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How to get a (much) better return on buy-to-let property

Not all property is created equal. Investing in the right kind of property can boost returns by over 100%.

“Is this guy for real?” you might be wondering. I can’t say I’d blame you because Landlords have taken a bit of a beating over the last year or so.

First, the lovely people over at Number 10 decided to hike up our stamp duty payments. Then, I s’pose over a G&T after work, they continued chatting and decided our mortgage interest tax relief should go too.

In January they introduced tighter lender criteria for buy-to-let landlords. And – because that obviously wasn’t enough – they’re about to introduce a load more red tape for landlords to tackle, all of which are scaring property investors off.

Yet here I am dropping in on Landlord Blogger, suggesting you can still get a very attractive return on property.

But please bear with me!

Not all property is created equal. If you know where to invest your money, there are some sizeable returns waiting to be had.

Different properties offer different returns

As you probably know, different properties can be let in different ways, and each offers different rental yields. The list of options is fairly lengthy, but most people investing in residential property go for one of the following

  • A single let (the traditional buy-to-let)
  • An apartment (technically still a single let, but with important differences)
  • A holiday let
  • An HMO (a single property let to three or more separate tenants, such as young professionals or students)

The difference in return for each makes for some surprising reading.

Returns from single lets

Single lets sound like a property let to a single person. Not so.

Single lets are actually a property let to just one family unit. That could well be to a single person (and, presumably, her three cats) but it could also be a couple or a family with children. The key point is that contractually there is one tenant.

Letting to just one family unit makes single lets relatively passive investments. If you’re willing to use an agent -and thus accept a slightly lower return- single lets require very little management whatsoever (although you still have legal obligations as landlord).

On the flip side, letting to one family unit almost always artificially caps your return.

Ultimately, rents are determined by supply and demand – and demand itself is determined by household income. When letting to a single family unit, household income is typically restricted to no more than two wage earners, which limits the rent they can afford, and your yield in turn.

Yields have been a consistent 5 – 6% over the past 8 years.

Source: Mortgages for Business Complex Buy to Let Index

Don’t get me wrong, compared to even a generous saving account, a return of more than 5% might seem pretty attractive. But why stop there?

Returns from leasehold apartments

Leasehold apartments are a lot like the single lets described above, only with one key difference: you don’t actually buy the entire property. Instead, you buy the right to lease the apartment on a long-term basis from whoever owns the building the apartment sits within.

This creates the potential for maintenance issues to be outside your control.

Also, the length of the leasehold ticks down as time goes on. Renewing it is a legal right, but it costs money. Whilst the value of the property itself may appreciate, the value of your leasehold, if let to run down substantially will depreciate until you pay to renew it.

If that all sounds pretty terrible, leasehold apartments come with benefits.

For a start, they can be a little cheaper to acquire (making them more accessible to investors). Generally speaking, they’re smaller and newer so don’t always need a great deal of maintenance.

So long as the location is right (think major cities with strong economies) tenant demand can be high – which makes void periods infrequent and capital growth strong on what is, again, a relatively passive investment.

That all makes leasehold apartments a viable option if you’re just setting out but there’s a definite trade off.

If you’re lucky, yields from a leasehold apartment can outstrip those of standard single lets, but when it comes to maximising rental yields, your capital can work harder elsewhere.

Where specifically?

Returns from holiday lets

Although they’re rarely regarded as mainstream investment vehicles, holiday lets actually crank things up a notch.

Bag yourself the right holiday let and you can expect gross rental yields to jump up more than a percentage point or two.

According to Second Estates, The average income for a week in peak season is now £1,200. But remember that’s gross, and this sector is seasonal- don’t expect that week in week out. Overall however the average income from a typical holiday property is just over £22,000.

Why is this?

Management of holiday lets is fairly intensive. If you’re changing sheets and greeting new guests every few days (or, more likely, paying someone to do so on your behalf), the market is going to reward your additional effort/outlay.

Plus, the weak pound following the Brexit vote and recent election brings a double whammy bonus to the holiday property investor: More Brits on staycations (up 24% according to Sojern) and more foreign tourists attracted by the strength of their currency (up 19 % according to Visit Britain). The demand side of the equation is increasing faster than supply.

Airbnb has of course popularised the short term letting phenomenon and also brought it out of the typical tourist spots and into the ‘regular’ towns and cities. There are even now management companies dedicated to running your Airbnb profile and taking care of check-ins and check-outs for you.

Now, one of the major benefits of a furnished holiday let is that the mortgage interest relief (the removal of which has spoiled the party for so many) still stands. This is a significant tax benefit not to be overlooked…although you would probably be wise not to rely on that forevermore given the recent changes.

But there’s more risk with holiday lets. Such short term letting periods coupled with the potential for seasonal lulls can result in unpredictable and potentially substantial void periods.

If you’re purchasing with cash, you can run your property how you like. But, if you’re relying on a mortgage there are a relatively limited number of mortgage products that cater to the holiday property.

Most buy to let mortgages expressly prohibit short term lets, so you can’t simply purchase as a regular buy to let then pop it on Airbnb. Many apartment blocks also prohibit short term lets in the lease covenants (whether explicitly or implicitly).

Acquiring a holiday property is therefore something that needs careful consideration.

So where does that leave us?

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

A house in multiple occupation is a single property that’s let to 3 or more tenants from different families – think houses shared by young professionals or students.

There is a renaissance happening in the HMO market at present. Well designed, high quality and high spec properties for discerning tenants are beginning to distance themselves from the average house share or ‘student digs’ of yesteryear.

For the most part, these tenants value the social connectivity and flexibility that come with sharing, or co-living as it is becoming known. Unwilling to settle, they rent out of choice, yet the quality HMOs they’re after are in short supply.

With short supply and high demand the market is set for higher rents, but only if household budgets allow. Fortunately for all parties, HMO household budgets are abnormally high.

That’s not necessarily because tenants are abnormally wealthy. Instead, it’s because HMOs house a wage earner in each bedroom. That might mean five or six wage earners, for example, as opposed to the one or two associated with single lets.

Per tenant they pay significantly less than they would living alone, but still that lesser amount, multiplied by the 5 or 6 tenants in a HMO, can double a property’s rental income compared to it’s use as a single let.

It’s a match that makes HMOs particularly attractive to both tenants and landlords alike:

Tenants get flexibility, companionship and lower rents. Landlords benefit from yields that outstrip those of a single let by almost 2:1.

Source: Mortgages for Business Complex Buy to Let Index

All that said, HMOs cost more to maintain, require more management and really do require you to vet tenants properly. A passive investment HMOs are not.

But for those with a taste for an active investment, – or for those willing to find and use a reputable agent – sizeable returns usually mean HMOs warrant serious consideration.

How to get a (much) better return on buy-to-let property

So let’s compare the two ends of the spectrum. Over the past 8 years a single let has returned on average 5.7%. Over the same period an HMO has returned on average 9.6%. The right holiday let will do similar.

In my eyes, you’re looking at almost doubling your return while reducing void periods with an HMO and for more information on how HMO’s reduce void periods you need to read this).

Despite unfavourable government regulation, there are still clear and sizeable returns to be made from property.

The trick, of course, is knowing where to invest.

 

This article was supplied to us courtesy of Tom Charrier who is the Director of Living Space Property who can be contacted for more information by emailing tom@livingspaceproperty.uk

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How will Article 50 affect London’s property market?

Mark Lawrinson, Regional Sales Director of Portico London estate agents, has spoken out about the possible effects of Brexit on the London housing market, saying, “I don’t think the triggering of Article 50 will affect the property market directly from yesterdays announcement. In one sense it removes the uncertainty surrounding when Britain’s withdrawal process from the EU will start, but in another way it will create economic uncertainty until we know what deal we will strike and therefore what Brexit actually means for our country.

Mark continues, “Brexit will no doubt mean a turbulent two years for the London and UK market as we begin to hear what negotiations and proposed deals are being put forward for our exit of Europe and the single market. I think we will see a continued slowdown or lethargic London market when it comes to sales volumes, and as we reported toward the end of last year, transaction volumes across London are already more than half of what they were before the 2008 crash.

London has a significant part to play in businesses who trade and operate across Europe and the world, and a buoyant property market relies on the UK’s economic health. If Brexit negotiations go well this could cause further price growth as the economy grows and we see the nation’s confidence lifted, but equally, if a good deal isn’t reached then the international companies who operate here or look to relocate here might change their minds, reducing the number of residents who live in the capital and again further reducing the transaction levels, which could ultimately lead to price decreases.”

It’s therefore important that you make property decisions based on your personal situation and what you want to do, rather than gambling on how the market will play out.

Robert Nichols, Portico’s Managing Director, makes an important point, stating, “Right now we may experience some uncertainty, but as the negotiations progress, we will regain some much needed stability into the housing market, as people realise that the effects of Brexit are not catastrophic and go on with their lives. We’ll hopefully see transaction levels increase as a result, which are currently dangerously low and affecting price growth across the capital.

He continues, “Yesterday’s events are likely to have a much more profound effect on foreign investment however, with the weakening pound expected to fuel demand from overseas buyers and investors.”

Many are also speculating that yesterday’s events will mean that the Bank of England will be hesitant to increase their interest rates, in spite of the recent inflation increase. This will it will remain cheaper than ever to borrow and get on to the property ladder.

Many are also speculating that today’s events will mean that the Bank of England will be hesitant to increase their interest rates, in spite of the recent inflation increase. This will it will remain cheaper than ever to borrow and get on to the property ladder.

Article kindly provided by Portico, who are a residential estate agent with offices throughout London, specialising in flats and properties to rent and for sale. For landlords, they offer a range of unique packages which include monthly fees, a rental guarantee, complimentary maintenance between tenancies and assistance with tax return. For property sellers, they offer a dedicated property concierge and a complimentary interior styling service.

Please call 020 7428 5310 if Portico can assist you and your property portfolio.

landlord-blogger

Top 10 places to buy-to-let in London, according to Portico Estate Agents

Over the past 5 years, all 32 London boroughs (and particularly those in central London) have experienced substantial property price growth, fuelled by a combination of record levels of overseas investment and historically low interest rates.

Whilst it is true that the recent reduction in the availability of interest-only mortgages and increases in stamp duty for the most expensive properties may mean that this trend will not be sustained indefinitely, it is certainly the case that, at the moment at least, central London property prices are at an all time high.

However, whilst property prices have increased substantially, rental prices have broadly continued to track earnings growth. As a result, rental prices have not increased at the same rate as property prices and yields have steadily declined in central areas for at least the past five years that we have been tracking them.

– See more at: https://www.portico.com/yields

landlord-blogger

The UK decides to vote “Leave” but what now for UK Property

The dust has settled over the weekend and we have had time to adjust to the decision to “Leave” the European Union. Whether you voted to “Remain” or whether you voted to “Leave”, we are now facing a long period of uncertainty that will have a major impact on many of the personal decisions we make moving forward.

It would seem from the articles that we have read over the weekend that although we have made a decision as a country, it is actually how things will affect us personally that are concerning most people, which is ironic being that many people voted “Leave” for non-personal reasons.

From the viewpoint of the Landlord in the UK, we are facing a huge period of uncertainty as far as the housing markets are concerned and because no country has ever left the European Union, it is difficult for anyone to actually predict what will happen to property prices or the buy-to-let markets.

However, we do know that in the hours following the announcement that we would be leaving the European Union, shares in Housebuilder’s (Persimmon, Barrett and Berkeley) dropped by more than 20%, so does this mean that the housing market will fall dramatically?

Only time will tell, but Miles Shipside, Rightmove’s director and housing market analyst, stated: “Markets typically dislike uncertainty” and being as that is what the UK now faces it, it seems highly probable that house prices could lower as we pass through the two year period of uncertainty.

As for the Buy-to-Let sector, if property prices fall then investors can enjoy the benefits of purchasing property at lower prices, but given the recent changes in Stamp Duty, it may not be as simple as it would have been prior to the stamp duty increase. So yet again we face uncertainty as to how things will play out and we will just have to play the waiting game!

For more information on how the Property Markets will be affected click here 

Should Property Investors be exempt from Stamp Duty?

There has been so much in the news lately about the Stamp Duty changes, it is little wonder that there are so many opinions floating around on the subject. At the moment you are never too far away from a “Stamp Duty” article on the internet and today is no exception.

We awoke this morning to an article featured on Landlord Today which was talking about property investors asking for an exemption from the latest stamp duty charges.

According to the article “Professional investors should be exempt from the recently introduced 3% stamp duty surcharge according to the Better Renting for Britain campaign”

And…

“Some of the country’s biggest investors in the private rental sector have written an open letter to the housing minister Brandon Lewis requesting exemption from the extra stamp duty imposed on buy-to-let properties from 1 April 2016”

We have been mulling this over all day and have shared the article on various social media platforms that we manage and after seeing what people have to say, we felt that this article was worth sharing with our opinions.

Now we are merely “Accidental Landlords” and have found ourselves as Landlords through no choice of our own, however we have embraced the idea and actually quite enjoy it.. until recently when all the stamp duty changes came into effect.

We understand why it was brought in…. The Government wanted to put a halt to the buy to let investors who were “gobbling” up the market and preventing first time buyers getting on the ladder plus it will obviously make the Government a lot of money!!! HOWEVER in doing so it has prevented landlords like us from moving our family home (unless we pay the 3% Stamp Duty surcharge) because effectively our family home has become a second home, due to the first home being a buy to let (accidentally of course!)

So when we hear today in the news that Professional Investors wish to be exempt, you have to forgive us for having a strong distaste on the subject. It is because of professional investors “gobbling” up houses on the cheap that we are facing paying the extra stamp duty and yet they now wish to be exempt….

We don’t think that first time buyers stand no chance of getting on the property ladder. Landlords provide a service to people who do not wish to buy, but for those that do ultimately wish to own property, they should be given a chance. If Professional Investors are allowed an exemption, then all we are doing is admitting that the future generation will never be able to buy their own properties. Don’t give them the exemption and give young people a chance to buy if they wish too!

If we give exemption to Professional Investors then all we are doing is admitting that young people will never buy a house and that they will be condemned to a life of renting, which you may think is mad coming from a Landlord because after all we make money from renting out our property but in reality renting should be a stepping stone towards buying your own home and not just a big business for professional investors who are only looking at lining their own pockets and not to keen on the future generations being able to buy houses.

Click here to read the article on Landlord Today