Choosing the right buy-to-let property depends upon ticking a number of boxes relating to you and your particular circumstances. What’s right for you personally is what matters.
This is a medium to long term investment, so get a number of things settled in your mind first. Be clear where your buy-to-let property fits into your life. Will it help top up (or substitute) your pension, or do you want it to provide you with an income in the short term? Are you investing mainly for income, or capital growth? Can you afford to subsidise your investment if the rental income doesn’t cover the outgoings? How much time can you devote to working in your own property business? Are you planning to ‘buy and hold’, or ‘buy and sell’?
Also, it’s important to ignore your personal preferences! If you are buying property purely as a means of rental income, your needs and wants are irrelevant. For example, your desire for a house set in a secluded area will not suit tenants who commute by train to London every day.
What kind of tenant do you want?
Clearly, you can’t appeal to everyone, so having your ideal tenant in mind is critical to finding the right buy-to-let property. The best street in town is not necessarily the best investment for you as a landlord. You want it to be relatively easy to attract people so they stay and regard your property as their home. Tenants come with their own wish list and understanding them will help you reach your ideal type of tenant:
- ‘Professionals’: these are people who work every day and either have one or more cars to park and / or need to be close to public transport links. They’re also likely to want bars, clubs and restaurants close at hand.
- Families: a garden and family room, being near schools, shops and cinemas are important for children.
- Family or friends: you might be able to help someone personally close to you. If they’ve got families themselves or commute then all of the above applies. If they are an elderly person, accessibility and access to amenities (such as surgeries and local shops) will matter.
- Pet owners: 3 things to bear in mind are hard surface flooring, a garden and close proximity to green space.
- Multiple occupancy: such as student accommodation. They’ll have a range of needs and, be warned, these tenants require a lot of management time, patience and budget.
Financing your buy-to-let property
Once you know how much you need to borrow, exploring your finance options is a big part of securing the right buy-to-let property:
Considering a mortgage is the first and most obvious route, whatever age group you fall into. The likelihood of void periods (and therefore landlords defaulting) means that lenders of buy-to-let mortgages usually seek extra security. So, you can expect a larger deposit and higher rate of interest. Fixed rate, variable and tracker versions are available just as with ‘ordinary’ personal mortgages. There’s also equity release.
Introduced in April 2017, Section 24 means that by April 2020 landlords can no longer claim mortgage (or any other property finance) as a tax deductible expense. Two ways of avoiding this are:
1. Buy a commercial property in your own name (finance cost restrictions don’t apply). Even a shop with residential accommodation above will mean you pay less tax, though be warned, such properties are few and far between.
2. Turn your property into a Furnished Holiday Let or temporary accommodation for contractors such as construction workers. Then use a platform such as Airbnb. Another warning – it’s an awful lot of work!
Other people’s money (OPM)
From the family chipping in, to joint venturing with another investor, there are several OPM options. This includes finding a ‘finance angel’ (e.g. Funding Circle), or an individual who could act as a useful business partner in return for a share in your investment.
Crowd funding (peer-to-peer lending) is another option, but only for people with more than a single property – or at least plans to build a portfolio (the return on investment needs to be attractive enough for investors).
Other Costs associated with buy-to-let
Whether it’s a flat or a house, the size and location of your property is largely down to what you can afford, but also factor in the following:
- Unless the property is brand new, you’re likely to have alterations and repairs (maybe renovations) to afford. Anticipate fitting kitchen appliances, garden maintenance, decoration, new carpets, etc.
- Void periods are your biggest worry, so allow for no income when your property is empty.
- Estate agent fees, legal fees and stamp duty.
- Letting agent fees, unless you want to do everything yourself. If so, you should take into account potential costs from things that will take you by surprise, and of course, use up your time.
Being a landlord remains a profitable and worthwhile form of income, so long as you find the right buy-to-let property. Then, we recommend you appoint an efficient and ethical letting agent to make sure your income exceeds your outgoings.