Rise of leasehold homes as developers cash in

Emma Woollacott
real estate agent handing over...
real estate agent handing over...

Two new housing estates in Peterborough highlight the way builders are increasingly selling new properties as leaseholds, may never really own the land their homes stand on - and are forced to pay for the privilege.

One the east side of the London Road, developer Persimmon is building a 50-home development called The Edge, with three-bedroom properties costing around £160,000 to £180,000.

On the other side of the road is The Sycamores: 80 new properties from Barratt Homes, with three-bedders starting at £164,000.

But while buyers in The Sycamores will own their homes outright, those in The Edge will only get a lease. They will have to pay ground rent that's currently £150 a year, and have to gain permission for extensions or major alterations.

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The advantage for the developers, of course, is that as well as selling the leasehold, they can also sell the freehold to investors - who can then make money from the annual ground rent.

In the past, leasehold has generally been associated with flats, where it makes a certain sense, as they have a common structure and communal areas. Now, though, more and more leasehold houses are appearing as well.

According to the Homeowners' Alliance, there are 4.1 million privately owned leasehold homes in England, and 1.9 million flats rented in the social sector - a quarter of all housing in the UK.

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And, of these, 670,000 are houses - an increase of 63,000 over the last five years. Persimmon tells the Daily Mail that around a third of the houses it's built in the last three years have been leasehold properties.

Part of this increase is down to the rise in shared ownership homes, which are generally sold on a leasehold basis. However, many are targeted at first-time buyers, who may not realise the implications.

"If you're lucky, the most stressful bit about being a leaseholder is paying the annual maintenance bill for a cleaner to clean the common areas," the Homeowners' Alliance warns.

"If you're unlucky, it can be a complex process of constantly establishing your rights, dealing with overwhelming and complex correspondence and the desperate, nagging feeling that you're being ripped off year on year by unreasonable hikes in fees."

After two years, leaseholders do have the right to buy the freehold - although this can be expensive. There's advice from Shelter here.

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