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Landlords Watch Out?

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This article is behind a parasitical paywall - http://moneyweek.com/britains-new-breed-of-landlords-should-prepare-for-a-political-backlash/

CAn someone post some of the article for me to read?

Here it is with comments. Not that interesting if you ask me.

Britain’s new breed of landlords should prepare for a political backlash

By: Matthew Lynn

02/09/2013

There may never have been a better time to be a landlord in Britain. Interest rates on mortgage debt are at all-time lows. The government is making plenty of cheap money available. Rents are rising, yet there is no shortage of tenants. It’s all good news for buy-to-let landlords.

But there is trouble ahead. The biggest worry for most investors is probably the threat of house prices falling, or interest rates going up, both of which would batter their returns. But in fact, there’s a far bigger threat that should be bothering them. A political backlash is brewing against Britain’s new breed of landlords. They are going to get the blame for everything from rising prices to unaffordable rents – and fair or not, that is the real threat to their portfolios.

There is no great mystery as to why so many people are jumping on the buy-to-let bandwagon. The Bank of England has driven down interest rates to virtually nothing, while the government is pumping money into supporting cheap mortgages. It helps that Britain has a growing population, but very few new houses being built. It also helps that even now it remains hard for first-time buyers to save enough for a deposit, particularly if they end up having to pay stamp duty too.

The net result is that rents are high, demand is strong from tenants, and the cost of servicing the debt on a buy-to-let mortgage is very low. So it is hardly surprising that more and more people are becoming landlords. At a time when most other investments offer very little in the way of yield, and quite a lot in the way of risk, a portfolio of properties to rent out seems one of the simplest ways to earn a decent return on any spare cash you have.

The figures make it clear how fast the boom is accelerating. In the second three months of this year, 40,000 buy-to-let loans were advanced, compared with 33,000 in the first three months. It may well be growing even faster than that – not every landlord has to finance their investment with a specific loan. Home ownership has dropped to 65%, a level last seen in 1987, and 17.4% of the population now lives in private rented accommodation – almost all of it provided by small private landlords.

Landlords always face risks, of course. If house prices collapse, they’ll be left with a capital loss. And interest rates might rise, even though Bank of England governor Mark Carney has promised to keep them low for at least another three years. But the biggest risk that landlords may be missing is not financial. It’s political.

The rise of private landlords is starting to create a backlash – and it’s going to intensify. Already the Labour Party is discussing rent controls. Its housing spokesman, Jack Dromey, has been reported as privately favouring such controls. Even if he seems to have backed away from that in public, he is arguing for longer rental agreements to try to curb soaring rents, particularly in London.

In the last election for London mayor, Labour’s candidate Ken Livingstone argued for a ‘living rent’, by which he meant that rental payments should not be more than a third of a person’s pay. Housing charities such as Shelter are not arguing for explicit controls – not yet anyway – but like Labour, they want longer agreements. In the years to come, we can expect this chorus to grow louder.

You can argue the rights and wrongs of this. One reason why rents are rising so fast is because there is not enough supply. Local councils don’t give permission for enough new houses to be built. An influx of private landlords into the market has nothing to do with this. They are simply responding to the incentives created by the government and the Bank of England.

Nor would the proposed solutions make the market work any better. Rent controls were imposed for years after World War II, and all they did was destroy the private rental industry – no one is going to want to go into any industry where the government controls the price (because you can be sure the controlled price will be a lot less than market rate). All that would do is create a sudden exit.

Likewise, if tenants want longer contracts, they are free to negotiate them with their landlord – there is no need for the government to mandate how long people can stay in a property. Flexibility is one of the advantages of renting, after all.

If a government wanted to make housing more affordable, it would be better off easing planning controls and cutting stamp duty rates. And if it really wanted houses to become cheaper, it wouldn’t be offering taxpayer-backed mortgages and encouraging the Bank of England to keep interest rates low. Hammering landlords is not a solution to any of this.

But the fairness of the arguments may not make much difference. If house prices keep rising, and rents alongside them, and if landlords appear to be growing rich on the back of that without doing much work, then people will get angry. Britain’s housing market is so completely politicised already, and so distorted by government, that rent controls could easily be introduced. If a political backlash against landlords gathers steam, it will reduce returns dramatically – and a lot of investors could end up getting burned.

2 Responses

02/09/2013, Ellen12 wrote

I think the era of BTL on the grand scale we have seen may be coming to an end for financial, as well as political, reasons. At home, the funding for lending scheme which was supposed to help new productive start ups and small business was redirected at BTL by lazy and incompetent banks. Funding for Lending is due to come to an end next year and has been replaced by an equally stupid ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, brainchild of Mr Osborne. At least this money cannot be used for BTL and is for the sole use of FTB ers, so Mr Osborne can reflate the housing bubble before the general election. Of course, this could all backfire as those who rent decide to take the plunge and buy, perhaps leaving a glut of rental property for fewer and less attractive perspective tenants.

Global changes could make Mr Carney’s job of keeping a lid on interest rates much harder. The rupee crisis could signal the beginning of a major sell off of global bonds from BRICs, including UK bonds, as they suffer the effects of ‘tapering’ from the Fed and what started as a vicious upward cycle when QE was in full swing could end up a a vicious downwards cycle of deflation and high interest rates. Then it may well become clearer that we have all been living off the never never for years.

02/09/2013, 4caster wrote

George Osborne will deliberately inflate house prices by creating a new debt bubble.

This will create a new “feel-good” factor, which can only emanate from high and rising house prices. It is a bribe to help the Conservatives win the 2015 election.

The last house price crash was not allowed to run its course. We have had a record low Bank of England base rate of 0.5% for five years now, together with quantitative easing, and now a government guarantee to pick up the loss of all but the last 5% of a house-buyer’s equity in the event that house prices ever fall.

To hell with first time buyers, who will be pressurised to buy houses at inflated prices, in fear of being left behind, off the “housing ladder”.

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The figures make it clear how fast the boom is accelerating. In the second three months of this year, 40,000 buy-to-let loans were advanced, compared with 33,000 in the first three months. It may well be growing even faster than that – not every landlord has to finance their investment with a specific loan.

Landlords always face risks, of course. If house prices collapse, they'll be left with a capital loss. And interest rates might rise, even though Bank of England governor Mark Carney has promised to keep them low for at least another three years. But the biggest risk that landlords may be missing is not financial. It's political.

As I posted the other day.. these are just 2 houses I had an eye on, which were bought and came back fast onto the rental market. Seen loads of these sorts bought and onto rental past 24 months. The first one being more towards what I'm looking for, (but something a bit more charming with a front door and not a side door) but I don't see value at £215K (maybe some value at £100-£120K).

The second... well just lol at £325K. Have people forgotten the value of money? It's like there's a load of older mini Fred Goodwins out there, floating so high up there in a bubble, not able to see the hardships for younger people, wanting to take advantage of the young to boost their wealth even further for their pensions/yield, having seen how much their own houses have gone up in value, and not thinking such sums are expensive.

I'll put my hope in a financial crunch occurring, such as mortgage rates rapidly rising and triggering a run of inventory at the higher end to market, with sellers cutting prices for a house price crash. Of the sort which makes the early 90s one just a very minor correction. Unless we have another HPC member meltdown that 'all buyers who paid massive high prices were victims / didn't know what they were doing / just wanted a home', and even more political manoeuvring to reflate prices for victim owners/BTLers.

Alderley Edge: Offers in region of £250,000

Sales Date: 05 Oct 2012. Semi-Detached, Leasehold. £215,000

Welcome back to the market as a rental: 15 August 2013: Price changed: from '£1,200 pcm' to '£995 pcm'

Alderley Edge

Sales Date: 23 Jul 2013 Terraced, Leasehold. £325,000

Sales Date: 06 Jul 2009 Terraced, Leasehold. £250,000

Welcome back to the market... dry.gif

as another rental, asking £1,450 pcm: http://www.rightmove...y-42885779.html

Edited by Venger

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Nor would the proposed solutions make the market work any better. Rent controls were imposed for years after World War II, and all they did was destroy the private rental industry – no one is going to want to go into any industry where the government controls the price (because you can be sure the controlled price will be a lot less than market rate). All that would do is create a sudden exit

:lol::lol::lol:

For goodness sake it's the housing market.

Edited by billybong

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Landlord's Watch sounds like one of those kitsch/gauche things peddled in the Sunday supplements from Frankly Awful Mint or some such.

Should be an off topic thread to design one.

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