Thinking of becoming a residential buy-to-let landlord? Our Landlords Guide will help to get you started on the right path…
Becoming a buy-to-let landlord can be a great way to bolster your pension, help your children get on the property ladder in the future, build an additional income stream or a way to invest your savings or equity in your current property.
If you’ve got the capital, buy-to-let can certainly be a great investment. There are lots of things to consider before you take the plunge though. We have summarised some of the key considerations in this handy guide.
We are always here to help you, so after reading this if you’d like to see what properties are out there and how becoming a landlord could work for you, get in touch with our Lettings team.
Being a landlord can be financially rewarding in the long term but it can also be time-consuming and there are lots of financial and legal obligations. Picking the right property and having your numbers all worked out is imperative.
Here are our top 5 things to consider before you start viewing properties:
1. What’s your goal?
You need to know what you’re aiming for. Is this going to be your full-time occupation, with a view to generating large returns? A part-time side earner to top up your pension? Or a low touch long-term investment with moderate returns?
The amount of time and capital you’re prepared to invest will directly impact what you take home. Before you start thinking about buying, know what you want to get out of it.
2. Do your homework
Property is not cheap, it’s a serious investment. You don’t just need to look into where suitable properties are, but also think about what the rental market is like in an area.
A big deciding factor in where to buy a property is to consider who you want to rent your property to; are you looking to provide student accommodation for multiple occupancies, the family market or executives? Where does your target market live, work, commute from etc?
You need to consider your audience in order to build a profile for the type of property you’d like to invest in. To help with this research talk to other landlords and speak to an ARLA qualified lettings agent (as we have at Howkins & Harrison).
3. Know your numbers
For most landlords, their number one concern is their yield – your yield is all your necessary annual costs (deposit, repayments, maintenance, insurance, fees, cost of void periods, repairs etc.) divided by the rent you receive per annum.
You need to be accurate with your numbers and you need to know what rental a property will generate. A lettings agent will be able to give you a free rental valuation for any properties or areas you have in mind.
You also need a plan for if your property takes a while to get a tenant and what happens if you have any ‘void’ periods between tenants. If you have taken a mortgage out on the property, can you afford to make the repayments during any void periods? You will also be responsible for council tax during void periods.
There are also higher rate stamp duty implications for second home buyers that you need to factor into your figures and decision making.
4. Find the right buy-to-let mortgage
The rate of interest, size of the deposit, and arrangement fee that you’ll pay will vary between providers – so it’s definitely worth having a look around. If you want some more details – Which? has some free calculation tools and useful information on buy-to-let mortgage providers.
Typical buy-to-let deposits are around 25% and arrangement fees usually vary between £1,400 up to £2,000. Buy to let mortgages often have higher mortgage rates, but you can apply for tax deductions on the income generated by your property that is used for maintenance, e.g. repainting, furniture replacement costs, etc.
Landlords can also apply for deductions on insurance and accounting fees.
5. Hands on or hands off
What kind of landlord do you want to be? You can employ a lettings agent to completely manage everything on your behalf, which when you’re starting out can be a good idea. But some career landlords want to see a bigger return on their investments and are able to spend the time and effort managing their own properties.
Over 50% of landlords live within 10 miles of their rental properties. If you’re planning on being a hands-on type of landlord, this obviously makes sense. However, if you’re planning on being a ‘low-touch’ landlord – you may well be better off buying a property further afield.
Speak to your local lettings agents to get a feel for the service levels they can offer. Then offset these against the amount of time you have to manage your property and the level of involvement with the tenants you want to have. You also need to consider these extra costs and landlord obligations
- Tax on rental income
- Tenancy deposit scheme (TDS)
- Gas, electrical and Legionella safety inspections and certificates
- Energy efficiency certificates
- Repairs and maintenance
- Landlord insurance
- Rent guarantee insurance
What can a lettings agent offer you?
A lot of landlords focus on the numbers when they’re deciding whether to use a managing/letting agent or not. It’s easy to see a reduction in your yield and decide it’s not for you. But using a lettings agent can save you a lot of time, effort and issues in the long run.
Being on call for your tenants, liaising with contractors, inspecting your property and dealing with problems is time-consuming and sometimes awkward when it’s your property. If you’ve got several properties and they are your main source of income, managing them and your tenants can be your full-time job. But if you have a full-time job and you are a landlord on the side, a lettings agent can make your life much easier.
Plus an agent will have all the experience and systems in place to deal with any issues quickly and effectively.
Buy-to-let in the UK really took off in the early 1990’s, and since then over 100 rules and regulations have been put in place to safeguard landlords and tenants. There is a lot of malpractice that still goes on and the regulations are always changing. To cover yourself, you need to make sure you are always operating within the law.
How can we help you at Howkins & Harrison?
At Howkins & Harrison, we work with both RICS and ARLA practices and have over 125 years of property experience. We manage over 2.5k properties for landlords within Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.
We offer 2 levels of service to our landlords which can include; rent collection, property maintenance, tenant handling, plus inspections and management of legal obligations.
If you want to further explore being a landlord, we’d be delighted to chat it through with you. You can pop into your local Howkins & Harrison office, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you have found this guide useful.
To finish off here is a simple ‘do’s and don’ts’ list from ARLA to help you further:
- Think of buying to let as a medium to long-term investment
- Seek advice from an ARLA letting agent on local market demands
- Get your sums right. Will the rent cover borrowings and costs, after allowing for void periods?
- Decorate, fit out and furnish to high-quality standards, especially kitchens and bathrooms, to attract the best tenants and let quickly every time
- Use an ARLA member as your letting agent. They have Client Money Protection, hold Professional Indemnity Insurance to required standards, have staff trained to ARLA’s competency standards and are kept up to date with the latest legal and regulatory requirements
- Let personal taste cloud your judgement. Be sure the property you choose meets market requirements
- Purchase anything with potential maintenance problems like a lot of woodwork or large gardens. It will add nothing to the rental value and cost a lot to keep up
- Think that the running of an investment property to let can be left to friends or relatives in your absence. Tenants require a full management service
- Use off-the-shelf tenancy agreements from HMSO or law stationers, or forget to issue the right notices or fail to have a proper inventory and condition report made before a tenant moves in. do leave all your documentation to a professional agent
- Furnish with second-hand furniture or cast-off soft furnishings. These will probably contravene the Furniture and Furnishing Regulations
Howkins & Harrison offices:
Rugby – 01788 564 665
Northampton – 01604 823 445
Daventry – 01327 316 880
Towcester – 01327 353 575
Lutterworth – 01455 559 203
Ashby de la Zouch – 01530 877 977
Atherstone – 01827 718021