Buy-to-let  

Buy-to-let market doom 'overdone'

Buy-to-let market doom 'overdone'

The buy-to-let market is in better shape than many might think, a lender has said.

John Goodall, chief executive of specialist buy-to-let lender Landbay, said recent industry commentary that states the market is on a downturn and that regulatory changes are forcing landlords to sell up was "a little overdone".

Last week research from Arla Propertymark showed there had been a 25 per cent increase in the number of landlords selling up their property and those at the coalface said regulatory changes and a reduction in tax relief had stopped many viewing the buy-to-let market as a profit maker.

But Mr Goodall disagrees. Speaking to FTAdviser, he said: "There’s always been a churn in the market. Of course there are some people selling up property and getting out the market but that’s always been the case.

"At the moment, the highlight is on those selling rather than those buying. But those buying do still exist. Some small buy-to-let investors are getting out but it’s still only a small fraction."

Mr Goodall cited UK Finance figures which showed that, in terms of outstanding stock, the buy-to-let market grew from £237bn to £243.9bn over the course of 2018 — an equivalent of 2.7 per cent.

Landlords have been subject to a number of regulatory changes in recent years, with the introduction of an additional 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge on second homes in April 2016, which was closely followed by cuts to mortgage interest tax relief.

Buy-to-let borrowers are also now subject to more stringent affordability testing under the Prudential Regulation Authority's tightened underwriting rules.

Mr Goodall said the changes are more likely to scare off smaller landlords with only a few properties, which would eventually lead to a more professional industry.

he said: "Small investors that hold property in their own name have seen the biggest changes in terms of tax and stricter regulations are likely to affect smaller landlords more.

"But this has raised standards in the market and means most portfolio owners now act like a small, formal business. 

"For example, of course it’s a good thing that houses of multiple occupancy have stricter licensing rules but this could turn off smaller landlords."

According to Mr Goodall, more business-like landlords entering the market was a good thing would eventually help tenants.

He added: "I think it’s far better for the tenants to think their landlord is committed to it and that they are not just in it for the short term.

"If someone’s doing it on the side and alongside a full time job, the service is going to be worse for the tenant and the tenant does not have as much security."

Observers in the industry have commented that a reduction in landlords could increase the price of renting and hurt consumers.