Figures compiled for the Sunday Times based on a survey of data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders show that 29,000 landlords entered the buy-to-let market for the first time in 2012, which is an increase of 19% on 2011. I sometimes wonder how they compile these figures and whether all the data is entirely accurate and those individuals from which it is gathered are wholly honest in the answers that they provide! Either way, the report showed that gross yields in Wales were 5.3%, an increase of 4.2% over the previous 12 months. According to my maths 4.2% of 5.3% isn’t a lot, but looks very encouraging when written down as bald figures. It is understandable that cash-rich investors who are achieving an average of 1.82% on their ISA’s choose to view buy-to-let mortgages as far more attractive propositions. However, (and there always is an ‘however’), whilst all estate agents will surely welcome an increase in landlord activity, it is worth pointing out that the buy-to-let market is not an easy fix. LSL Property Services who own Your Move Estate Agents report that 8.5% of all rent was in arrears. To get your new 5.3% buy-to-let investor be prepared to take a long-term view and the prospect of having to deal with plenty of hassle.
On the same day that the subject of last week’s blog was buried, it was announced by the Government that an ‘independent property regulator with far-reaching powers was now in operation’ (Daily Mail 17 April). Whilst we accept that there are nefarious rogues and vagabonds operating in the rental market – as in all industries-and their behaviour and working practices should be monitored if not curtailed, this announcement raised more questions than it provided answers. For a start, what is this regulator to be called, where is it to be based and more importantly, how does one contact them?
Whilst it is perfectly reasonable for an agency to charge a fee for referencing and drawing up a contract, it is also reasonable for a prospective tenant or landlord to have these fully explained. Our advice to anybody wishing to enter the lettings market, whether as a landlord or as a tenant, is if you see the words, ‘non-refundable’ or even the headline-grabbing, ‘free’, get a full-explanation of the small print. A professional, fully-comprehensive lettings service is not and can not be ‘free’; somewhere deep in that glossy package will be the real cost of what you will be paying, even if it is on page 18, paragraph 2, sub-paragraph d, point 1.3.
Do we all aspire to home ownership? How apt that today I visited an ex-council house (the politically correct will call it ‘local authority’) to advise the owners – who are now enjoying retirement – on the best course of action to take to sell their property for the best possible price. The fact that they are in the position to sell their house – as its owners – as opposed to simply giving up the tenancy, was an immense source of pride to them. The timing was not lost on me; as driving back to the office I listened to some of the debate in the House of Commons on the matter of tributes and reflection on the work of the late Baroness Thatcher. For it was she, under her stewardship and the introduction of the Right-to-Buy scheme, who made it possible for millions of people to have the opportunity to buy their council house. This offered home ownership to many people for whom without this scheme, buying a property would have been a total impossibility.
No matter what the colour of your political flag, you cannot fail to acknowledge that someone who was born above a grocer’s shop in Grantham, became a research scientist, a barrister and then the first female prime minister of a western power and then dies in a suite in the Ritz, must have got something right.
Our regular followers will know that I harp on about presentation, presentation, presentation; but I may be proven wrong in the coming days. The reason for this humble admission is a flat that featured recently in the national news for all the wrong reasons. Most notably, it is a pig-sty and the agents published the photos to prove it. In fact, normal people would be calling the Pigs’ Protection League. However, I have a feeling in my waters that due to the saying, location, location, location, this flat is likely to be gone by the time that you have read this blog. Having visited the agent’s website and seen that they are still ‘looking forward’ to London hosting the Olympics in summer 2012, perhaps I should not be surprised that they see photographs showing bottles strewn across tables, unmade beds and washing piled up in the sink is acceptable presentation of a property. However, they may be proven right. It just adds further credibilty to the old adage that the worst house in the best street will go more quickly than the best house in the worst street. Granite work surfaces and gold taps in the bathroom will not make your house sell for a vastly greater price than the neighbouring residences with perfectly adequate but moderate quality bathrooms and kitchens if you all live in the street behind the public hostelry that is a regular haunt of the local police force; and I mean when they are on duty and visiting out of necessity for work, not recreational purposes.