What Is The Difference Between An Apartment And A Flat?


Apartment vs. Flat - 1

As you hunt for the ideal living space to call home, you will come across a variety of terms. Two of the most commonly used terms are “apartment’ and “flat”, which most people assume are the same thing. It is not easy to distinguish between an apartment and a flat, or to even tell if there is a difference between the two terms, so here is what you need to know in order to clear the confusion.

What is the difference between an apartment and a flat? In general, the terms “flat” and “apartment” are used interchangeably to describe a rental unit, and it can be hard to figure out exactly what each term means. Furthermore, the use of these terms varies depending on the region. The term “flat” is used more commonly in the U.K to describe an ordinary unit. On the other hand, a British apartment refers to a flat that is upscale and posh. Similarly, American renters have a different conception when defining flats. On the occasion that the term “flat” is used in the U.S, it is often in reference to an apartment that is luxurious or upscale. The term flat can also be used in the American rental market to refer to single-floor rentals so as to distinguish them from apartment rentals that have more than one floor.

Generally speaking, an apartment and a flat essentially refer to the same thing-both refer to a personal unit that comprises of a given number of rooms situated on the same floor within a bigger, singular building. If you go into more detail, these are the distinguishing factors you will find between these unit types.

1. Differences in terms of locale

The main difference between the two terms is how they are used in different regions. “Flat” is a term which to a unit that is commonly used in British English, while “apartment” is more commonly used in American English. British renters refer to any single residence that is located in a building or complex with other similar residences as a flat. Depending on the design and layout, flats have a varying number of rooms. On the rare occasion that American renters use the term “flat”, it could be in reference to an apartment which has several suites that share one or more communal spaces.

The American apartment is situated in an apartment building whereas British flats are found in a block of flats. In the U.S, a condo is similar to the British owner-occupied flat. A studio apartment closely compares to a bedsit, while a duplex is essentially a British semi-detached house. The row house is an American equivalent to a terraced house in British English.

2. The difference when it comes to luxury

In the U.K, a flat refers to an ordinary residence that has standard amenities. On the other hand, British renters recognize apartments as upscale and posh flats. In the United States, apartments come in a wide range of layouts and price charges and therefore serves as a general term. On the rare occasion the term flat is used in American English, it is often in allusion to a luxury or posh apartment.

3. Differences in the number of floors

In some cases, the term “flat” may be used by American renters to refer to single-floor rentals or units that are located in a one-story building so as to distinguish them from apartment rentals that are located in apartment complexes.

4. Differences in rooms and household items

There are disparities in the common household items you will find in the various rooms of American apartments and British flats. Here is what you can expect.

  • In the living room – In an American apartment, you will find a living room, while in a British flat, there is usually a sitting room. The apartment will likely have a floor lamp and television, whereas the flat will probably have a standard lamp and a telly.
  • In the kitchen – The American apartment will have a stove, while a British flat will have a cooker. Doing the dishes is the norm in an apartment and washing up in a flat is its equivalent. You will plug the blender into an electrical outlet in your apartment and your toaster into the flat’s power point. Use a dishtowel to wipe up dishes in the apartment or with a tea towel in the flat. Trash is disposed of in a garbage can for an apartment and a dustbin for a flat.
  • In the bathroom – To use the toilet, you will go to the apartment’s bathroom and the flat’s loo. Clean your hands in the sink before wiping them dry with a washcloth in an apartment, and do the same in a basin before using a flannel to clean your hands. In both British and American English, if a bathroom is attached to the bedroom, it is referred to as en suite.
  • In the bedroom – The clothes in the bedroom of an American apartment are kept in the closet, whereas they are likely to be stored in a cupboard of a British flat. A baby will sleep in the crib found in the apartment, and in the cot for a flat. The bed in an apartment is covered by a bedspread, while in an apartment, you will use a duvet.

5. Steps to take to find an apartment or flat

Whether you are looking for an apartment or a flat, it can take you quite a while to find the ideal apartment to make your home. Here are some tips on how to go about finding an apartment.

1. Taking into consideration your housing needs

  • Come up with a realistic budget – Before you even set out to look for an apartment or a flat, consider coming up with a realistic budget that takes into account your monthly rent as well as utilities and other costs that come with living in a rental unit.
  • List down your wants and needs – As a renter, you probably have specific expectations from the apartment or flat you want to live in. How many rooms do you want in the unit? Do you need to live in close proximity to your place of work? Once you figure out these expectations, create a comprehensive list so that you don’t forget anything.
  • Finding the perfect neighborhood – Finding a suitable neighborhood where you might want to live is just as important as finding the right apartment/flat. Factors that you should take into consideration regarding a neighborhood include your affordability, lifestyle needs, local amenities, security, and commute times among others. There are websites such as Walk Score and AddressReport that you can use to help you pick the right neighborhood.

2. Looking for an apartment

  • Hiring a licensed real estate agent – While it is quite possible to find an apartment/flat on your own, using the services of a real estate agent will make things much easier for you even though it will cost you quite a bit to find a licensed professional.
  • Use the internet – There are many apartment finding apps available for use, making your search less stressful. Some of the most reliable ones include Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and Zumper.
  • Newspaper classifieds – It doesn’t hurt to look for your next home in the newspaper. Many landlords rely on classifieds to get the word out on vacancies in their units.

3. Comparing potential units

  • Assessing various options – When you find a few units that you like, compare their various aspects to narrow down even further, consider making a pros and cons list so that you end up with an apartment/flat with the most positive aspects and least negative ones.
  • Asking the right questions – Don’t shy away from asking questions about the unit. Inquire about appliances that may be included, the utilities you have to pay for, whether or not you can keep pets, and any other concerns that you may have.

4. Applying for an apartment

  • Have all your documents ready – Once you find a place that you like, prepare all the necessary documents that you will need during the application process for the apartment/flat. Generally, the documents that you will need to apply for an apartment include your credit score, two of your most recent pay stubs, bank statements, background checks, recommendations, and references. Don’t forget to bring along your checkbook as well since you may have to pay a fee in order to apply or to take the apartment/flat off the market for you until the lease is signed.

Final Thoughts

While apartments and flats are essentially the same, the main distinguishing factor between the two is how the terms are used in American English and British English. Furthermore, British renters consider apartments to be upscale flats, while for Americans, flats are often thought to be the more luxurious living space. Depending on whether it is an American apartment or a British flat, there are also differences in how the various household items are named. Nevertheless, they are both rental spaces, and the process of finding either an apartment or a flat is pretty much the same

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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