Is buy-to-let the right solution for first-time buyers?
Although it's complicated, there are more young people getting on the property ladder these days. Buy-to-let is something that is becoming quite popular due to the tighter restrictions set by mortgage providers.
Buying a property in an affordable area and letting it out while you rent somewhere else is a good idea for first time buyers, but is something that you should view as a long term commitment.
Be aware that buy-to-let lenders want to be sure that you're not after a buy-to-let because you can't afford a residential mortgage. A deposit of around 25% is required and you'll need proof of your potential rental income. This should really be around 25-50% higher than what you're paying back each month. Get a loan you can handle, and that comes from a reputable lender. If in doubt, get a mortgage broker who is approved by the FSA (Financial Standards Authority) to recommend credible and professional lenders.
Other tips to consider are:
Security of your mortgage
Security: Buy-to-let landlords used to only be able to get variable rate mortgages, but now you can get fixed rate mortgages for buy-to-let properties. There's a lot more security in a fixed rate mortgage so think carefully before you sign anything.
Be smart about your intentions
Don't even think about getting a buy-to-let mortgage for a property you intend to live in. There are severe legal implications with this so don't think you can get away with it.
Do your area research
Research the area you want to buy and look into rent prices in that area. You need to be sure that the rent you charge covers your mortgage payments with money to spare. Rent should be the key return for buy-to-let mortgages and they're done on an interest-only basis so what you borrow will not be paid off over time.
The more research you do, the more confidence you and your lender will have in the process. Also, look at the future of the area and the benefits, i.e. Is it on a commuter route? Is it in proximity to good schools? Is it where students would want to live?
Think about target tenants
Look at any potential property through the eyes of tenants. If they are a student they will want somewhere easy to clean, but comfy. If they are young professionals they would probably prefer something more modern or stylish. On the other hand, they could be a family who might want a blank canvas as they probably have quite a lot of belongings.
Allowing tenants to make their mark on a property is more likely to encourage them to stay. Letting them put up pictures or paint the walls will make them feel more at home and more inclined to settle, which guarantees you more financial security.
Think of the set-up cost of your mortgage
Remember that the set-up costs for buy-to-let are considerably more than residential mortgages. Factor this cost into any calculations of outgoings. Also factor in if the property may be empty for a few months between tenants. Don't forget that house prices are falling. If this continues will you be able to continue holding your investment?
Keep your investment covered
When you are buying for investment purposes, remember that this is a purely commercial decision so your criteria for the property is totally different to that if you were buying the property to live in. Invest for income, not short-term capital growth.
Invest in rent guarantee insurance to cover you if your tenant fails to pay rent. These policies can cost from as little as £50 and are available as a standalone product from a specialist provider, or as part of a wider landlord insurance policy.
How involved will you be in your letting?
Once you have secured a property you need to decide if you will rent it out yourself or get an agent to do it for you. Agents charge you a management fee, but most of the stress is taken away as they will deal with advertising, viewings and any subsequent problems. They will also have an established network of plumbers, electricians etc.
If you go for an agent then make a shortlist and ask them all what they can offer you before you make a decision.
If you have done all of your research and looked into rent costs of the area you are interested in, worked out if you can afford the start-up costs and outgoings then you can decide what mortgage deals are best for you and go for it.