Is it hard to sell a leasehold property?
Talking you through all things leasehold, including answering how hard they are to sell and giving you your different sales options...
It is estimated there are 4.6 million leasehold properties in the UK, according to Gov.uk, which makes up 19% of the English housing stock. This means there’s a high chance you’re reading this because you’re one of the 19%, thinking about selling a leasehold property and you want to know how hard it could be.
Well, look no further because we’re going to tell you about all things leasehold, including the answer to ‘is it hard to sell a leasehold property’ and also giving you all the different options on how to sell, just in case you’re a little stuck.
What is a leasehold property?
Living in a leasehold property means you live in a property on land which is owned by someone else, called the freeholder. You will have a lease from the freeholder which can be any length of time, with the longest one being 999 years.
Once the lease comes to an end, the property will return to the freeholder and you will no longer own the property, even if you have fully paid off your mortgage. A lot of flats and new build houses are leaseholds, so make sure you check out the tenure before buying.
As a leaseholder, you will have a contract with your freeholder which will outline the responsibilities of both parties, including the fees and guidelines you will have to pay as a leaseholder.
As you don’t own the land the property is on, you will have to pay ground rent to the freeholder, which is essentially paying rent for the land your property is on. You will also have to pay a service charge, maintenance fees and a share of the building’s insurance.
If the leaseholder was to not keep up with the terms of the lease, the lease can be forfeited, meaning they no longer have a right to live in the property and so must move out.
Do leasehold properties lose value?
Whilst most property tends to appreciate in value, leasehold properties are a little different. The more the lease on the property runs down, the more the value of the property tends to drop.
It makes sense really – why would you want to buy a property which only has a few years remaining on the lease, meaning in a few years’ time it will no longer belong to you? This is why a lease extension is something you may want to consider if you’re wanting to sell and have very few years left on your lease.
We’re not saying this is going to make it worth a lot more and make it easy to sell, but it’s something that may help make selling a leasehold property a little easier.
Is it hard to sell a leasehold property?
There’s no straight answer to ‘is it hard to sell a leasehold property’, as the answer relies on many different aspects. There are a lot of potential issues which can arise, putting a potential buyer off a leasehold property, such as:
If you have a lease with less than 80 years remaining, then you will find selling a leasehold property difficult. This is because properties with a short lease make it hard to get a house repayment scheme, with most house repayment lenders refusing to lend on properties with this short a lease.
Your only real hope in this situation would be that a cash buyer comes along, as they won’t require financial help to buy the property and so are more willing to buy a leasehold property with a short lease.
Property in poor condition
This really applies to any property, but if your leasehold is in a bad condition then it will make it a lot trickier to sell. If you wanted to, you could ask a property staging expert for some help to make your property look more appealing, but this does come at a cost.
Terms of the lease aren’t desirable
Anyone looking to buy a leasehold property will get their solicitor to go through the terms of the lease, looking closely for anything undesirable. Conditions which will get particular attention will be:
The ground rent terms (fixed or escalating)
Cost of the service charge and how it’s paid (quarterly, annually, etc)
Building insurance cost
Any terms impacting the sale of the property in the future
Any plans for future works, such as renovations or repairs
Any terms which look undesirable to a potential buyer will make the property harder to sell and may lead to any potential buyer trying to renegotiate on price, or even pull out of the sale altogether.
The ground rent scandal
This sort of follows on from what we’ve just said but the ground rent scandal has left a ‘nasty taste’ in people’s mouths, making them reluctant to buy a leasehold property. This is another factor that will make selling a leasehold property much more difficult.
How’s your freeholder?
A serious question you need to ask yourself when it comes to trying to sell your leasehold property. If your freeholder isn’t easy to deal with and doesn’t respond well to enquiries, then potential buyers will be put off from buying the property.
Amount of paperwork involved
When selling a leasehold property, there’s a lot more paperwork involved compared to selling a freehold property. It may sound silly, but a lot of people are intimidated by large amounts of paperwork, meaning this is something that will make your property a lot harder to sell.
Do leasehold properties take longer to sell?
Leasehold conveyancing tends to take longer compared to conveyancing on a freehold property, which will naturally cause your leasehold property to take longer to sell.
If you’re lucky enough to find a cash buyer, meaning there’s no chain below you involved, then the sale shouldn’t take as long. Having said this, cash buyers aren’t always easy to find and there’s no guarantee they’ll be interested in your property.
Our next section is going to give you some advice on how to sell a leasehold property so have a read of that if you’re wanting to sell and don’t know where to start.
Can a freeholder refuse to extend a lease?
The answer to this will depend on how long you’ve owned the property. If you have owned the property for two or more years, then you have a statutory right to extend the lease under the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993.
A freeholder can’t withdraw from a Statutory procedure, so you will be able to get the lease extended, but you do need to remember that there will be high costs to cover when it comes to lease extension, so you need to make sure you’re able to pay this.
If you have owned the property for less than two years, it’s still possible to negotiate a lease extension with the freeholder, but this is classed as an ‘informal lease extension’.
This is a less ideal situation for you as a leaseholder because the freeholder can withdraw at any time and the terms of the extension can vary. Under an informal route, there’s no obligation on the freeholder to even agree that they want to negotiate to extend your lease.
A freeholder refusing to extend your lease will make selling a leasehold property much more difficult, as a short lease will be less appealing to any potential buyers.
How to sell a leasehold property
When selling a leasehold property, your lease and all the conditions will be passed onto the new leaseholder, and they will be allowed to stay in the property for the remaining amount of time left on the lease. The process of selling a leasehold property is called an ‘assignment’.
It’s key that you know what’s in your lease agreement, as there may be ‘assignment conditions’ which you must comply with during the selling process, so make sure you’re on top of this to avoid any problems.
You have a few different options when it comes to selling a leasehold property, which we’re going to get into now for you…
Your first option when it comes to selling a leasehold property would be to extend the lease. As we’ve already hinted at, a short lease will be less desirable and will reduce the value of your property. You want to make sure your property has more than 80 years left on the lease and the longer the better.
Once you’ve extended your lease, you can sell your house through your chosen method, whether this is on the open market, through auction, privately or through other ways.
One thing you will need to bear in mind when extending your lease before selling your leasehold property is the cost of lease extension.
Based on data by Leasehold Advisory Service, the lease extension cost for a flat valued at £200,000 with £200 annual ground rent could be anything from £7,500 if the lease has 95-years left to £26,5000 for a property with 60 years left on the lease.
Clearly, this is not going to be an option suitable for everyone.
Another option you have when it comes to selling a leasehold property is to buy the freehold first. This may make it easier to sell as your property is now classed as a freehold property, meaning it’s exempt from ground rent and service charges, whilst also being in control of any maintenance.
One thing to note is to be able to buy the freehold, you will have to meet certain criteria. If you live in a house the process is different to a flat, as in a flat you need at least 50% of the building’s flats to agree to take part in the buying of the freehold.
You will also need to meet the following criteria:
Current lease must have at least 21 years left
Must not be a commercial lease
If you’re in a flat – the building must contain at least 2 flats
The building mustn’t be a charitable housing trust, national trust or cathedral precinct
When it comes to buying the freehold, you have two routes that you’re able to go down – the formal and informal route. The formal route comes at more of a cost and there will be strict instructions and timescales set out by law. This route will also offer more protection to the leaseholders.
With the informal route, you’re able to go straight to the freeholder and there are fewer costs involved. But there’s a chance your freeholder could pull out at any time and there’s no protection offered to leaseholders.
Find cash buyer
Your final option when it comes to selling a leasehold property is to find a cash buyer. We say this because a cash buyer requires no financial aid and so won’t have to go through the stress of trying to find a house repayments lender who’s willing to lend on a leasehold, especially one with a short lease.
With a cash buyer, there will be no chain below you, meaning the process won’t be slowed by a lengthy chain and your sale doesn’t rely on another sale going through. This will make the process of selling a leasehold property slightly quicker.
Having said this, you will still have to pay all the fees associated with selling AND cash buyers are quite hard to come by. Or are they…
Here at The Property Buying Company, we’re a cash buyer of houses, buying any property in any condition in any location. We’re not worried about buying a leasehold property and are happy to take yours off your hands!
Not only this, but we also cover all the fees for you, meaning you won’t have a penny to pay and will get the cash offer in FULL in your bank. On top of all this, we’re able to complete in a fast timescale of your choice! Our average completion time is 2-3 weeks, but we have been known to complete in as little as a week!
Sounds too good to be true? Stop worrying about selling a leasehold property and give us a call or fill in our online form for a no-obligation cash offer to get your leasehold sold, without needing to pay a penny!