Owning your own home is a major financial commitment, and most people see their property as an investment as well as a nice place to live. While the expectation is that prices will rise over the years to produce a positive capital return, is there anything you can do to maximise the value of your asset?
If your home is a leasehold property – typically a flat or maisonette – your options are more restricted than if you are a freehold owner. Building extensions, loft conversions, basement excavations, new windows, garden offices, external spruce-ups – none of these tried and tested value-boosting home improvements will be available to you as a leasehold owner. So, what can you do? Let’s take a look at five great strategies for adding value to your leasehold property.
1. Consider a lease extension
Leasehold is a funny old concept in the sense that what you are actually own is the right to occupy the property for a set period of time. When the lease term is up, technically the property reverts back to the landlord. Fundamentally, this makes your flat a depreciating asset: the fewer years are left to run on the lease, the less the property is worth.
Luckily, there is statutory legislation in place that gives you the right to extend the lease by 90 years and extinguish any ground rent liability. Crucially, nine times out of ten, the cost of a lease extension is outweighed by the additional value added.
So, check your lease to see how many years are remaining. The best opportunity to increase the value of your property without paying over the odds for a lease extension is if the remaining term is in the region of 85-95 years. Be warned that once you get to 80 years or below, extending the lease becomes noticeably more expensive. You can check how much yours is like to cost with the help of this handy calculator.
Of course, you can also negotiate a lease extension with the freeholder at any time outside of the statutory provisions.
2. Buy the freehold
Another good strategy to help you add value to your flat is to buy the freehold. Talk to the other leaseholders in the building and see if there is a consensus for acquiring the freehold of the building. Subject to meeting the qualifying criteria, you may have the legal right to collective enfranchisement.
There are likely to be negotiations over the price but you should roughly expect to pay the same as you would for a lease extension. If agreement is hard to reach, you can get the price resolved by a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. The cost of enfranchisement is generally less than the value added by having a flat with a share of freehold.
Even with a share of freehold, your property ownership will still be governed by the lease. However, with a brand new 999-year lease and no ground rent, plus the freedom to manage the block as you (and the other freehold owners) see fit, you finally have total control over your asset.
3. Exercise your Right to Manage (RTM)
Effective block management is a sure-fire way to add value to your leasehold property. First impressions count, and it is the job of a property manager to ensure that communal areas such as hallways and gardens, roofs and external elevations, door entry systems, lifts etc are well maintained and look presentable at all times. Put another way, poor performance in these areas can depress the value of individual apartments.
Once you own a share of freehold, you are collectively free to get rid of a poor performing managing agent and appoint a different one. And if you do you have a landlord, there is legislation in place that allows leaseholders of a building containing flats to take over the management of the building from the freeholder, via a RTM company.
This Right to Manage was introduced to empower leasehold owners to take responsibility for the management of their block generally, not just as a means to wrest control from ‘bad’ landlords. The process to set up an RTM company is relatively straightforward and doesn’t require the landlord’s consent nor any evidence of mismanagement.
4. Rent out your property
If you want to make your property asset work harder financially, you may need to think like an investor and be open to the idea of moving out. Are you able to free up some cash for a deposit on another property? If so, there are some great mortgage deals to be had at the moment.
According to the latest Moneyfacts update, “the number of mortgage deals available on the market is continuing to increase, with a significant rise in deals available for those with a 10% or 5% deposit. As well as this, rates have remained highly competitive this week with mortgage deals offering rates below 1% available in both the remortgage and moving home charts.”
If you are serious about making money investing in property, there’s no better way than getting someone else to pay your mortgage for you.
5. Home improvements
Finally, we’re getting to the nitty gritty of updating the interior of your flat! Without a doubt, spending a few thousand pounds on the right home improvements can lead to a significant uplift in the property’s market value. That said, it is all too easy to waste money on improvements that will make little difference.
Ask any estate agent and they will tell you that kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. Kitchen renovations can often be carried out for a modest investment. Minor changes such as repainting or replacing cabinet doors or worktops may be all that’s required to make a big impact on aesthetic appeal. And if you do have a healthy budget to spend, the kitchen is a great place to invest in.
Bathrooms must be fresh and hygienic looking, and there’s an opportunity here to add a touch of luxury for that value-added wow factor. Ensure that there is a bath as well as a shower, for the broadest appeal. Play it safe with white sanitaryware and add interest on walls or flooring, or with accessories. Underfloor heating is always a good idea.
Central heating is expected in any modern home, and an ageing boiler or rusty radiators can seriously let the property down. While there are no set rules about how often a boiler needs replacing, most well-maintained appliances should last around 15 years.
Finally, it goes without saying that a property in good decorative order will be more appealing to buyers than one that is in dire need of some TLC. If you are thinking of putting your property on the market, it will sell more quickly and at a better price if it is immaculately presented.