Why You Might Not Want To Buy That First Floor Flat (And Why You Might)

Before we really get into the meat of this article let's start with a big caveat, this is not true of all first floor flats just the majority. And let's also start with a clarification for our North American readers, first floor is not ground floor. First floor is the first one you see when you look up. And finally before beginning, some first floor flats are absolutely excellent, it all depends on the design of the building (We'll tell you how to spot them later). Most buildings are not designed to have a great first floor flat but some lend themselves to excellent first floor flats especially more modern buildings.

Edit: We have had two complaints about this post. So to those people we are not talking about your apartments. They were fantastic and they didn't have the issues we describe here. As we say later on, first floor flats can be excellent, there are so many reasons why. We describe them below. What we are saying here is that loads are utter rubbish, especially the ones that have been on the property portals for a long time!! There's a reason they are still on sale!!


Why Do People Often Want to See First Floor Flats?

People go onto property portals and see a place in its best light, touched up photos, complementary angles of the photos, the sins of photoshop, renders and more. What you don't see on photos of course are things that exist but can't be seen, noise, smells, location, activity etc... Equally, people generally put their requirements into property portals and one of the big requirements in a city flat is a terrace or outside space. When you limit your results to properties with a terrace then you are often given a lot of first floor flats and a few penthouses. Mid floors don't tend to have terraces.

Now at this point you may notice a couple of things, huge price disparities and a difference in the quality of the light in the photos. There is a reason for this. Penthouses are much, much more expensive. You pay extra to be on the top floor for a number of reasons that we have outlined on these pages before; light, no noise from your neighbour above, a bit of privacy by not being overlooked and a view, oftentimes a great view. The lower price properties with terrace tend to have one thing in common, first floor. The reason they have a terrace though is because of the development of Spanish cities and how apartment blocks are constructed. Many cities are built on a block basis. You can see the example of Barcelona below.

The blocks are often built with shops at ground level and the shop goes further back into the block than the flats meaning that there is a flat roof extending out into the interior of the block. this is where you can find many of the terraces. Some of them are really good as they can be large and sunny with plenty of space and you can use awnings to give yourself an element of privacy. Others aren't and are overlooked by everyone and feel cramped.

More modern flats may have a terrace that works perfectly on the first floor, they are designed in that way rather than the terrace being an afterthought. You can see an example below. Light, airy, large with a barbecue area and ready to be used. At no point would we say to somebody, "don't buy that it's on the first floor!"


What Are The Potential Downsides?


Light

The biggie with first floor flats is often light. You may only have one room to the front of the building meaning only one source of natural light and everything else depends on the lightwell going down the centre of the building and possibly a rear window for a bedroom. The taller the building the less light gets down to the first floor. Unless you open up the apartment massively by getting rid of a lot of walls then the light from the front will not flow. And sometimes this would be impossible anyway as the front of the building may be north facing for example and no natural sunlight will ever get into the flat.

These days wonderful things can be done with artificial lighting but there might well be one thing you cannot do and that is change...

...The Cavelike Nature...

... of the property. We often say that a lot of first floor places are like caves and that you can never do anything to change that in certain cases. You won't be able to see this from the photos posted online and the description will definitely not make a feature of this lack of light from all sides. As we have mentioned before in these pages if the jargon in the Spanish property advert says "Muy luminoso" then tread very carefully. A 60W bulb doesn't change the fact that a place is dark and that 60W bulb running 16 hours a day is annoyingly depressing in such a light and sunny country.


Noise

Buses, general traffic, terraces for bars below, car repair places, rubbish collection at night and a whole lot more. Noises are amplified when you are near to the source of them and being first floor is about as close as you can get. The higher you go up a building the less the noise of course. If your lovely terrace is right by a bus stop then you might not want to be sitting outside enjoying the traffic noise and fumes while staring into the eyes of the passengers on the top deck of the tourist bus looking straight back at you.


Smells

Traffic fumes aren't the only smell though that you may get more of on the first floor. With the proliferation of fast food joints in ground floor shops then you may be assailed with 24 hour Kebab smells (not great), curry (About as perfect as life can get perhaps), fried chicken (Not bad) general fried food (Meh) or even paellas and pizzas (hmm). Equally there are plenty of garages and car repair places meaning exhaust fumes, oil changes, smoke and more may disturb your terrace.

The worst though are the bins. Make sure they aren't on your side of the road. Remember that a bin serves hundreds of people and though the rules say you put your rubbish out between 8 and 11 in the evening, many people do it early in the morning after cooking fish the night before so their apartment doesn't smell, forgetting that those fish heads etc will then spend all day stewing in 30 degree plus heat outside your terrace. Equally all of those 100 people put their bins out after eight meaning the constant noise of opening and closing of the bins and the wafting of the bin smell towards you 100 times in a few hours. Never buy a first floor flat above bins on your side of the road. (NB, There's a difference between rubbish bins and recycling bins for paper and glass.


Distribution

Sometimes the layout of the apartment is not great and if you can play with the light and add bigger windows etc then you can make a huge difference. This is not often the case of first floor flats. Quite a few of them are limited in the changes you can make that will make any difference because there is no light to play with from the interior lightwell and there is no breeze from those lightwells to make the place seem more airy.


Shade

If you are on a narrow road in the old town then it may be that buildings are typically five floors. If you are first floor then it might be that you never get any direct sunlight as you are always in the shade apart from midday on the summer solstice perhaps. We use an app for this called shadowmap to find out if a place will be constantly in the shade. If it is then it's generally a no-no.


One Window to the Front

Sometimes there will only be one window to the front and the rest of the flat will be rooms coming off a long corridor because of the nature of older constructions. This is especially true down near the beach as all flats need a sea view. If that is the case then your light and airy flat in Spain is a bit of a pipedream whatever modernisation you take on


Interior Living Rooms and Interior Flats

Sometimes to get a terrace to the rear of the building then the flat is classed as interior and you don't get to see the road to the front. This can have advantages from the lack of noise to the absense of traffic but it can also mean you can feel pretty cut off from the world. An interior flat doesn't usually cut it for many Spanish families as they like the hustle and bustle of the street more. This mindset was exacerbated during Covid when people felt totally isolated in interior flats.

Even if the whole flat isn't interior then sometimes the flat has a bedroom or bedrooms to the front and the living room is interior. Not ideal. This can mean having that 60W bulb on all day too.


That Lovely Terrace Picture

I remember once seeing the picture below and thinking yes, from many terraces that's what it's like, exactly like this!

You may imagine yourself enjoying some rays overlooking a beach but the reality of many terraces in first floor flats is that they are the interior lightwell and the only view you will get is the occasional passing bird or neighbours above hanging out their greying washing and dropping their pegs onto you below.

Yes, the terrace that looks so good on the photos can sometimes be a filthy lightwell and this can also lead onto another problem if and when it rains, flooding. If you are not careful with the drain, usually a single point where the water goes to, and you don't make sure it isn't blocked by socks fallen from those washing lines above, then when it rains heavily you run the risk of a big flood because water will find it's way through that old door that you haven't bothered to change because it gives the place a bit of character.


Examples Of First Floor Flats You Should Consider Buying

Taking all of the above into consideration then what you need to avoid are... main roads, rubbish containers, fast food joints or Airbnbs below, garage entrances and car repair shops, interior terraces, interior flats, buildings that aren't looked after, bad design, very small drainage holes, narrow roads with high buildings and places with no light coming in from the back along with a few other more minor considerations.

Once you take away those then you are left with some rather excellent options but they are rare and here's the thing, unless you are charged with a lot of local knowledge (... ahem... like we are...) then the photos and the listings you are initially interested in might lead you down a lot of rabbit holes to inevitable disappointment on visiting these places. We will tell you if you need to know "You don't need to see that one!", yes, we do your legwork for you. Listen to us, there will be a reason.

It is possible to find places that do not have these inconveniences and we do have a few that appear every now and again on our site, for example see those below. But before that here's what you should bear in mind to find potentially excellent first floor apartments:

  • Large Rear Terrace
  • Top floor of a townhouse
  • Open aspect to the rear
  • Light and breeze from both sides
  • East or West facing
  • No large buildings nearby to avoid that shadow
  • A quiet road
  • Pedestrianised areas
  • Corner Apartments (One of ours has been featured recently in the US programme "House Hunters International" coming to a screen near you soon)
  • Away from the central tourist attractions.
  • When you get the whole of the first floor (See below)
  • Historical Buildings

If a few of these aspects combine then it is perfectly possible to find a brilliant first floor flat. And remember sometimes first floor flats don't have terraces and are larger than flats above them perhaps if they extend further back. Allow us to guide you and find you a great option for your first floor flat if that is what you are looking for. Below are a couple of current examples, one with a mirador rather than a terrace and the other with a couple of terraces to the front and the interior one which could be great for bike storage for example.


The Old Apartment By The Sea

When you look around this huge apartment (it takes up the entire first floor of this building from the 1940s) you can just imagine the tertulias, the artistic gatherings, that it hosted, as the entire building was owned by a Valencian aristocratic dilettante. Many famous names from the 40s and 50s Spanish social scene have certainly passed through here like Dali and perhaps even Hemingway, these tiles could certainly tell a few stories.

All the original features have been retained, the art deco carpentry in the doors and windows, the aforementioned hydraulic tiled floors (recently restored), a typical mirador (covered balcony (A small covered terrace) to see the comings and goings on the street, check if her from number ten is still getting her daily ‘prescription’ from that pharmacist across the road who’s young enough to be her son) and high ceilings with molded details. No renovation is required, all the important stuff has been done, and it is ready to be furnished and decorated to fully bring out its character.

This apartment is over 150m2 in size, with a large dining room, an office/study and a living room in the front, and an equally large main bedroom, dressing room and shower room at the back. In between there is a guest bedroom, a bathroom, and a fully renovated modern kitchen and laundry room/pantry. There is potential for another bedroom or 2 if required, but this apartment would be best enjoyed by someone who appreciates large spaces, a tall Dutch dude, a fat Irish lad or maybe just a regular American (y’call this a bedroom? Yes, yes we do).

It is located right in that lovely little area in the corner of Cabanyal that borders the Port, less than 2 minutes walk from El Grau metro station, so 20 minutes from the centre and a little over half an hour from the airport from your door. The beach is 500m away, and there are many restaurants and bars even closer, only a short stagger home.

I don’t know what else to say. It’s great. Space, comfort and history all together in the right place. This is one of those places we love to sell, because we know the buyer will be getting a really special property, where they can add their own story to the chapters already laid down here.


Boomtown Flats

Like Clockwork, it's that time of the year when Valencia explodes, literally, the Fallas Festival is once again upon us and newcomers arrive from all corners of the globe to stare in wonder at the Caloret del Foc i la Flama whilst the old hands will be looking to roll up their sleeves, have a couple of drinks and lose a few fingers. Those of a more sensitive disposition who don’t want to be Up All Night will be running for the hills, Lookin’ After Number 1 and getting back to normal, I Don’t usually Like Mondays unless its the week after Fallas.

Here we have an ideally located apartment for all that Valencia has to offer, with an enviable proximity to Ruzafa, Gran Via and the Turia Gardens where you will be spending a lot of memorable moments with and without fireworks and a perfect lock up and leave city bolthole with good potential ROI. Totally renovated with a possibility to keep the furniture it could be just the thing you’ve been scouring those portals for, 3 Bedrooms, 1 Bathroom, 1 W.C, a fully equipped modern kitchen and interior patio to hang those beach towels and a good sized living room with balcony.

The new Metro Line 10 is on the doorstep and yes, if you’re on the ground, get in touch for a viewing, we don’t completely shut down during the holidays.

Dont Believe What You Read, I Can Make It If You Can.


Overpriced Rubbish in a Strong Market

Whenever a property market is strong you can start to see some amazing examples of people taking the p*ss. We have seen three brilliant examples of overpriced rubbish in a strong property market this week and we thought it was time to show you a few examples of some of the trash that we won't be featuring on Valencia Property any time soon.

This property in La Roqueta in Valencia is 6500 Euros per m2 and is possibly the most laughably overpriced place I've seen recently. Seriously, it's so bad they've used a fisheye lens to make it look bigger than it is and it still fails spectacularly. That pricetag is eye watering for Valencia and would be considered rude in London.

And I remember when this was 1.5million Euros. We had it on the site at that point with a warning that it needed full modernisation. It still does but now it's 2.9m Euros. And what are you supposed to do with that tower?

However, still taking the biscuit and the absolute p*ss is this penthouse in Valencia. 8.6m Euros. No thanks (But if you are interested and have had a recent lobotomy then feel free to contact us and we'll sell it to you before waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night to question our choice of profession) It's been on sale for a few months now and there haven't been any bites, can't imagine why!


A Short Story About An Absolutely Useless Selling Agent

Last week we found a listed property from an agent we hadn't worked with before. We identified it as a possibility for a client who was visiting as it ticked most of their boxes. So we contacted and they said yeah no problem but I'll put you in touch with the agent who has the keys.

Long and annoying story short, they changed the timings three times, we had to go through five different people to arrange it, when we arrived with our client 15 minutes before the set time they messaged to say don't bother it's sold, ten minutes later they messaged "no it isn't you can see it in five minutes", so we went back and they then proceded to arrive late and wouldn't let us see it without filling out a huge document to visit.

Not only was the client pissed off by this point but let's just say that David was a bit miffed. Even if it had been the best property in the world I suggest reserving it would have been a world of pain but it wasn't. If you want to know the name of the agency to avoid just ask ;-) We will be avoiding them like the plague. But come on, how on Earth can you organise a company so badly that this is the experience of someone trying to see a property. Remember we do this so you don't have to go through these experiences. Your buyers' agent is your friend.


Property of the Week

When we show apartments we often talk about connection to the street. Basically, its nice have a nose out the window and see whats going on. Well this apartment gives you a birds eye view right down to the beach. Its right on the tram line, and while seventh floor is a bit too high for a balcony, and I bet you see all the way to Ibiza on a clear day.

No renovation needed, but it could be improved by some redistribution. As you walk in you have 2 bedrooms to the right, and you turn left for the kitchen, one more bedroom and the living room. So if 2 bedrooms was enough, its an obvious and relatively straightforward renovation to simply open out all this area.

You could happily spend your days watching the sun rise, the beach goers going to and from the beach, the trams pulling in and out and the yachts sailing across the horizon. And of course you are 15 minutes from the centre by tram, and a 5 minute walk from the beach. Can you see yourself here? Get in touch.


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