Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Upwardly Mobile; There Is a Way to Make a Profit from Property without Moving - Build on the Roof,

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Upwardly Mobile; There Is a Way to Make a Profit from Property without Moving - Build on the Roof,

Article excerpt


UP ON the roof, there is huge potential for building brand-new homes.

Modern methods of construction allow for much of the work to be done offsite, and though homeowners might dread having builders on the roof, the advantages are enormous when the freeholder modernises an old building and property prices go up.

Earlier this year, we reported on how the leaseholders of a drab Sixties block in Highgate sold the airspace on top of their flats to a developer and used the money for improvements.

These flats had been difficult to sell. But since the additions, the flats have increased in value, become more desirable and encouraged owners to spend money on renovating the remaining apartments.

The idea was the brainchild of one of the leaseholders and surveyor Jim Moffat, who hit on the concept of developing the airspace and building two penthouses.

The scheme worked well because the leaseholders owned the freehold of their block and could see the financial benefit of investing the proceeds of the sale of the airspace back into the block.

Now owners in other blocks are following suit. Moffat is about to apply for planning permission to put two penthouses on top of a late-Fifties block of 15 flats in Holland Park.

And Hakan Olsson of First Penthouse - which has built five penthouses on top of Albert Court, by the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington - is helping the leaseholders of a block of mansion flats in Hammersmith put together a scheme that could pay for the refurbishment of their rundown building.

"Most leases allow the freeholder to raise money from leaseholders for repairs but not improvements," says Moffat. "But when the leaseholders own the freehold of their block, it can be difficult to get everyone's agreement to pay for major improvements.

"Developing the airspace on top of the building gives the leaseholders a pot of money which they wouldn't otherwise be able to raise. Many blocks of flats built in the Fifties and Sixties now look dull and dated. Changing their appearance gives them a new lease of life."

However, where the leaseholders do not own the freehold, developing the airspace is not always to the flat-owners benefit. A developer can get planning permission to build on top of an existing building without putting anything back.

Mercifully, this did not happen at Pierhead Wharf, a development of 44 flats in Wapping High Street and built in 1996 in the style of the surrounding 19th century warehouses.

Shortly after chartered accountant Andrew Hamilton-Meikle bought his flat in the block, he found that the developer had permission to build four penthouses, but it was only when the work started last year that the leaseholders realised they had a problem.

"I heard lots of complaints about noise, dust and disruption," says Andrew, "so we organised ourselves into a committee of surveyors, chartered accountants and those with legal knowledge. …

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