Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Living on the top floor

An interesting article in this month's French Property News* explains some of the advantages of living on the top floor, a point to bear in mind when buying an apartment in France. I have always favoured the top floor of buildings, provided it is not much above the third floor (a personal choice, though I lived for many years on the sixth and ninth floors of apartment blocks in London), and many people will not consider living higher than, say, the third floor if the building has no lift. I currently live on the second and top floor of a building facing south east and a leisure port, with a large terrace; whereas the Mediterranean side of the building rises to four floors, facing east, and tends to be cooler in summer after midday.

Older buildings may not have a lift installed. This is often the case with older buildings in Paris, particularly where a series of 'chambres de bonne' (servants quarters) have been converted into desirable apartments with stunning views. However they are invariably located at the rear of the building and access is by the 'back stairs' with no possibility of finding a lift.

Aside from that, top floor apartments offer a number of advantages, not least that of sound insulation, particularly in older buildings and conversions. Sound from below is less intrustive and easier to control by installing a 'floating' wood floor or buying thick carpets and rugs. Top floors offer the prospect of more light and air compared with the lower floors, where you can end up looking into the apartment of your neighbour.

On the Mediterranean coast there is the prospect of sea views or views over the rooftops of an historic town or village, and the almost certainty of a roof terrace for sun bathing and enjoying meals outside. Not unnaturally, top floor apartments can command a premium, ten per cent or more according to Rebecca Russell, author of the article, compared with lower floors, even in older bourgeois  buildings without a lift.

The presence of a lift means higher services charges paid to the building managers (the 'syndic') for maintenance and eventual replacement - many older lifts are currently being renovated or replaced to comply with new safety norms. Buyers, according to Russell, should also check that the building is well maintained, particularly with regard to the roof, as top floor apartments are among the first to suffer the results of high winds and rain storms common in the south of France.

However, the author concludes, top floor apartments invariably hold their value, are ideal for renting and in every way represent a sound investment should the time come when you wish to sell.

* French Property News, August 2010.