For most expats making an international relocation to London, temporary job assignments, terms of study, or simply uncertainty about how long one will live abroad are usually valid reasons why renting a London apartment versus buying a home in the UK probably makes more sense. (For discussion on whether to rent or buy, see my earlier post, “Whether to Rent or Buy for Your Relocation to London“)

But if you do ultimately make the decision to buy here, perhaps after you’ve already rented for the short-term, there are a couple property terms related to home ownership in the UK that continually stump expats: a freehold versus a leasehold. So allow me to clarify…

Freehold = Full ownership of the property; therefore, you assume full responsibility for any maintenance and repairs of that property.

Leasehold = Purchasing the rights to live in a property already owned by a freeholder, for the duration specified on the lease. The lease will likewise stipulate who is responsible for certain maintenance and repairs for that property.

Which isn’t to say a leasehold is short-term ownership; some such leases can be granted for up to 999 years! Usually leaseholds are London apartments rather than standalone houses, but the latter do exist as well. A share of freehold emerges when leaseholders of individual flats chip in and outright purchase the entire property from the freeholder. Each unit owner then shares in the responsibility of maintenance and repair of common areas within that property.

For more information on understanding these distinctions and more when it comes to buying a home in the UK, here are a few online resources:

http://www.home.co.uk/guides/buying/leasehold_freehold.htm
http://www.propertyinvestmentproject.co.uk/blog/freehold-and-leasehold/
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-1585043/Leasehold-vs-freehold.html
http://www.buyassociation.co.uk/homes/understanding-freehold-and-leasehold.html

Yet more technicalities to consider for an international relocation…or a local relocation if you’ve already moved here and have chosen to rent apartments in the meantime. If you’re still opting to rent, however, then give our Relocation agents a call so we can help sort out those technicalities easily for you.