Buying a House in England
How to Buy Real Estate in England
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Please note that different systems of real estate transaction apply in different parts of Great Britain. This article applies specifically to England and Wales. A different system operates in Scotland.
Buying property in England is not for the faint-hearted. The real estate laws, which seem to come from another era, permit both buyer and seller to re-negotiate or even walk away from deals even after offers have been made and accepted, virtually right up to the last minute.
Given the warning above one might well ask why bother? Well, if you need to live in England you don't have much choice.
But there might be another reason. According to government Land Registry figures, real estate prices have more than doubled in the past 6 years (to Oct 2006), and despite recent interest rate increases housing inflation shows no sign of abating.
This is because demand for housing continues to outstrip supply. The U.K. continues to be a high immigration country and more families are getting divorced (creating more households).
Additionally, as affordability becomes harder for first-time buyers coupled with insufficient affordable public-sector rental accommodation, demand is increasing for privately rented housing.
Types of Property
The types of property available in England are not dissimilar to those in North America, though the naming differs. Here's a brief guide to the most common types:
Types of Tenure
Freehold - Mainly relates to houses. The owner owns both the structure and the land it occupies.
Leasehold - Mainly relates to flats. The owner "owns" the structure, but the land is owned by someone else, the "landlord". Leasehold property is leased for a fixed period, often 99 years. At the end of the lease the property reverts to the landlord. Beware of buying leasehold property with less than 50years remaining on the lease. Often a charge for "ground rent" is payable.
Commonhold - A relatively new form of ownership in which
owners of individual flats share the freehold of the entire building (and
land). Commonhold properties may employ a professional management company,
or may be self-managed by the individual owners. Self-managed properties
usually have cheaper management fees, but owners may be expected to “volunteer”
for gardening, painting etc, and this can cause friction between owners
depending on the proportion of work they feel they undertake.