Buying to let. It is popularly hailed as an alternative to badly performing pension funds, but was slowed down by a recession that discouraged housing investment by squeezing mortgages.
“A reviving market is now generating more attractive mortgages, stimulating property prices and generally raising rent levels again,” says Dorian Gonsalves, Chief Executive Officer of one of the UK’s leading residential lettings specialists, Belvoir, which has an office in Lichfield.
“Advice for new Buy-To-Let investors can still be contradictory and confusing,” he says. “If you’re Buying-To-Let, you need to do it right, and when a considerable amount of your own money is involved it becomes absolutely critical.”
That’s why Belvoir has prepared a definitive checklist for anyone wanting to make a success of an investment in residential rental property.
It offers a selection of do’s and don’ts, ”But, it’s only guidance – we prefer to sit down, face-to-face and offer more solid professional advice, since everyone’s circumstances and expectations are very different.”
ESSENTIAL ‘BUY-TO – LET’ CHECKLIST
- Research your market – the area, the people you want to rent to, the available property, the benefits and the risks – and keep up with letting industry news.
- If you’re going to manage the let yourself, be prepared to sacrifice your evenings and weekends!
- Choose your preferred tenant type. Students? Young professionals? Families?
- Pick the right area where they want to live – parents may want to be close to schools and shops; wage earners need to commute to work; students have to be near to their college or university. Look outside your own area if necessary.
- Find the right property that will appeal to them – houses, flats, older properties, newer builds? Students may not need anything particularly stylish but a young professional might.
- If local crime statistics are available, take a look and bear them in mind.
- Study the condition of any property you are interested in – from roof, guttering and windows on the outside to condensation, leaks and electrical wiring on the inside. Be conscious of fire risks.
- Check whether extensions or conversions have met planning permission or building regulations.
- Get the maths right – your investment might give a better return in some other way. How much is the right property going to cost? Is the rent you expect to get enough to cover the mortgage and give a profitable return? Does the potential capital growth add up to a good investment?
- Talk to an independent lettings agent before you buy. Most mistakes involve either wrong location or wrong price paid for a property.
- Don’t be greedy – Buying-To-Let should be approached as a long-term investment, not a quick fix.
- Be prepared for costs that can upset your calculations – ongoing maintenance, small and major repairs, advertising, future rate rises, mortgage costs, agents fees, tax, falling house values, periods when you can’t find tenants and the property is empty.
- Get the right insurance cover – and that can include insuring yourself against tenants who fail to pay rent.
- If this is likely to be more of a drain than you are prepared for, seek out a professional, fully accredited lettings agent who, for a fee, will look after your property, your interests and your tenants on your behalf.
- As well as being completely up to date on legal, legislative and property industry issues, a local agent such as Belvoir will have expert knowledge of the best rates from local electricians, plumbers and so on, which in itself, can be worth a weight in gold. Belvoir local offices do not make any charge for pre-purchase advice, property visits or rental valuations.
- Don’t accept the first mortgage offer you get. Shop around. Gather information. Compare.
“Above all, before you do anything, get professional advice,” says Dorian.
“As the legendary, oil well fire-fighter, ‘Red’ Adair, once said: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait till you hire an amateur.”