‘Hassle no longer worth it’ for private landlords

New research shows the likely post-tax gain for the typical private landlord has declined substantially, as corporate residential equivalent sees strong returns.



As returns for the UK’s private landlords drop, strong returns have instead come from investing in their corporate residential equivalent, a new report reveals.

Research from property investment specialist BondMason says despite seeing strong returns for the last few decades, most private landlords would have done better if they had sold their properties three years ago, as tax changes started to bite, and invested in listed corporate landlords instead.

And the research suggest the worst is still to come as many private landlords may start to struggle to balance the annual costs of owning a rental property, with the post-tax rental income received.

Key stats from BondMason’s research show the average private landlord has gained a post-tax return of +16.9% over the last three years from 1 April 2016 to  April 2019 – assuming 65% loan to value mortgage, 3% p.a. interest; and a 4.5% rental yield.

Meanwhile, BondMason’s new residential property investment Index BRIX shows investors in corporate residential landlords have seen a return of +37.7%  over the same period.

This, as house prices have grown by total of +6.0% over the past three years from March 2016 to 2019 according to the Nationwide house price index.

BondMason will now be updating its new index monthly to track the financial performance of listed corporate landlords in the UK – enabling private landlords to compare the performance of their own buy-to-let portfolios.

Stephen Findlay, the CEO of BondMason, said:  “Our calculations show over the past few years the likely post-tax gain for the typical private landlord has declined substantially, concluding that for most private landlords the hassle is no longer worth it.

“With hindsight, many would have been better off selling up a few years ago, ending the time-consuming activity of dealing with tenants, and instead investing their money with listed corporate landlords.”

As the future, Findlay said the research suggests worse is yet to come as should landlords struggle to balance the annual costs of owning a rental property, with that post-tax rental income received – particularly in areas of lower rental yield, as the allowable mortgage tax deductions continue to decline.

This month the Mortgage Interest Relief continues to phase in, and by next year landlords will be restricted to claiming a basic rate of income tax (20%) on their mortgage interest costs, while having to pay their full tax rate on the rental income.

“In some cases, landlords will have seen their tax bills double or even treble over the last few years. I would not be surprised to see many private landlords making no income or even a loss next year as this change takes effect,” said Findlay.

“This may lead to more and more landlords thinking again about their buy to let investment portfolios,” he said.

BondMason believes nonetheless there is still money that can be generated from investing in Britain’s residential property market.

Evidence suggests declining post-tax returns generated by private landlords contrasts with the strong growth and surge in the value of the growing number of corporate residential landlords; some of which are listed on the stock market.

This is because they are able to benefit from lower tax charges than individual landlords, and a full tax

deduction of debt interest costs, as well as a £4.5bn injection from the government to back the Build-to-Rent sector.

“Historically the UK rental market has been dominated by private landlords, but that is now changing following the increased tax burden and new regulations which make it harder to generate a positive income each year.

“These companies are filling the gap left by smaller private landlords exiting the market, satisfying the strong demand for rental properties, particularly from first-time buyers continuing to be priced out of the housing market in many areas,” said Findlay.

“Our expectation is that we may soon see the peak in terms of the proportion of houses owned by individual private landlords, and that proportion will start to decline, unless tax legislation is changed or reversed.

“But the good news is that the growth in number of listed corporate landlords means a greater number of people can get exposure to good investment returns from the residential property market by investing in these companies, with the added benefit of being able to do so within a tax efficient wrapper such as an ISA or SIPP,” he said.

BondMason BRIX is a market-capitalisation weighted index of listed companies and funds that own UK residential property for letting.

From a review of over 300 listed companies and funds, those that have been selected own a majority of UK residential property, for letting and not for resale.

They must have a minimum market capitalisation of £50M, be listed in the UK and at least 75% of their balance sheet must consist of rental properties.

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