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Types of purchase

Freehold or leasehold

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When you get into the detail, freehold and leasehold property law is complex stuff, but the basic principles are pretty simple:


Freeholds are the simplest to understand. When you buy a freehold, you own the property outright. Simple, eh?

Subject to the law and planning restrictions, you can largely do what you like on your land. If you own the freehold and want to paint the entire building bright orange, you can. If you want pets, you can have as many as you want. You want to let the garden get so overgrown it looks like a nature reserve, no problem. It's yours, you own it.

Freehold properties for sale tend to be houses, though there are an increasing number of freehold flats available. This is because of legislation that is making it easier for leaseholders to buy the freehold.

To some people, buying a lease may seem just like renting a property, and in a way they're right. Essentially you are buying nothing more than the right to occupy a portion of a building for a given length of time. You will have to pay a small amount of regular ground rent and maintenance in addition to a one-off payment that buys you ownership of the lease until you either sell it, or it runs out.

Leasehold purchases generally occur in buildings that comprise more than one unit, such as blocks of flats, or commercial property. In London, many houses are leasehold as well. The amount of alterations you can make to the property varies accordance with the lease and you may well have other conditions imposed upon you by the landlord.

All properties in England and Wales belong to one broad category or another. Most property adverts actually display whether it is the freehold or the leasehold that is being sold. If this is not the case, ask the estate agent or the vendor.

But there is another...

Flying freehold

This is not owning the temporary right to a seat in an aeroplane and it is not a killer move in Jiu-Jitsu. A flying freehold is in fact a bit of an anomaly in the United Kingdom.

A Flying Freehold is the part of the freehold property which is built above land which does not form part of that property freehold. The flying part need not be in mid-air, it can be over a part of someone else's freehold, or over a common part (eg. some semi detached houses have a room over a common passageway). The common part need not be enclosed, it can be an external passage.

Here is an example: An old semi detached house of unusual design was split into two freeholds. However, the dividing line does not go straight down the middle, and one corner of the bathroom is above a part of the lounge next door.

Another example of Flying Freehold could be the situation of a property forming part of the communal archway for cars to come and go into the central area of a development? These would be examples of a flying freehold. We think. But if someone has a better explanation, please e-mail it to us.

Flying freeholds are a grey area as far as the law is concerned and for this reason, most lenders will probably not lend you money to buy a property of this type in this country. You should consult a specialist property solicitor if considering buying this type of property.

Please note, that a flying freehold is just as common as any other form of freehold in many countries and is not considered unusual. For instance, many condominiums in North America are classed as flying freeholds, as are many office blocks, and other multiple unit buildings. Individuals have the right to sell or mortgage their own particular unit within a block of 'flats' yet with all unit owners sharing joint ownership of common grounds and passageways etc.

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