Here are our top tips of things to look out for.
In the UK there are different types of ownership and it’s important that you understand what they are before purchasing. The most common are…
If a flat is freehold, it essentially means you own both the property and the land it stands on, you are responsible for it in its entirety. Unless there is also a lease regulating the relationship between you and the other flats, these are nearly impossible to mortgage.
Share of freehold, sometimes called a Distributed Freehold
With a share of freehold, the owners of the flats (the Leaseholders) in the given block each own a portion of the freehold, typically through a formed association. You will be jointly responsible for maintenance of the building and communal areas. The decision to have work done is not just down to one freeholder and you may be able to negotiate for better deals, plan and protect against any unexpected costs in the future. Often a Managing Agent is appointed to handle this.
Leaseholds on flats are more common and it means that you own the property for a fixed period of time on a lease, usually for a period of 99 – 125 years, sometimes you even see 999 year leases! The longer the better, as short leases can cause issues with lenders. Even if you’re not obtaining a mortgage to purchase you need to bear this in mind for resale in the future as the value will be affected by the short lease. We recommend 90+ years. Of course, leases can usually be extended but you will need to allow for the cost of the lease extension.
Maintenance & Ground rent charges
It’s important that you make sure you are fully aware of any charges or monthly fees you’ll need to pay. For a leasehold flat, you’ll usually need to pay a service/maintenance charge and a ground rent charge and, in some cases, a contribution to a reserve or a sinking fund which helps to cover the costs of any major works that will be required over time. An example of this might be a roof that is approaching the end of its life and needs to be replaced.
Maintenance charges cover the maintenance of the property and common areas such as hallways, stairwells, lifts and gardens. The cost will vary from property to property and it’s important to strike the right balance. A high maintenance value needs to be costed into your budget, and a very low maintenance value likely indicates that repairs are not being arranged at all!
Ground rent is payable to the freeholder, who owns the land that your property sits on. This charge is normally due annually and is fixed by the terms of the lease.
A managing agent is generally appointed by the freeholder to look after the ongoing needs of the properties and it’s worth checking out who they are and if they have a good reputation.
Choose a good solicitor
Whether it’s a solicitor of your own choice or someone who has been recommend to you, it’s really important to have a solicitor thoroughly check over the tenure of the property. If you already have a relationship with a solicitor whom you trust to handle the transaction for you, that’s great. Use them!
Mortgage Brokers and Estate Agents are well placed to recommend a solicitor to you. If they trust their own business pipelines, income and personal interaction with a particular firm or individual, you’ll have some confidence knowing that they wouldn’t put their reputation at risk by introducing you to someone who doesn’t do a good job. They will want to ensure that the transaction goes as smoothly as possible for both you and the seller. Be prepared to step in and help along the way when / if required.
Terms of the lease
It’s important that you understand the terms of the lease and the permissions for the things that are important to you as an individual. Can you have pets, can you let the property, what is the status of parking and more. This is an essential part of the work that is undertaken by your solicitor and one of the reason that you must appoint someone that you trust.
If you are thinking of buying or selling a flat, reach out to us. We’re here to help answer your questions and assist you.
You can browse some of flats currently available for sale here: Clarkes Estate Agents
TELEPHONE: 01243 861344