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Buy to Let... Realistic Projections

Phil Shanks, Chief Executive of Houses4Homes, comments

The word 'let' means 'easy' in Danish but anyone who has dabbled in the private property rental market will testify that it can be anything but that. And now, the ability to differentiate 'social housing' tenants from those who fund their rents entirely by themselves has become impossible.

In addition to founding a social housing Real Estate Investment Trust, I have maintained a substantial buy to let portfolio for almost 20 years. Recently I read, with some trepidation, national media coverage which boasted some confident predictions regarding the rates of return from buy to let investments -authoritatively waxing lyrical about 6% returns. In my experience, that figure is wholly unrealistic and scarce attention has been given to the risks and realities of being a private buy to let landlord.

While it is without doubt true that the headline return rates do outperform even the best savings accounts, unfortunately investment and maintenance costs easily erode those returns. These include letting management fees (between 7.5% and 11% plus VAT), insurance, repairs, boiler maintenance and council tax liabilities during periods of vacancy.

All of these costs come to about 19% of the rental income, excluding the contingent council tax liability, which almost instantly reduces the trumpeted 6% return to just a little over 5%.

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