There are several reasons for looking at property to purchase for the purpose of letting.
Property prices are still falling and providers of mortgage products for buy to let are offering competitive rates. Added to this we are experiencing a rise in rents due to a shortage of good rental property. The shortage of mortgages with a high LTV (loan to value) has led to an increase in interest in rented property. In line with our friends on the Continent the focus is now beginning to move away from home ownership towards rental.
So what do you need to look out for if you are looking to enter this market? To begin with the property is likely to be in the lower price bracket and will therefore need to be chosen carefully.
Start with speaking to the selling agent and find out what rental income it is likely to generate, whether there are comparable properties that can considered and more importantly whether there is a high demand for rentals in that area. Check that the selling agent has experience in the rental market. This is an important exercise because your mortgage company will be looking at the rental value when it comes to valuing the property for security purposes.
Make sure you always invest in a full survey. This is likely to cost around £400 and will be worth every penny. You need to make sure there are no hidden surprises such as the need for a new roof or other major works that could upset your financial calculations and turn a profitable investment into a drain on your resources. Don't do what a large number of purchasers do and rely on the mortgage valuation. This is dangerous because the lender's surveyor is only only interested in making sure the property offers adequate security for the loan.
A survey may also help you secure a reduction in the selling price. I act for a number of investors in property and in my experience you can normally with a full survey look to save around £2000 on the agreed price.
Many of the investment properties on the market are flats or leasehold properties. Approach these properties with extra care. They are often cheap because the unexpired term of the lease has fallen under 80 years. The reason for this is that once a lease falls below this threshold the cost of extending the term can prove prohibitive.
Leasehold property can also come with hidden cost which again if not checked can turn a potential investment into a loss. Most properties require the owner to pay a service charge and ground rent. Typically this will be around £1200 per annum and needs to be factored in when looking at the expected return.
You should always ensure extra funds are set aside to cover any major work that might have to be undertaken to the property. Redecoration to the common areas of the building and replacement of lifts can often cause the service charge to increase significantly. A new lift can cost around £100,000!
There may be a reserve fund set aside for major works of this type. If there is not I personally would not purchase unless I knew what work was likely to take place within the next 10 years.
Being a landlord is not just about collecting the rent. There are a raft of legal obligations to meet relating to deposit holding gas electricity just to mention a few. Make sure the surveyor is told you intend to let so that he can check out the gas and electricity installations. I recently had a client complain because on completing the purchase of a buy to let property she found the gas fire in the lounge was not working. I politely reminder her that she was advised to arrange a full survey before committing to the transaction. Cutting corners to save money can often prove to be a costly mistake.
The last and most important piece of advise is to always choose the right solicitor to act for you. Choose someone like me who has experience in this field and who knows what to look for particularly when it comes to purchasing a leasehold property. This is a specialist area and requires expertise.