Buying an ex-local authority property in London - advice requested
August 22, 2017 2:31 AM   Subscribe

I am asking this question on behalf of my mother who is considering moving to an ex-local authority property in London.

A number of spacious ex-local authority flats have come up in our search as being affordable for her and comparatively bigger than the place she lives in now. I'd like to know a little more about buying in and living in an ex-local authority property esp for a older woman of colour living by herself.

We are attracted by the size, location and condition of these flats - they are in great condition and in well-maintained low rise blocks or rows. Mum currently lives in a nice area but her flat, a Victorian conversation, costs a lot to keep in good condition and is up a number of flights of stairs. She would not be buying from the council - the flats she is looking at are currently in private ownership. I don't know how many of the other flats in the same blocks are in private ownership. She's looking at NW London: Cricklewood, Kilburn, West Hampstead.

Because my mother would be living alone, she has some safety concerns about living in an ex-local, although my feelings are that she is just as safe or unsafe living there as any other neighbourhood. Am I correct in assuming this?

But neither of us has any direct experience with buying or living in an ex-local authority residence so I thought I would ask the Hivemind for your thoughts. A lot of the resources online seem (1) rather repetitive and (2) out of date.
posted by sockandawe to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It can all depend on the estate! I've just spent three years living on a lovely estate with no issues in another part of London, but in other areas have had a far grimmer time of it. Ask as many people as possible who live in on the estate and immediate areas (but who aren't the seller or agent) about their experiences before buying.

I was looking at buying an ex-LA flat myself, but decided against it due to the risks of being charged for costly major works to the estates. This is something to be wary off - a place might be cheap but if you get charged £10k for contribution for a new roof a year down the line it's no longer a bargain.
posted by ozgirlabroad at 2:53 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

These are generally fabulous flats; I am so happy for your mum that she may get to live in one!

Because my mother would be living alone, she has some safety concerns about living in an ex-local, although my feelings are that she is just as safe or unsafe living there as any other neighbourhood. Am I correct in assuming this?

Echoing ozgirlabroad, I would do two things. First, I would physically walk down to the local nick of any flat she'd consider putting an offer on and talk to the officer on the desk about the specific estate. (I have had amazing London gen using this menthod.) Second, I'd visit the estate on a Saturday night and see what it is like to estimate how safe she'd feel.

And yeah, knock on the doors of the neighbours, too.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:54 AM on August 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

We've lived in an ex-local authority property on an estate in W6 for the last 15 years, and I have no complaints about it. The estate dates from the 60s/70s and is well constructed, definitely more fit for purpose than the Victorian conversions I've seen. (I.e. better insulation, more practical floorplan, etc.) You seem to get more for your money by buying ex-LA. Granted, the estate is not as pretty as a row of Victorian terraced houses, but there are more important considerations. Gardening (your own, and the communal landscaping) makes a large difference. (I've lobbied the council to plant more trees on the estate, with some success.) There have been occasional instances of anti-social behaviour on the estate (revving scooters, late parties, etc.) but this never became a major problem, and could of course occur on any residential street.

You can try and ascertain (e.g. from estate agents) how much of the estate is still council-owned, although it's debateable how much of a difference this makes. About 50% of this estate is privately owned, and I prefer our council neighbours to the private ones. (Most private ones are rented out, and tenants change relatively frequently.)

But as previous posters have stated, it depends on the estate, and I agree with the advice to walk around the area and speak to locals.
posted by snarfois at 4:08 AM on August 22, 2017

Similar question here.

We ended up not buying the council flat but totally would have had no problem doing so in our borough. Many people who don't want to live in them, in my opinion, are just snobs -- and that's why they are cheaper. That said, I definitely recommend spending a decent time in the estate to get a feel for it. Also, different parts of the estate can feel different. For example, we liked a flat in a quiet part, but another identical flat in a different part wasn't great for us because it was next to a small playground where teenage boys hung out in 24-7, doing what teenage boys do. It didn't feel that unsafe to me -- it just wasn't pleasant, and they would get rowdy sometimes which could be intimidating. But that can be true of any flat and any neighbours.

And yes, the finances for upkeep can be high if there are few private owners, and councils can be annoying freeholders, but that should be something a solicitor can hopefully advise on.
posted by heavenknows at 1:20 PM on August 22, 2017

Oh, and there are some upsides too -- several of the council estates we looked at seemed to have a much stronger community feel to them than other blocks of flats. That was a definite plus and could be great for an elderly person.
posted by heavenknows at 1:22 PM on August 22, 2017

My main concern would be the cost of unexpected repairs. You can probably find out reputations by online and IRL sleuthing as well as due diligence of your solicitor. Otherwise I think it's a good idea, safety depends more on the exact location and may not be any better or worse in a non-ex-LA flat.
posted by plonkee at 1:38 PM on August 22, 2017

What DarlingBri said about the Saturday night visit. That's the acid test for any (potentially) marginal area. Lots of places that are quiet and (seemingly) safe on a Saturday mid-morning are creepily abandoned or flagrantly disorderly on a Saturday night. A corollary is to make sure you see the same property at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekday to get a real picture of the traffic noise and disturbance.
posted by MattD at 2:01 PM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I dont think ex-LA makes any difference, the advice from Jane Jacobs on low/high risk areas to live holds as true for London as anywhere else.
posted by Lanark at 2:59 PM on August 23, 2017

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