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Flat with toddler - what's important?

(23 Posts)
MsFrazzles Tue 03-May-16 16:48:19

I'm currently going through a separation and being forced to sell the family home (4-bed house with garden) and downsize to a flat with my 18-month DD. I'm hoping to be able to buy but prices are high round here so it will be tight.

I just wanted to get your views on what to look for: of course it would be nice to have a ground-floor flat with a garden (or access to shared garden) but the flip side is security - I love having my windows and/or balcony doors open all day especially in the summer and am quite nervous about living alone so I suppose a higher floor would feel more secure.

A lift would obviously make thing easier (especially with DD/buggy) but I can see the payoff is higher service charges/ground rent for those blocks.

I don't mind having a small kitchen (not a great cook) and I know open-plan polarises opinions - whats's best with kids: free-range roaming and keeping an eye on them in an open-plan space, or shutting the door on the kitchen and keeping them safe but unsupervised?

Would you prioritise access to schools/transport/supermarket/town centre over the size/shininess of the flat?

What else do I need to think of? This is a tough time for me but I don't want to make any hasty decisions: I want to get it right for me and my daughter.

albertcampionscat Tue 03-May-16 16:55:08

I'd prioritise access to stuff over shininess and go for open plan - your DD might not agree with being left in a safe room when mummy is doing Interesting Things Without Her.

I'd definitely go ground floor too - if you're worried about security could you try to get those things fitted that only allow windows to open six inches or so?

Good luck. You sound very organised - am impressed.

KP86 Tue 03-May-16 16:59:54

Ground floor all the way. I cannot imagine how awful it would be for downstairs neighbours to have my 2yo DS running around on top of them all day.

Access to a yard would be fabulous, but you can always go to a local green space.

I personally like open plan as it makes our flat feel bigger, but that's a personal preference. You can shut away the mess in a separate kitchen which we can't do here.

Windows are a bit of a pain (have caught DS on the wide windowsill in his bedroom more than once) but if you buy you could always install security/insect screens for when they are open.

messystressy Tue 03-May-16 17:04:44

If there is a garden, check if you can play in it. We have a lovely huge garden, but playing in it is discouraged - it's for looking only.

lalalonglegs Tue 03-May-16 17:05:19

I live in London so access to schools and transport would be most important as driving isn't that attractive. If you live in a location where driving is much more of an option, then your priorities could be different. Do you work? Will you be able to commute easily etc?

I prefer to have separate kitchen and living area as, imo, you have to live in a very disciplined way if it is all open plan - clutter really shows up, you can't just leave your shopping on the floor and unpack when you have a minute, the dishes have to be put away immediately, you can't leave pans to soak (well, obviously you can do all these things but it looks dreadful). I'd choose a top floor flat because I can't bear the feeling of having neighbours overhead (and sometimes you get access to a loft for extra storage). Yes, it is a pain if you don't have a lift but your daughter won't be tiny forever and I'd prefer to have a quieter flat with better light than direct access to a garden. I've often found with ground floor flats that, if there is on-site parking, this tends to interfere with them as well - the cars can park inches from your bed and be driven in and out at any hour.

So, primarily you have to weigh up what is important to you in terms of location (work/station/schools) and then think about what it will be like to live in a particular block and try to imagine it long term - ie, it's not just about where you will put your daughter's buggy for the next few months, it's about whether there is enough space for you and her to live comfortably, entertain, have room for books, hobby equipment, adult-sized clothing (including lots of shoes) etc.

DoYouLikeBirds Tue 03-May-16 17:10:46

I have a non open plan flat on the top floor of my building. Having a seperate room for the kitchen has never been a problem, in fact it can be better especially when it comes to cooking and smells etc. Plus it gives me space to just get on with things.

I have only one neighbour to my side, no one above so it's mostly very quiet and we have a decent view! I live in an area which pretty much has access to everywhere - a market, high street, bus stops, a train station etc and that would definitely be a major factor in choosing where to live for me.

lovewatchingrainfall Tue 03-May-16 17:22:29

I live in a First floor flat with DD and you NEED a garden!! We don't have one and it's awful! Can't wait to move. A private garden would be better then a shared. A bath is a must plus make sure you have built in storage or descent storage space plus if you could have a dinning room/play room even better! These are just things I miss/need/don't have which is awful. Also check what types of heaters you have.

Legoisforlosers Tue 03-May-16 18:01:47

Before we bought our lovely top floor flat we were in a rented garden flat and it was a nightmare! We could constantly hear our top floor neighbours walking around, going to the toilet in the middle of the night and having sex in the bedroom. We never used the garden anyway because there is a very nice park just across the road. We also had a big mould and slug problem. The flat was beautiful and done up to a very high standard so we did not expect all these problems. I had to throw half of my clothes when we moved, because it was damaged by mould. I would never consider living in a garden flat again.

MsFrazzles Tue 03-May-16 18:25:56

Thank you all - lots of things to think about!

lalalonglegs I commute into London so access to the station is already high up the list. This naturally means that prices are higher and/or that flats are less nice. I'm trying to find the best compromise I can. ExH and I are in a bitter wrangle over finances at the moment so this is one thing that I hope to have at least a tiny bit of control over. Good point about thinking long-term - this is where I need the experience of others!

I do drive but as long as I have one parking space this is a lesser issue as it's just for weekends/errands etc.

Lots of personal views on best floor/garden/windows/location etc. Please do keep them coming because my brain's full to bursting and I need to make some sense of it!

GrubbyWindows Tue 03-May-16 21:01:38

I'd say that conversions and new builds are more likely to be a problem for sound. We live on a middle floor of a purpose built block built pre-war, and although you can tell when people are moving about upstairs it is nowhere near as bad as in conversions or blocks from the 70s I've lived in. You can't hear voices, and music etc is only audible if someone is really taking the piss and cranking it right up.
Look for signs of other families in the block with similar aged kids- then you get built in playmates and support.
If there is stuff (like prams and plant pots) outside the flats not chained up, that's a good sign it's pretty safe.
I like living in flats. Our block has a real sense of community, and that is more important to me than a private garden (we have a shared courtyard which kids play in).
Also, lower bills, less cleaning and no leaving things upstairs by accident and having to traipse up again to fetch things!

ItWasNeverASkirt Tue 03-May-16 21:22:42

I've lived in a couple of flats as a single mum of a toddler. Being on the ground floor was very convenient when she was tiny and needed a buggy all the time, but we're now on an upper floor with a flight of stairs from the lift and it's totally fine now she's older -- we use the micro scooter to get around now, but still have the Maclaren for longer trips if needed.

Schools were the most important factor in my thinking about where to move. It's a little way off now, but you do have to apply in the January before the autumn when they start. I just think that this is such a big deal, both in terms of getting the best possible quality of education and also not subjecting us both to crazy commutes. Do check the catchment areas carefully... a lot of them appear have a generous catchment area, but if you check with the local authority you will find that they have only accepted children from 0.2 miles away for years or something!

We did have a garden, which was nice, but to be honest we didn't make the most of it considering the work it took. No garden now, which is fine -- but I did make sure we were near green space and a playground.

Transport access is very important for me as it makes everything so much easier, both for work and getting around with the little one.

Being on an upper floor feels safer to me and also we get less noise from neighbours and the stairwell.

You can always improve on the shininess of a flat, but you can never improve its location!

Size does matters :-D ... but not as much as layout! I like having little one's bedroom quite far away from the living room as it means I can have friends round more easily.

Never had an open-plan kitchen living room so can't comment on that, but I'm sure you would find pros and cons to both! Do think about where you are going to eat and whether the flooring is spill/mess proof.

ItWasNeverASkirt Tue 03-May-16 21:23:57

PS best of luck and I do hope it is a marvellous adventure for you both! I loved getting to decorate entirely to my tastes and toddlers are hilarious and great company.

Believeitornot Tue 03-May-16 21:39:44

Schools! Look for decent schools and get as close as you can

Look for a park and a non ground floor flat if you're living alone - you might feel insecure. There is the worry about noise - maybe get decent carpets and keep running down as much as possible!

I'd go open plan. I found with my DCs I want them sat in the kitchen with me as they get older and open plan achieves that.

museumum Tue 03-May-16 21:43:43

We had a flat till ds was 2. It had a garden but we used the local park 100x more than the garden so I'd say if you can be near a park that's better than having a garden.
Stairs not an issue really as you'll be finished with the buggy soon but it's great to have a lockup or balcony to store bikes/scooters.
We spent more time out when we were in the flat than we do now in the house so I'd be looking for a bear park first, coffee shop second.

StarUtopia Tue 03-May-16 21:45:28

God, definitely ground floor. I had two toddlers in a third floor (no lift!!) and it was a nightmare.

Plus, my biggest worry at all times....the thought that one day one of them might somehow get out onto the balcony without me and kill themselves falling off it.

Ground floor safety first.

We had open plan and it was fab.

Make sure the flat doesn't have storage heaters. They are a bloody nightmare, don't heat the flat, you're constantly cold and they cost a fortune.

Mummyme87 Wed 04-May-16 07:52:19

I live in a new build flat, 2nd floor with no allocated parking. We have a communal park on site but there's nothing better than being able to swing open your doors to your garden. We have no lift which is a bloody nightmare. We are open plan kitchen living room which is fine but can't wait for seperate living room.

Our essential list on new house search was being able to park outside of house, good size garden and seperate living room.

chocdonutyy Wed 04-May-16 08:24:23

I'm in a 2nd floor (top) flat with one dd from the age of 7 to now (13)
pros.
Secure, can leave windows open all day (open so far on lock) and entry system downstairs to even get into block.
Loft space for christmas tree and other bits and bobs
No noise from above, a little from below but not noticable
Great light and can still see mostly sky, rather than other flats/car park
Cons
Open plan kitchen, smells, noise mess ect.
Higher flats can be dangerous if windows/balconys are not secured
Can always tell what other people are up to, although with a toddler this may be a plus!
No garden, but when I think back to how often I actually spent much time out there it wasnt much really but i used to enjoy my morning coffee in the sunshine when I did live in a house.
Transport is important, get the right location and you will save time and money on travelling, I dont have a car but can easily walk to work, shops, town center, doctors, dentist and train station all within 15 minutes!

specialsubject Wed 04-May-16 12:00:10

downstairs if you don't want to worry about your elephantine toddler. But you will suffer everyone else's elephantine footsteps.

security not an issue, you don't leave windows/doors open when you are out, do you?

storage heaters do work if correctly used with the right tariff. If you are in London you won't need much heating anyway.

lalalonglegs Wed 04-May-16 13:47:11

I like to leave windows open when I go out on warm days. If you are in London, you won't need much heating confused.

Wuffleflump Wed 04-May-16 16:08:29

"If you live in a location where driving is much more of an option, then your priorities could be different."

Even if driving is easy, I'd still prioritise walkability. It's a good idea to get kids into the habit of walking around, and as they grow up they'll have more independence, and you'll be less of a taxi service!

almward Sat 21-May-16 14:12:28

Your first priority should be the remaining term of the lease - especially if you are paying cash!

The relative values of leasehold properties decrease as their leases expire. Also, once you get below about 70 years, lenders will be reluctant to provide mortgage finance.

For more info, take a look at: www.lease-increase.co.uk

specialsubject Sat 21-May-16 21:33:22

OK, if you want to leave windows open go as high as possible and check for climbing in possibilities.

London is always stifling indoors to me - every shop, every public place...and the from elsewhere people I know in flats there say they don't need the heat, they get everyone else's!

MsFrazzles Mon 23-May-16 16:52:08

Thanks - so many replies! Lots to think about. Interesting that the vote seems quite evenly split on open plan/separate, and only ground floor/not ground floor at any cost! I guess all flats (and neighbours) are different.

I do leave the top floor windows open when I'm out all day and all night while I'm asleep, but we're a 3-floor townhouse. I'm a hot person and getting fresh air is important to me. I don't think I'll be able to relax on the ground floor.

Oh God, I'd forgotten about storage heaters (had them in an old flat years ago). And the whole leasehold drama. Really dreading this move, but hopefully it will be a new start for us both.

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