The legal process for buying a property.
An individual owns the land and property completely, and is therefore responsible for all maintenance and repairs.
Much of the property in London is leasehold. This applies to nearly all apartments in London and some houses. In general terms, the reason property is leasehold is that there is an area of communality where various people effectively live under the same roof and therefore have to contribute towards the costs of repairing the roof and structure of the building and any communal areas.
This is particularly obvious where someone is purchasing an apartment. Lease terms vary but nowadays most new leases seem to be granted for about 125 years, but it is very important that expats find out from the agent the remaining term of the lease they are buying and discuss the same with their solicitor as he/she will be able to advise on whether or not the term is long enough.
Recent legislation has increased the rights of leaseholders, enabling them in some situations to collectively buy the freehold of their block of apartments or individually purchase an extension to the original lease. A solicitor will need to advise on this if this is relevant.
A legal situation that can arise when the seller (vendor) has accepted an offer and is subsequently offered a higher price by another party and accepts it. Ways to avoid this are to ask the agent to remove the property from the market at the time of making the offer or to put down an immediate non-refundable deposit at the time of acceptance of the offer from the vendor.
The buyer can reduce an offer at the time of exchange of contracts in the hopes that the seller will accept the lower offer. This is also legal but not encouraged as the buyer risks losing the property if the vendor refuses.