FREEHOLD OR LEASEHOLD: WHICH ONE ARE YOU BUYING?

Posted by admin 11/09/2018 0 Comment(s)

 

A new report released this month has once again put the freehold/leasehold debate back in the spotlight. Apparently, almost half of British people who bought leasehold houses in the last 10 years didn’t know they were not buying the freehold until it was too late.
 

The overarching theme of the report was the difficulties leasehold properties present, whether it be the rising costs of ground rates, the price of making cosmetic alterations, or the problems when it comes to reselling the property.
 

As a result, around 94% of those surveyed said they regretted buying a leasehold, and 62% felt like there were mis-sold their property. 


Many of us know what a freehold is and many just expect the house they buy to be one. You buy the property outright and know you are responsible for all the maintenance of the house and its land. However, for some, it is a surprise to hear they have actually purchased a leasehold.

 

The National Association of Estate Agents has warned: "Most buyers have no idea about the trappings of a leasehold contract until it's too late."


 

SO WHAT IS LEASEHOLD?

Leasehold enables the buyer to live in the property for a set number of years – up to 999 years in some cases – and in the eyes of the law, you would essentially be a tenant of the freeholder.
 

When buying the property, the leaseholder is basically entering a contract with the freeholder and is subject to paying maintenance fees, service charges and annual “ground rent”. They can also face restrictions such as not owning pets or subletting, as well as having to sort permission or pay extra fees to make cosmetic changes.
 

If leaseholders do not pay the required fees or fulfil the terms of the lease, then the lease can become forfeit and they can lose their home.
 

SO WHY HAVE LEASEHOLDS BECOME MORE CONTRIVERSIAL?

Years ago, the fees associated with leasehold properties were trivial – just £1 for ground fees in some cases – but over the past few years, with the rise in new builds, property developers are now charging upwards of £200.
 

The developers have also started to include clauses to ensure that the ground rent would double every year, and as mortgage providers will not lend on properties with spiraling ground rent clauses, many leaseholders are now unable to sell their home.
 

Also, leases under 80 years can make it difficult to remortgage, leaving many trapped.
 

ARE LEASEHOLDERS ALL BAD?

It is easy to get scared when looking at the recent reports, especially when reading some of the latest media reports.  However, leaseholds are not all bad – it is the bad leasehold contracts that are the problem – and the government is working on putting an end to these now.
 

Don’t be turned off your dream property because it is a leasehold. Check with a solicitor that the contract does not include extortionate ground rent or increased fees, and you are halfway there!
 

In fact, there are some benefits, including the freeholder being responsible for common areas and repairs, as well as sorting the building insurance. Plus, any issues, such as noisy neighbours, has to be dealt with by the freeholder.


There is also still a possibility to buy the freehold rights to the property and the UK government is working with leaseholders now to help them purchase the freehold.

 

TAKE ADVICE FROM US… AND OTHERS

When making any purchase, it is always advised to get as much as advice as possible. If you have spotted your next home and are worried about what a leasehold could mean, do your research.


Talk to your solicitor, do your research, and read the contract! Don’t forget, your friendly Aston Anderson estate agent is on hand to answer your leasehold questions too!