Buying the land can help you to sell a property
In a slumping market, it's tempting to do anything you can to boost your property – but is it worth the effort and the cost? Alessia Horwich reports
Sunday 31 May 2009
As the housing market slumps further, homeowners are looking for more ways to add value to their homes. But forget repainting everything magnolia and "decluttering", if your property is leasehold, one relatively cheap way to boost the desirability and even profitability of your home is to get your hands on the freehold.
The difference between purchasing a leasehold and a freehold is quite simple. If you buy a freehold, you are not only buying a property, but also the land on which it sits. With leasehold, you do not own the land, just the building, or even just the floors, ceilings and internal walls. This is the case for most flats, since in many cases what lies below is someone else's flat. You can, however, together with your neighbours, set up a company to buy the land, which then becomes the shared freehold.
If you only own the buildings you are expected to pay annual ground rent to your landlord and you may have to pay annual service charges for the upkeep of communal areas.
The value of the freehold depends on several factors. First, the type of property, prices in the area and the state of the market as a whole. You also need to take into consideration the value of the landlord's interest – how much ground rent is received and how much the house will be worth at the end of the lease. The deciding factor is often how long the lease still has to run. If it is longer than 70 years, then it has very little value at all. However, as it drops below this is will increase in value, as there is the leaseholders need to either extend or purchase the freehold.
Andrew Bulmer, a spokesman for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says: "Because the variables are considerable, it is not possible to designate the value of the freehold as a percentage to the value of the house. It needs a specialist chartered surveyor to calculate it."
Ultimately, the price you offer will be a starting point from which you negotiate until you settle on a figure that will compensate for the loss that the landlord will suffer by selling.
If you do not have the cash to buy the freehold outright, you have two options for securing finance in order to make the purchase. "You can either go to your existing lender for a further advance or completely remortgage," says Ray Boulger, technical director for mortgage broker John Charcol. "Both options are viable and which is most appropriate depends on your existing mortgage."
For those who have plenty of equity, either option is feasible and, considering the extremely low rates currently available for low loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages, remortgaging may look appealing. However, for those who already hold a good mortgage deal at over 75 per cent LTV, remortgaging completely could be a less attractive proposition. This is because new borrowing will push up the LTV and therefore the rate of interest with it. Still, owning the freehold could increase the value of the property as well, and if both the loan and the value rise proportionately, the LTV could remain roughly the same.
When it comes to buying the freehold, the process varies depending on the type of property. For a house in which you or your family are the only occupants, you can simply approach your landlord and negotiate the freehold purchase.
If you live in a property with two or more flats and want to set up a shared freehold, you could follow a similar route, negotiating directly with the landlord. But you also have the legal right to seek "collective enfranchisement". To do this, at least two-thirds of the leaseholders (both if there are only two flats) must petition the landlord to purchase the freehold. If you can not reach an amicable agreement with the landlord, the dispute goes to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. This process is long and complicated, and will incur legal costs of at least £500.
A property that is sold freehold is, in most cases, a more attractive prospect to buyers. Mr Bulmer says: "It's difficult to get a mortgage for a property that has a leasehold of 50 years or less. This will make it difficult for sellers to shift the property. In this case, it would be extremely advantageous to purchase the freehold in order to be able to offer it as part of your house to prospective buyers."
Melfyn Williams, a spokesman for the National Association of Estate Agents says: "The majority of properties are easier to sell when they are freehold rather than leasehold, but a lot will depend on the length of the lease – if it's 999 years then it's almost as good as a freehold."
Purchasing the freehold can also add value to your home, especially if your lease is running short. As Mr Williams says: "In the majority of cases, it would add value by at least the amount you pay for the freehold if not more." However, this can be deceptive. Sometimes the valuation of a property will be much the same with or without the freehold attached, but the saleability of the property is a different matter. Properties with a short lease are, in effect, unsaleable, and are therefore worth little or nothing at all.
When it comes to flats, the purchase of the shared freehold will give you control over the communal areas of your own property. "The principal motivation is one of control," says Mr Bulmer. "Because of the way the lease is structured, purchasing the freehold is unlikely to add value to an apartment. But a freeholder will have more control, and a better-managed estate could increase the value of the property. It's not the acquisition of the freehold per se."
Owning the freehold for your apartment can affect how your property is viewed by lenders, though opinions here are divided. Debbie Cocker-Brown, the head of conveyancing at Pepperells Solicitors, says: "More often than not, owning the freehold is of no additional value to the lender as they want to see that there is a management contract in place, assuring the maintenance of communal areas. Your covenants need to be running and most lenders prefer leasehold because it assures this."
But Mr Boulger argues that "there are cases of management companies taking service charges and doing nothing. It's much more likely that the property would be well maintained if it is owned by collective freeholders than by another party. So, if anything, this is favourable for lenders."
Once you have purchased the freehold there are costs involved. You will be responsible for the upkeep of communal areas. For houses, this is less of a concern, but with flat0s this includes vital parts such as corridors and exterior spaces. You will no longer have to pay service charges or ground rent, but these areas must still be kept in good condition to make sure that the property doesn't degrade in value.
Ultimately, it's a question of weighing up what the lease costs you against the price of the freehold. The cost of the lease is not just the service charges, ground rents, terms of the lease and all obligations that you pay now, but also what they could potentially rise to in the future. If the price of the freehold is worth freedom from all these charges then it could be a good investment. As Mr Williams says: "Look at all the factors, but nine times out of 10, it will be the right thing to do."
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Alicia Keys leaks nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
- 5 Clothes store Joy angers mental health campaigners with Twitter exchange on bipolar disorders
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize