Buying property to let out to others remains a popular way to generate extra income. Yet budget changes announced earlier this year have made it even more expensive to become a landlord.
Here are 10 things you need to consider if you’re thinking about investing in a buy-to-let property.
1. Stamp duty costs have risen
Under changes to stamp duty rules introduced in April 2016, those buying second properties (including landlords) have to pay 3% in extra stamp duty on top of the usual rates imposed if you’re buying residential property.
So when working out the costs of purchasing a property to let out, remember to factor these extra costs in.
2. The bigger the deposit, the better the choice
When applying for a buy-to-let mortgage, the minimum deposit most lenders will accept is 25% of the property value.
However, you’ll have access to a much wider choice of mortgages and better rates if you can afford to put down a larger deposit.
3. Lenders are getting stricter on who they offer mortgages to
When working out how much you can borrow, a lender will measure the property’s rental income as a percentage of the mortgage payment, and will typically want this to be 125% of the payment.
Many now require that you have a minimum annual income of £25,000 so they can be certain you’ll be able to cover payments when you don’t have a tenant.
They will also expect you to prove you can afford mortgage repayments if the Bank of England raises interest rates.
4. Think about what type of tenants you want
If you’re considering buying a property to let out, think what sort of tenants you want to attract.
For example, if you want a professional couple, you’ll need a property that’s close to good transport links. If, however, you want to attract student tenants, you’ll need to be as close to a university or college as possible.
5. Staying local can make life easier
It’s often a good idea to buy property near where you live if you are looking to become a first-time landlord. Not only will you know the most popular places for people to live, but you’ll also be on hand in case anything goes wrong with your property, such as emergency repairs.
6. Work out what you’ll do when your property is empty
At some point it’s likely that your buy-to-let property will sit empty for a few months, known as a ‘void period’. You’ll need to make sure that you can cover your mortgage during these times, so it’s a good idea to have a savings buffer available that you can draw upon when you need to.
7. Factor in letting agent costs
Many landlords don’t want the hassle of having to find tenants and so rely on a letting agent to do the hard work for them.
When looking for an agent, always check out two or three and compare costs so you find the best possible deal. Make sure you’re clear on exactly what you’re getting for your money, and what their responsibilities are to you and your tenants.
Be careful if you’re planning on going it alone. Recent research by Direct Line for Business found that 58% of landlords who don’t use letting agents are using contracts they’ve adapted themselves, which haven’t been checked by lawyers and so may not be legally binding.
8. You’re responsible for maintenance costs
As a landlord, you‘ll be responsible for making sure the property is properly maintained. This not only includes the structure of the property, such as making sure the roof is in good order, but also the fixtures and fittings such as basins, sinks and baths.
9. Protect yourself with landlord insurance
This type of policy should include public liability cover so that if, for example, a tenant claimed against you because they tripped on a bit of loose carpet, your insurance would cover this.
10. Landlord tax-breaks will soon be reduced
One of the biggest benefits for landlords is that they can currently claim tax relief on mortgage interest payments at the rate of tax they pay. This means if you pay higher or additional rate tax, you can claim tax relief at your highest rate of 40% or 45%.
However, from April 2017, new rules will be introduced over a four-year period, meaning the amount you can claim will be capped at the 20% basic rate.