THE BTL MARKET IS HOTTING UP

Summer is finally here. For how long we don’t know, but let’s enjoy it while it lasts. And it’s not only the weather which is hotting up.

On the back of robust yields, increased product numbers and competitive rates, it’s no surprise to see confidence rising across the BTL sector and there is little to suggest that this is likely to fall anytime soon, despite the tapering of the stamp duty holiday.

This is a sentiment which was highlighted in recent data from Paragon Bank as it revealed that 53% of mortgage intermediaries expect to see an increase in buy-to-let business over the next 12 months. This figure compares to a figure of 50% – when respondents were asked the same question in Q1 2021 – whilst the proportion expecting declining levels of buy-to-let business remained consistent at 10%.

DEMAND GATHERS PACE IN CITY RENTAL MARKETS

As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, more people are returning to their offices and regular – if still not daily for many – commutes are becoming more commonplace. As a result, activity appears to be on the rise in the more urban areas and we are starting to see city living become more appealing after something of a shift away from this during the pandemic.

Of course, this largely depends on a mix of individual outlooks, lifestyle choices, family, work and finances. What we do know is that the market did experience a demise in rental demand across the UK’s major cities in recent times. And this has raised some questions over people’s appetites for city living and landlords’ approaches to urban properties which have proved highly desirable in times gone by.

A RISE IN BTL PRODUCT NUMBERS AND NEW LANDLORDS?

Record-breaking numbers of new prospective tenants are fuelling growing demand for BTL products among UK property investors, with product choice returning closer to pre-pandemic levels.

Newly released figures from Moneyfacts revealed that 2,709 buy-to-let products were recorded at the beginning of July. This was said to be the highest number of BTL options on offer in the buy-to-let sector since 2,897 in March 2020, 971 products higher than July 2020 when availability was limited due to product withdrawals following the start of the pandemic.

Additionally, Moneyfacts found that the average overall two- and five-year fixed buy-to-let rates have fallen when compared to July 2019. However, year-on-year both the two- and five-year fixed average rates for all LTVs are up 0.37% and 0.31% respectively.

A POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR THE SECOND HALF OF 2021

One of the reasons I love the mortgage and property markets is that it is never short of data, conjecture or opinion. I’m writing this on the cusp of the phased end to the Government's stamp duty holiday and we are seeing huge amounts of column inches around purchasers in a mad dash to complete, or risk having to pay up to £15,000 extra to secure their home. Of course, I’m paraphrasing from one such story, although there is little doubt that we are in midst of some hectic times.

It’s also a time when speculation is emerging about what might happen next to the housing market, and you don’t have to look too hard to find some slightly confusing information which only adds a further layer of uncertainty for consumers.

A SEISMIC SHIFT IN THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH RENTING VS BUYING

In recent years, the consensus of opinion has been that buying a home can often prove cheaper than renting. However, like many things, the pandemic appears to have altered this trend. Despite rents in Great Britain seeing a 7.1% rise over the last 12 months, strong house price growth fuelled by the stamp duty holiday coupled with increases in higher loan-to-value mortgage rates are suggested to have resulted in a big turnaround.

Research from Hamptons outlined that renting is now cheaper than buying a home. This illustrated that people buying with a 10% deposit would have been better off than renters by £102 a month before the pandemic began in March 2020. However, last month, data showed that the average private sector tenant was better off, spending £71 a month less in rent.

NEW BUY-TO-LET PROPERTIES DRIVING UP STANDARDS FOR THE SECTOR

I recently tried to source a carpenter for a relatively small project in the house. I don’t know one personally so I did the usual thing of asking friends and neighbours if they could recommend a good local one. I compiled a short list and contacted them (some more successfully than others). Again, as per the norm, I finally manged to get a couple around for a quote. This took a little bit of time but thankfully I’m not in any great hurry. And I was even more thankful of this fact when they told me that the earliest they could do the work ranged from September to November.

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