A buy to let mortgage guide
Invest in your property with a buy to let mortgage.
If you are looking to become a landlord and rent out your property for profit but can’t afford to buy the property outright, a buy to let mortgage could help you out. We know mortgages can be complicated so we have come up with this informative guide to make the process as easy for you as possible.
How do buy to let mortgages work?
Buy to let mortgages are a specific type of mortgage for those who wish to buy and rent out a property but require financial assistance.
They work in a similar way to your standard mortgage accept the type of loan you may be eligible for is based on the how much rent the property can generate rather than simply looking at your own personal financial circumstances. Most lenders will still require you to have a minimum annual income, the amount of which is dependent on the lender.
It is worth noting that buy to let mortgages usually require a higher minimum deposit, typically around 20% and the interest rates on buy to let mortgages are typically higher than on conventional residential mortgages.
How to compare buy to let mortgages?
It is important to take your time and research different mortgage lenders and different mortgage deals to make sure you get the best deal for your circumstances. Here are some common ways to compare buy to let mortgages.
- Eligibility. You will want to make sure that your loan meets the criteria for your investment strategy. For example, not every mortgage is available for commercial property and some loans may have limits on square meterage or not be available for certain property types.
- Investor benefits. If you’re investing you might want to ensure your home loan has features which can maximise tax benefits or maximise cash flow. For example, an interest-only or offset feature.
- Rates. You’ll also want to compare the interest rates available with your buy to let mortgage. Rates have a huge influence on the size of your repayments, so be sure to compare loans and find one with the right rates, in addition to features and minimal fees. Also it is worth comparing fixed and variable rates to find one which suits your investment strategy.
- Fees. Compare not only application, valuation and legal fees but also ongoing fees for features such as offset accounts and redraw facilities, and also monthly fees.
- Other features. This last point of comparison will largely depend on how you plan to use your loan. If you plan to put extra funds towards your home loan, ensure that your mortgage deal won’t penalise you. If you want to get access to these extra funds, it might be worth looking for a loan with a redraw facility.
Weighing up the benefits and the risks
As with any investment, choosing to invest in property carries both benefits and risks. It’s important you weigh up the pros and cons of property investment before you decide if the strategy is right for you.
Property investing benefits
- Rental income. An investment property can increase your cash flow by providing you with a second income source through rental income. A well-located investment property could provide 3-5.5% rental yield. When it comes to selling your property, you may be able to benefit from making a capital gain.
- Flexibility. An investment property is one of few investments that is physically tangible. If your situation changes and you no longer wish to use your property as an income-producing asset, you can always move into it. However, be mindful that there may be tax implications if you choose to do this.
- Tax and depreciation benefits. If you have a knowledgeable accountant and quantity surveyor, there’s plenty of room to take advantage of certain tax advantages of property investment, including negative gearing.
- Control. Unlike other asset classes such as shares, many aspects of your property investment can be controlled. You can carry out value-adding activities on your property such as renovations, you can remortgage if you find a better rate, turn your property into a boarding house – the choice is yours, provided you comply with relevant laws and council guidelines.
Property investing risks
- Costs. Buying a property can be costly, depending on the size and location. There are also many other upfront costs you may have to pay, including stamp duty, building inspections, conveyancing and legal charges, and it is worth noting that buy to let mortgages usually have more or higher arrangement fees than conventional residential mortgages. As the owner of the property, you’ll also be responsible for covering ongoing costs such as repairs and maintenance, property management fees, council taxes, etc.
- Interest rate rises. Because many of us use mortgages to finance investment properties, interest rates can play a major part in increasing or reducing costs. If interest rates go up, you’ll have a higher repayment.
- Selling a property takes time. Unlike shares and other investments, selling property can take a while and usually requires assistance from professionals such as a real estate agents, accountants and conveyancers. This means if you think you might need your investment cash on short notice, then property investment might not be for you. Also unlike shares, you can’t sell portions of your investment property off if you need the cash quickly.
- Untenanted periods. If you rely on rental income to help pay off your property investment loan, you face the risk of untenanted periods which means that you may suffer financially. This is why it’s important to take precautionary measures such as ensuring you have a cash buffer.
10 common mistakes to avoid when buying to let
1. Buying the wrong property
When you look at investment properties you need to view them as a landlord, not an owner. You need to consider whether it’s attractive for people looking to rent rather than buy. Your personal tastes and desires shouldn’t come into it.
A good rental property will be in a good location with useful travel links. It will have spacious rooms and should be relevant to the target market of the local area. Are you targeting families or single professionals?
2. Not doing your homework
You need to look at the local rental market and find out who’s renting property, how much they’re paying for it and whether there’s a big enough demand. What is the demographic of people in the area? Is it an area full of students and young professionals who might prefer a large apartment, or is it the perfect place for families to settle down?
Without looking into the facts and figures you could buy a property which is of no interest to the local pool of would-be tenants.
3. Underestimating your costs
It is very easy (and tempting) to underestimate the amount of time and money it will take to get your property fit for rental. This mistake leads to new investors running into serious cash flow problems. Get quotes for the work you need to do and multiply that figure by at least two. That way you have a buffer in case the work proves more expensive.
4. Having no spare funds
It’s vital to have an “emergency fund” set aside for each of your investment properties. If an expensive repair is needed and you don’t have the cash, you could end up getting the job done cheaply. This just leads to problems down the line and more worryingly angry tenants.
One of the best ways to build your emergency fund is to take some of your rental profit each month and get it paid into a completely separate account. Keep these funds away from your normal bank accounts and you won’t be tempted to dip into it.
5. Trying to do the work yourself
Running investment properties requires more work than you may think and some new investors try to save money by doing everything themselves. Big mistake! It’s almost impossible to be your own repairman, property manager and accountant and stretching yourself too thin leads to costly errors.
Build yourself a team of reliable experts to outsource the work to, so you can spend your time more productively. In many cases professionals know how to save you money, so try to think of them as an investment.
6. Rushing into decisions
Don’t be a bull in a china shop. Entering the property investment market is very exciting and can be very lucrative but jumping into things without thinking about them can cost you a fortune. Take the time to research potential properties, know the local market and be sure to interview a number of partner professionals before choosing who you want to work with.
Remember the old saying “more haste less speed?” Well in property investment the saying is “more haste less profit!”
7. Investing from a distance
Don’t be tempted to buy property far away unless you’re prepared to travel to the site yourself. Setting up an investment property without seeing it with your own eyes is a recipe for disaster. If you do decide to buy out of the way make sure you’ve got a reliable estate agent to manage the property for you. Meeting them in person is also a must, regardless of where they’re based.
8. Paying over the odds
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t make a low offer on an investment property. Remember your portfolio is a business and the idea is to make a profit. You don’t know the position of the seller and they may be after a quick sale whatever the price. The worst that can happen is they say no and you try to negotiate.
9. Ignoring your competition
Don’t overlook what other landlords in your area are doing. Find out how much they’re charging for rent, how long it took them to find tenants and how are their properties presented. Also make a point to look at the adverts for properties in your area. What do they say and which papers are they in? You can get some very useful tips from studying the competition.
10. Not getting insurance
Going without a complete landlord insurance is a huge mistake. It covers you should something major go wrong with the property. A good policy will also cover you for lost rental income and will pay to rehome your tenants if your property is damaged and needs repairs.
As with any insurance cover make sure you read the fine print so you understand what’s protected and what’s not. The less you pay for cover the less protection you normally have.
Matthew Boyle is a publisher at finder.com for mortgages and utilities. He has a 7-year history of publishing helpful guides to assist consumers in making better decisions. In his spare time, you will find him walking in the Norfolk countryside admiring the local wildlife.
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