If you’re looking to get into the rental market, you may well find yourself spoilt for choice when shopping for a mortgage. According to price comparison expert Moneyfacts, there are some 2,162 buy-to-let products to choose from right now, the highest number since October 2007 when 3,305 mortgages were available.
Lenders are falling over themselves to grab a slice of buy-to-let despite the uncertainties created by the Brexit saga and the possible consequences of it on the British housing market. “It is encouraging that buy-to-let landlords have more mortgage choice than they have had at any time in almost 12 years,” Moneyfacts finance expert Darren Cook commented, noting that product numbers have jumped by 397 over the past year and by 706 since the same point in 2017.
Costs are rising Whilst competition might be on the up, the fight amongst the UK’s banks and building societies has not made investment in the rental market any more cost-effective for landlords. As Cook commented: “It is also evident from our research that heightened competition to try and attract buy-to-let business has not resulted in a fall in interest rates, as has recently happened in the residential mortgage sector.”
The average rate for a two-year fixed-rate mortgage has edged both higher and lower over the past two years, but the current level of 3.12% stands at a premium to the 2.92% average seen around six months ago and the 2.96% witnessed in March 2018.
Meanwhile, the average rate on a five-year fixed-rate mortgage currently sits at 3.61%, up from 3.46% in September and 3.43% a year ago.
Dive in or stay away? Rising mortgage rates are the last thing that proprietors need right now because of the stream of tax changes in recent years that have pushed up the cost of owning and letting out property, from an increase on stamp duty to 3%, to axing tax relief which allowed mortgage interest to be subtracted from rental income before tax was calculated.
Bigger payments to HMRC aren’t the only problem, though. There’s a galaxy of certificates and therefore additional charges that proprietors need covering everything from maintenance to safety, to the listing and management of their properties, extra costs that all add up.
The government now has a huge appetite for restricting the activity of landlords through extra costs and tighter renting rules. It’s been identified as a critical vote winner given the ocean of Britons struggling to get onto the housing ladder as a result of the country’s huge property shortage. So if you grab a slice of buy-to-let, you’ll to be braced for investment here to get a lot more expensive, as well as restrictive, in the years ahead as government policy evolves.
What’s more, you’ll need to be prepared for Bank of England interest rate hikes, possibly as soon as later this year, and a subsequent increase in mortgage costs. A possible house price dip as we have seen in London over the past year or so could be on the horizon as well to smack the value of your investment portfolio. All things considered, I think buy-to-let is far too complicated and costly to participate in today, and I for one would rather use my money to invest elsewhere.
Royston Wild has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.