Is Buy-to-Let a Viable Option?


Q. In his will, my late father left me a sizeable lump sum, which I want to put to work. Is buy-to-let a viable option?

A. Absolutely, yes! In fact, after a bit of a slowdown in the immediate aftermath of the credit crunch, the buy-to-let sector is booming once again.

Why? Well, the main reason is that with the continuing national shortage of housing stock, demand for rental property has soared. Research shows that with the size of deposit required by lenders forcing many young people to postpone buying their own home, the majority of newly-formed households are now more likely to be in the private rental sector.

This massive surge in demand, which shows no sign whatsoever of tailing off in the foreseeable future, has in turn driven up rental values right across the country. And this against a background of lacklustre performance by most of the more traditional investment alternatives – a factor highlighted by the turmoil in world stock markets over the last couple of years. In 2011, for example, the yields from buy-to-let property (i.e. rental income as a proportion of the purchase price) averaged 5.4% - the best since 2003. In contrast, the FTSE All-Share Index yields 3.8%, UK Government pay 2% and the Bank rate is just 0.5%!

As a result of all this, lenders have been returning to the market in a big way. A recent article in the national press reported that the average interest rate on a buy-to-let loan dropped from 5.31% to 4.79% over the last two years. During the same period, the number of deals available doubled. The typical deposit required has also fallen back from 35%-plus to 25%. There are even some deals that only ask for 20%.

At the same time, however, lenders have clearly learned some lessons. So, for instance, whereas in the bad old days you could easily secure a B2L mortgage solely on the basis of the expected rental income, lenders now typically require you to be able to prove that you have an additional source of income of at least £25,000 a year. Which, when you think about it, is no bad thing.

Finally, add in the fact that prices are currently the lowest they’ve been for years, and this is arguably the best time ever to invest in property!