A positive outlook for BTL: Seeking more than a room with a view
Paul Fryers is managing director at Zephyr Homeloans.
As the final quarter of 2020 begins – following an unprecedented six months – the buy-to-let (BTL) market is bouncing back strongly, in a way that few commentators predicted a few months ago, in my opinion.
The residential and buy-to-let markets both felt a significant impact during the initial stages of the pandemic. Public health measures made it difficult for surveyors to visit properties, contributing to nearly two months of disruption in the housing market. However, since property valuations became possible again, demand has returned, and the UK property market is demonstrating its resilience.
It has quickly become apparent to me that landlords and investors have not lost their appetite within the buy-to-let sector either. Demand for new tenancies has risen and historically such increases have often continued when supported by a growing market for property sales, as we are seeing now. The Chancellor’s stamp duty cut has further fuelled interest.
In fact, by July the number of new tenancies was nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, according to The Deposit Protection Service’s (DPS) quarterly Rent Index.
Most of the growth in new tenancies has been at properties owned by professional landlords, and we expect to see this trend increasing. Professional landlords with reliable portfolios of good properties are often in a better position to absorb financial shocks.
According to the Savills Global Market Sentiment Survey, concerns over the pandemic are driving more UK residents to seek properties in rural locations.
The rise of home working means there are fewer benefits in living close to workplaces, particularly those in city centres. More people seem to be taking up the chance to find a property with a garden or a garage – or simply a bigger home, whether to accommodate greater home working or simply to enjoy more space. Such properties are more plentiful in the shires, meaning demand in urban areas may continue to fluctuate.
The Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors’ (RICS) August survey found that 83% of surveyors in the UK anticipate greater demand for homes with gardens or balconies in the next two years and that 68% expect the desirability of properties with a ‘more private’ outdoor space to grow. The increased demand for properties with specifically ‘roomier’ features has led to confidence in the housing market rising to a four-year high.
Overall, I believe this represents a relatively positive picture for brokers, professional landlords and buy-to-let investors. The fact that rates are low, loan-to-values (LTVs) are almost back to pre-pandemic levels can only go to support this positive picture.
Demand for rental properties is likely to increase in many areas, as renters seek tenancies with more than just ‘a room with a view’ to make staying and working at home more comfortable.