Is a penthouse always the priciest unit?

Q: I thought the penthouse was always the most expensive property in a building, but I’ve heard that’s not the case?

A: London is made up of different architecture and the most expensive floor is often dictated by the type of building you’re looking at; with new build properties, the penthouse is often the most expensive unit as the views tend to be great, you have no one else above you, and the building has been specifically designed to put emphasis on the top floors.

With period properties, however, this is different as the property is a conversion of historic architecture and often the properties within the building have been carved into flats as best they can. Or, in some cases, they’ve been carved up really badly and don’t flow particularly well at all.

Mansion flats, which are typically in large red brick buildings, often have consistent ceiling height throughout the floors, so the most desirable flat will be deemed according to outlook, natural light, and so on. But with Victorian buildings, the most premium floor will usually be the first; this is because the first floor, along with the ground floor, typically has the highest ceilings. Then, as you go up the floors, the ceiling height tends to get lower. Many top floor flats can have really low ceiling heights, and many don’t have a lift, either, so the penthouse is often the least desired flat in the building. When you’re next walking around London have a look up at the windows and you’ll see.

As well as often having almost double height ceilings, the first floor has the added benefit of being above the ground floor which is good from a security and privacy perspective, and, if the flat is within a white stucco building, it will usually have a balcony over the front door porch. I’ve seen first floor flats command a premium of up to 30% versus other floors in the building, so they can be really coveted; if ceiling height is important to you then expect to pay a premium for it. However, if you’re favouring internal space versus ceiling height wow factor then I would suggest looking higher up in the building.

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