a Victorian house or other building.

It should be noted, however, that many Victorian and Georgian properties were built to be flats from the beginning.

Even though New Builds can be purpose built flats, the term purpose built flats on its own does not imply this.

Purpose built flats are typically sold as being preferable to period conversion flats because they benefit from these aspects:

    Usually less than 60 years old: more modern and higher construction standards, invariably require a HomeBuyer Report rather than a Building Survey (see more below)
    Regular shape: rooms square, easy to decorate; no difficult choices over who has the largest bedroom as most room sizes are similar
    Better heat insulation and sound proofing
    More fire-safe - concrete slab floors rather than wood joists

Read on to find out more.

*RICS Surveyors – Local Knowledge – Same Week Availability
Want help now? Call us on 0333 344 3234 (local call charges apply)

Although purpose built flats are, in the vast majority of cases, newer than conversion flats, you cannot assume these stated advantages without fully examining the property in question.

Additionally, purpose built flats are often described as soulless or lacking character compared to conversion flats. Once again, this depends on the individual example and your own tastes and preferences.

What do purpose built flats look like?

Purpose built flats come in all shapes and sizes, particularly from low-rise to high-rise, but they are generally easy to recognise, as you can normally quite easily see individual dwellings and these look comparatively uniform in shape and how they are laid out.

The actual overall look and ambience can vary enormously. One the upmarket end of the scale, you have complexes like One Hyde Park and The Barbican. On the other, you have many that were put up in the 1960s and 70s and were predominantly made of concrete slabs - many of these are regarded as hideously ugly and some, such as Belfast's infamous Divis flats, have been pulled down.

What issues do purpose built flats have?

Most purpose built flats are comparatively recently built so in theory they have been constructed according to more modern, and higher, construction standards. Period-purpose-built-flats

Issues, however, can afflict whole blocks because they have been built uniformly and so, if there's a fault in some aspect of the overall design, be it masonry or insulation, for example, then there's potential for every flat to suffer from the defect.. Minor water leaks from old pipes are a commonly-cited complaint  and ensuing damage forms the basis of many insurance claims.

If your block has major defects, with, say, degradation of the concrete used in its construction, this can make insurance very difficult to get and you should think about the challenges of resale.

If it was built in the Georgian or Victorian era, there can be issues regarding wiring and there's increased chances of condensation and dampness being a factor.


The issue of overheating in purpose built flats has gained media attention in more recent times. Research has shown that some of these properties often get too hot seasonally because of inadequate ventilation; single aspect flat design; large areas of full-height glazing; and fixed windows.

This is particularly the case with New Builds built post-2000 with many purpose built flats having been built to be used as care homes or as student accommodation. For the former use, the concern is that temperatures as high as 36 degrees Celsius make the possibility of strokes and heart failure much higher.

What type of home buyers survey should you get for a purpose built flat?

For the vast majority of purpose built flats, you should get a HomeBuyer Report to give you the information you need about whether to go ahead with the purchase or negotiate with the vendor. This is because purpose built flats are relatively small, unlikely to be extended or refurbished and more likely to be comparatively recently built.

You would generally only get a full Building Survey for this type of property if the flat you are looking to buy is more than 70 years old, because the masonry itself is more likely to have degraded.

If you are unsure, please call us on 0333 344 3234 and a member of our team will be delighted to discuss any questions you may have.

*RICS Surveyors – Local Knowledge – Same Week Availability
Want help now? Call us on 0333 344 3234 (local call charges apply)

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