Is Buy-to-Let Still A Good Choice?


In February this year it was reported that one of the UK’s largest private landlords, with an empire worth a quarter of a billion pounds had begun to run into difficulties and were looking to offload their vast portfolio of properties.  To avoid repossession or receivership, they entered into management arrangements with their lenders.

Data from the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) 2010 Letting Survey captured a rise stipulating the number of landlords seeking to sell their property at the end of the lease had risen to 5.2%.  According to this source, this is the first time since the first quarter of 2008 that the figure has increased above the long-run average of 5%.

Rise In Rents & Tenant Demand

While the above data suggests that landlords and PRS investors are no longer comfortable within the industry, statistics still suggest substantial growth in the private rented sector with rents approaching their 2007 peak and tenant demand outstripping home-ownership because of unrealistic consumer mortgages.  With such demand for privately rented accommodation, investment in the BTL sector should be bursting with promise but still landlords and investors seem wary.

Banking Trends

At the end of the first quarter of this year the number of BTL properties taken into possession totalled 1,400, which had risen by 200 from the previous five months.  There were 11,200 cases reported where a receiver of rent was appointed, which again was up from the 9,200 cases reported just a year earlier.  In 2007, there was a 3,662 different BTL mortgages available – that figure now stands just above 300 at present.

It becomes increasingly evident that a lack of confidence within the BTL sector stems from the lack of faith through the restrictive policies applied by the lenders.  This lack of belief in the PRS, government policies regarding LHA reform, housing benefit cuts and the non-indexed CGT rise hinder the long-term investor in a sector of property sales that shows any real sign of growth and opportunity.  While interest rates remain low, an increase would spell disaster for many landlords who’s rents barely cover the cost of the mortgage.

Madalena Penny