Depressing news for anyone living in a leasehold flat: buying up freeholds is one of the best ways the wealthy can increase their wealth, according to the Sunday Times. One fund rose 5.8 per cent last year. This means freeholds are an attractive alternative to artworks or stamps, although London parking spaces have shown a return of 9 per cent, it is claimed.
“Additional income comes from commissions for arranging building insurance for the leaseholders and renegotiating leases,” says the Sunday Times. In other words, trouser commissions for as many services as you can and make life difficult for leaseholders in order to squeeze them dry. In most jurisdictions, these would be criminal acts.
Freehold Income Trust, which owns 65,000 freeholds, each paying an average of £119 in ground rent, targets a yield of 4.25 per cent, but did significantly better than that over the past 12 months with 5.8 per cent. The fund is up over 18 per cent over the past three years, and 34 per cent over the past five – these are really impressive results, given the collapse in capital values of virtually all non-prime London flats. Retirement flats have fallen further than most.
“A Cambridge college recently invested a sizeable amount for the first time.” says Anthony Wyld, of the trust. (Historical note: No surprise there, sadly. All Souls, Oxford, had huge stakes in the slave trade.)
The fund is unregulated – so no compo if it fails – and minimum investments are £5,000 with an initial charge of three per cent and an annual management fee of £1.3 per cent. The iniquities of feudal leasehold law are part and parcel of Merrie England, so it’s no surprise that the position of freeholders is monetised.