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Landlord sell-off slows to a seven-year low

Last year 131,900 properties were sold by landlords in Great Britain, the smallest sell-off since 2013 (when 105,830 landlords sold). Research from the Hamptons Monthly Lettings Index – March 2021 - reveals that the average landlord who sold up last year in England & Wales sold their buy-to-let for £82,450 (42%) more than they paid for it, having owned the property for 9.1 years on average. The average landlord gross gain increased by £3,390, or 4%, to £82,000 compared to 2019 (£79,060), marking the first annual rise in more than five years. 

London landlords made the biggest gains. The average London landlord sold their buy-to-let for £302,200 (71%) more than they originally paid for it, having owned the property for 9.8 years on average, and 2020 reversed the fall in a London landlord’s gross profit. Despite the increase, typically landlords who sold in the capital last year made a smaller gross profit than those who sold in 2016 when they made an average gain of £364,960. However, 2016 marked the high point for landlord profit when many investors, having bought at the bottom of the market following the 2008 financial crash, decided to sell up. 

The top 10 local authorities where landlords made the biggest gains were all located in London, with Kensington and Chelsea topping the list. Last year the average Kensington & Chelsea landlord sold their buy-to-let for £784,980 more than they paid for it 10.6 years earlier. The gain they made was 9.5 times greater than the average in England & Wales.  

Landlords in the North East continued to make the smallest gains. The average landlord who sold up in the North East made £11,310 (16%) capital gain, having owned for 8.0 years. Around 36% of investors in the region sold their buy-to-let at a loss, compared to just 12% in England & Wales overall. This means that only 37% of investors who sold in the North East last year would have paid capital gains tax (CGT), due to the sum being covered by their £12,300 annual allowance.  

Across England & Wales, 77% of landlords would have paid CGT on their profit. London landlords, who made the biggest gains, are most likely to have a tax bill to pay with 91% of investors making a gross gain surpassing the annual CGT allowance. Investors can offset costs such as stamp duty and renovation expenses from their capital gains tax bill. 

The North East also had the highest share of landlords selling up. Last year 24% of homes sold in the region were sold by a landlord. This equates to around 9,730 homes.  

Nearly one in 10 (9%) of rental homes sold in Great Britain last year had been owned by a limited company landlord and last year 12,400 buy-to-let companies were dissolved. While the average buy-to-let company had operated for 6.2 years, 75% operated for less than five years. 

Commenting on the data, Aneisha Beveridge, head of research at Hamptons, said: “Last year, the number of homes sold by landlords reached a seven-year low. A pause in the housing market during the first Covid-induced lockdown, which suppressed overall transactions, combined with an eviction ban throughout the remainder of 2020, limited the opportunity for landlords to sell up. 

“Landlord sales have been relatively high over the last few years due to tax and regulatory changes that have reduced the profitability for some investors. But given tax relief on mortgage interest will be fully phased out from the 20/21 tax year, it seems as though most landlords who would be hit hardest by these changes have already left the sector.                                                                                   

“Over the last few years, the average capital gain made by a landlord has been shrinking. But despite the pandemic, stronger house price growth seems to have reversed this trend. Landlords who have been in the game for the longest period of time have reaped the largest rewards. The average landlord who owned their buy-to-let for more than 15 years made more than three times more than a landlord who had owned their property for less than five years. Many of whom would have renovated and invested further in their property to add value. 

“Despite the gradual easing of lockdown, the London vs rest of the country rental growth divide remains entrenched. Outside the capital would-be tenants are scrambling over stock before it hits the portals, while in Central London landlords are chasing tenants just as relentlessly. There are however signs of a return to activity in Zone 1 in Central London, with viewings up 64% year-on-year in March. But record high stock levels mean rents are unlikely to start recovering to pre-pandemic levels until later in the year.” 

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