Should More GPs Consider Sale and Leaseback Options?

The idea of GP property sale and leaseback programs is one that never fails to split this particular professional community right down the middle.  Understandably, there will always be those for whom the idea of selling the property they have worked so hard to build into a successful business is somewhat unthinkable to say the least. For others, however, the clear advantages and benefits of relinquishing ownership responsibilities outweigh the positives of remaining the primary property owner.

It’s a debate with plenty of weight on both sides of the argument, but there has nonetheless be a dramatic spike in the number of GP property owners actively looking into sale and leaseback schemes over recent years. GP surveyors are being brought in to offer advice up and down the country, as the idea of selling the property to an investor and leasing it back over a fixed period gathers momentum like never before.

Which of course begs the obvious question – why?

Well, in many instances, it is simply a case of the property owner in question having decided to make advance plans for their intended retirement date. Not only this, but the idea of being able to release what could prove to be a quite sizeable chunk of equity has the potential to be appealing for an endless number of reasons. Whichever side of the fence you happen to be on, there are certainly several key advantages to sale and leaseback programs that cannot be denied.

The Benefits of Sale and Leaseback

It is often (and understandably) looked at as something of an extreme strategy, but the benefits of sale and leaseback programs are always worth considering.  Just a few examples of the reasons why more GP property owners than ever before are considering these kinds of agreements include the following:

  • Sale and leaseback enables the owner of the property to release what could be extraordinary amount of equity, which is otherwise tied-up in property. If a sizable sum of cash is needed for any purpose whatsoever, sale and leaseback can be an excellent way of accessing it without delay.
  • While the GP entering into the sale and leaseback deal will be required to pay rent to the new owner of the property, this liability is covered by the rent reimbursed to the practice by NHS England. As a result, operational costs are kept to an absolute minimum.
  • Many of the difficulties synonymous with attempting to attract partners into a GP practice can be overcome by entering into a sale and leaseback agreement. The reason being that while many prospective GP partners may be unwilling (or unable) to buy into the business as a partner when this involves the purchase of a share of the partnership premises. Entering into a GP business when the property is leased is much simpler, less onerous and as a result, often more attractive.
  • Given the fact that the change in ownership represents nothing more than a contractual matter, the GP practice itself can continue operating without any disruption whatsoever. Quality of patient care is not affected and there will usually be no detectable changes whatsoever to the way in which the practice is run.
  • Another highly significant selling point of the sale and leaseback program is the way in which it can immediately relinquishes the GP property owner of a great many responsibilities. While in ownership of a GP property, it comes down to the owner to take charge of maintenance, repairs and any essential work that might need to be done at a potentially extensive cost. Under a sale and leaseback scheme, all such responsibilities can be transferred to the new owner.
  • Planning for retirement can also be made significantly easier by considering a sale and leaseback option. Too many GP property owners leave things right until the last moment before they consider how to realise their equity in the practice premises. When these matters are not dealt with at the optimum time, trying to resolve such issues subsequently can prove to be problematic. Sale and leaseback is one way of securing the full and fair market value for the surgery. By selling the freehold interest in the property and leasing it back until the day you retire and you walk away with no loose ends to tie whatsoever.
  • There are also tax implications to take into account as well, as to enter into a sale and leaseback scheme is usually taxed much less severely than would be the case if the property had been sold outright to a conventional buyer.

As can clearly be seen, it is a prospect with a great many positives and plus points to consider. Those interested in sale and leaseback programs or simply looking for a little clarification should contact a reputable and experienced GP surveyor for independent advice and guidance.