Our mortgage partner, Total Landlord Mortgages explains why, despite rising house prices and increasing tax, buy to let is still one of the nation’s favourite ways to invest.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the number of buy to let home purchases in 2020 there were still 64,500 new rental homes bought, according to lender trade body UK Finance. That compares to 72,300 new buy to let mortgages in 2019 and 73,300 in 2018. And predictions for 2021 are even higher.

Recent surveys, like one from FJP Investment, show many investors still have an appetite to increase the number of rental properties in their portfolios.

The data revealed 44 per cent of buy to let investors plan to buy one or more properties in 2021, while 55 per cent expect the price of homes to rise.

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Here at Total Landlord Mortgages, the feeling is buy to let lenders will move to make mortgage rates more competitive as they want to capture a market share and that this could push buyers to offer above the asking price as the number of homes for sale tails off.

Property portal Rightmove has already reported average asking prices have reached an all-time high at £333,564 – 1.8 per cent higher than a month earlier. The web site also notes demand is outstripping supply, even though the number of homes for sale is around the normal level expected at this time of year.

Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s Director of Property Data said: “Family homes with three bedrooms or more are like gold dust in many areas of the country, especially in parts of the North. For example, compared to the same period in 2019 agents in the North East have 59 per cent less available stock for sale in the ‘second-stepper’ sector made up predominantly of three bedroom homes, while Scotland is 65 per cent down in the ‘top of the ladder’” four bedroom or more sector.

Important factor

“Another important factor driving the higher demand and quicker average time to sell in the North is that more sellers intend to buy and stay local, whereas many Londoners are looking to move out.

“Rightmove research among those intending to sell in the next 12 months shows that an average of 84 per cent in the North are looking to move locally, compared to only 52 per cent in London. The pandemic has changed many aspects of what people want from their homes, and the pricing pendulum is swinging away from London towards the North.”

Although the post-lockdown rise in housing demand is largely due to practical needs driven by the pandemic, such as buyers wanting more space, outside areas or home office facilities, the halt on the property market during lockdown is also a contributing factor. Many transactions were put on hold during the restrictions and these picked up when the market re-opened, causing an influx after the lockdown period. Alongside this, the introduction of support such as the Stamp Duty Holiday has also made an impact.

The Stamp Duty Holiday was introduced in July 2020 to help buyers that may have been financially affected by COVID-19 and was extended until the end of June 2021 to ensure a smooth transition back to normality. This holiday meant that regular home buyers (as opposed to buy to let or additional home buyers) avoid paying any stamp duty on home purchases below £500,000 until the start of July, whilst buy to let and additional home buyers are charged a three per cent levy on standard rates. With the Stamp Duty Holiday scheme coming to an end this month we have seen an increase in housing demand.

Dan Lee

Total Landlord Mortgages Principal Daniel Lee (pictured) said: “From speaking to investors, it seems they are increasingly confident in buy to let as an investment over other options. Despite average property prices being higher than ever, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), we’re handling a record number of mortgage enquiries and there is no sign of any slowdown from investors.”

In 2010, the average home in England was worth £170,365. Now the average price stands at £274,615, 10.2 per cent higher in the year to the end of March 2021 and a 61 per cent increase over the past 12 years.

Property investors in Yorkshire and Humberside enjoyed the highest annual price growth, adding 14 per cent in value in the year to March 2021.

House prices are dropping in London, which saw the annual growth rate fall from 4.4 per cent in February to 3.7 per cent in March 2021, but at £500,000, average house prices in the capital are still twice those in any other region.

The lowest average house prices are in the North East at £146,000 – but this is still higher than the previous peak reached in July 2007.

Log-jam

Property conveyancers and lenders have a massive log-jam of buy to let purchases waiting to complete, triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and stamp duty holiday.

Although investors have had no stamp duty holiday and continue to pay additional property stamp duty surcharge of between three per cent and 15 per cent, the rush to buy a home before stamp duty returns to a higher level has blocked many buy to let purchases.

The hope is for some respite from 1 July, when the stamp duty rates for main homes steps up a notch and then returns to pre-pandemic levels from 1 October 2021.

Disruption from the pandemic has not only impacted lawyers, but the local authorities and government departments that handle property searches.

Delays in completing searches, financial references and other legal checks mean lenders must grant extensions to many mortgage offers stuck in the pipeline due to no fault of their own.

For borrowers, this can result in extra costs as valuations and searches fall out of date and need renewing. Some lenders are also requesting extra financial information from borrowers to update their files before completion, says Total Landlord Mortgages Principal Daniel Lee

Surveyor Chris Stonock of Your Move in County Durham summed up the estate agent’s view of the market, saying: “It’s still a seller’s market with insufficient stock to meet demand. Asking and selling prices continue to escalate. Sales pipelines are at pre-completion at levels not seen for 15 years. Regrettably, I can see no evidence of increased capacity in the conveyancing market. Instead suppliers are declining new cases.”

Although Total Landlord Mortgages can liaise with lenders for you, as soon as a problem that could lead to a delay arises, it is vital to contact your conveyancer who can explain your options.

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