Is Buy-to-Let Still a Good Investment?

If you are thinking of becoming a landlord and purchasing a buy-to-let property, here are some helpful resources for making this easier

Buy-to-let is much tougher than it used to be, after removing the tax relief and new rules in the UK property system that have seen a reduction in landlords’ rental income. However, for some Britons the idea of investing in property still appeals in a world of low interest rates for savings, volatility in the stock market, and Brexit.

After all, demand for rental property remains strong amongst the young [1], and while yields have fallen, there could still be money to be made in the buy-to-let sector. So if you are considering whether or not to purchase a rental property our Intasure guide to buy-to-let might be helpful for you.

In this article we look at the following:

  1. What are the criteria for buy-to-let mortgages?
  2. How much is the stamp duty on buy-to-let properties?
  3. How to start out on the buy-to-let ladder?
  4. Can you invest in a buy-to-let property as a first-time buyer?
  5. What is buy to let insurance?

1. What are the criteria for buy-to-let mortgages?

Buy-to-let mortgages for new property investors tend to be similar to residential mortgages, although there are some important differences. Deposit, fees, and interest rates on buy-to-let mortgages are usually much higher, so you might need to research how much deposit you will need from a mortgage lender. In general terms, the average purchase price for a buy-to-let property tends to be less expensive than a main residence [2]. Another important factor you should take into account is that your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

As with any type of mortgage, the more you can put down as a deposit, the better the mortgage deal you could get. So a lower mortgage rate means lower monthly payments and a greater margin between your rental income and your mortgage costs. Higher rates on buy-to-let mortgages are expected, and you should be aware that a rise in a variable rate might affect your repayments. In addition, Bank of England has forecasted a rise in interest rates after March 2019 (post-Brexit) depending on the UK economy [3], and a new rise is likely to be expected in the middle of the year [4].

A minimum deposit for a buy-to-let mortgage might be close to 25% of the property’s value [5].

investment property

In general, mortgage providers could request up to 40% of the property’s value. Have you ever wonder why the deposit is so high? This is seen as a high-risk from the lender’s point of view: landlords might expect the rent from tenants to cover the monthly mortgage payment, but there may be financial requirements. For example, the cost of maintenance, redecoration between tenants, if the tenant’s rent doesn’t cover the total mortgage payments, or if the property is left unoccupied for a long period of time.

Furthermore, arrangement fees can add up to a bigger sum, but it might be worth considering using a specialist broker and mortgage advisor who can look across the buy-to-let market, and help you with the mortgage application.

2. How much is the stamp duty on buy-to-let properties?

Since April 2016 landlords have to pay an extra 3% stamp duty on property purchases. In fact, stamp duty can add up to a considerable extra amount on top of the initial buy-to-let investment. So it’s important to budget for this when deciding whether or not you can afford a mortgage and to become a landlord.

How much you have to pay now depends on whether the land or property is residential or non-residential or mixed-use and more information can be found on the stamp duty calculator of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government website.

3. How to start out on the buy-to-let property ladder?

If you’re planning to buy a property to rent out, you should understand how the private rental sector works [6]. Before you start looking at properties, you should make sure you understand the risks involved in this investment and always have a backup plan. How would you afford the property if the house prices fall further or demand drops? And if your property was left empty at some stage? If you cannot pay for the property in full, you would still need to get an agreement in principle and a mortgage offer to know if you can take out a buy-to-let mortgage, and what the interest rate might be.

to let sign

After calculating the monetary worth of a buy-to-let mortgage, you should research the market and study the area to start looking at properties. Don’t forget this! As this is an investment and it’s not going to be your family home, you should forget your personal preferences and think moneywise about properties.

Other relevant factors are whether the property is located next to amenities and public transport lines, and how they might affect the rent price and the type of tenants that might want to live there. And you also need to think about what might happen if things don’t work so well and, for example, if you need to evict your tenants.

It’s important to know what sort of return a property might produce, and although the return on investment could be lower and tax bills higher compared with some years ago, potential profit margins remain significant. Nowadays landlords are investing in lower-cost properties and renting them out for more [7].

According to the National Landlords Association (NLA) the rent 79% landlords receive is just covering the interest on their mortgages. The association was looking at both sides of the affordable housing crisis, as taxing professional landlords out of the market “will simply drive up the cost for those who want to access decent rented homes. [8]

4. Can you invest in a buy-to-let property as a first-time buyer?

The world of buy-to-let can be overwhelming if you are thinking about investing in property for the first time, but nothing is impossible!

You can become a first-time buyer and buy-to-let landlord, although not too many lenders would lend to first-time buyers on a buy-to-let basis because they see this as a riskier option. However, opportunities are not limited to the buy-to-let market, as the main requirement is a higher deposit and studying the personal circumstances and buy-to-let deals at that time. Other common alternatives available for private property investors are purchasing a property jointly with a parent or potentially taking out a guarantor mortgage.

By answering some of these questions you will gain a better understanding of the industry and the return you might expect from your initial investment.

What is your motivation?

  • Do you want a regular monthly income now or in the future?
  • What types of property are popular with tenants in the area?
  • Where to buy-to-let in the UK?
  • What is the average rent in the area?
  • Buy-to-let in the UK or overseas?
  • Buy-to-let for holiday homes or Airbnb properties?
  • When is the best month to start a buy-to-let investment?
  • How long has the property been on the market? Has it received any offer?
  • How involved will you be as a buy-to-let landlord?

5. What is buy-to-let home insurance?

Buy-to-let insurance provides cover for your property and your liabilities if tenants are injured on your property and you are deemed to be a fault, for example.

Landlords insurance is a specialist policy that provides comprehensive cover. Be aware that, standard home insurance might be invalidated if your property is let to tenants so please check any policy details in full.

Some important benefits of a buy-to-let property are:

  • Loss of rent and alternative accommodation expenses: if your property becomes uninhabitable for your tenants (e.g. fire, water leak)
  • Property Owners Liability
  • Employers Liability insurance
  • Unoccupied property
  • Accidental Damage cover
  • Malicious damage
  • Rent guarantee cover: cover if your tenants miss payments
  • Legal assistance

A series of measures to curb the buy-to-let industry has made it more expensive to start in the private property rental sector in Britain, and is squeezing profits for private landlords. Nevertheless, buy-to-let and investing in UK residential property remains popular in a country where people might consider ISAs and pensions to be the most tax-efficient ways to invest.

Have you ever considered entering the buy-to-let market?



*The opinions and views expressed in the above articles are those of the author only and are for guidance purposes only. The authors disclaim any liability for reliance upon those opinions and would encourage readers to rely upon more than one source before making a decision based on the information.