In the United Kingdom, people can be in possession of property or land in two forms: either freehold or leasehold.
In freehold, you own the property more or less under the same conditions as a French owner, single-family homes are usually sold as freeholds.
In leasehold, you buy “the walls of the apartment” but rent the land for a fixed term (which can be up to 99 years). Please note, however, that the shorter the remaining period of time on the leasehold, the more your property’s value will be reduced. The term of the leasehold can be extended to 90 years. The deeds of sale are usually drawn up by lawyers (solicitors) and each solicitor represents his client.
In England, seller and buyer are committed to the contract rather late compared to the French system, the parties can withdraw from the sale at any time before the contracts are exchanged without incurring any financial compensation. The seller may even accept a more attractive offer.
A chartered surveyor (real estate expert) can make an estimate and expertise of the property a buyer intends to acquire. An appraisal by a surveyor is normally required by the lender, but it is recommended that the buyer carry out a more detailed appraisal of the property. There are three types of surveys: Valuation (appraisal), Homebuyer’s report (expert report at the request of the buyer), Structural survey (physical expertise of the building). The solicitor always advises the buyer that the exchange should take place after the property research and the bank’s loan offer has been completed.
The contract with the buyer’s signature is sent to the seller’s solicitor, and a copy with the seller’s signature is sent to the buyer’s solicitor. Finalization usually takes place four weeks after the exchange, although both parties can arrange to go faster.
Completion (finalisation) is the name given to the final act of buying a property, when the price is paid and the title deeds are exchanged.
The sale must be registered at the HM Land Registry. The legal effect of the registration is thus to guarantee the existence of the property right.
This article cannot replace legal advice concerning a particular situation.