Ashford Buy to Let – Past, Present and Future

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Investing in Ashford buy to let property has become a very different sport over the last few years.

In the glory days of the first five years of the Millennium, where we had double-digit house price growth, mortgage companies (notably Northern Rock and HBOS) desperate to get on the buy to let mortgage bandwagon with rates so low it made the belly of a snake seem high and an open willingness to give loans away with little more than a note from your Mum and with hardly any regulatory intervention… anyone could make money from investing in property – in fact it was easier to make money than falling off a log! Then we had an unexpected flourish in the property market, with a post credit-crunch jump in the property market after 2010, when all still seemed rosy in the garden.

Yet, over the past five years, the thumbscrews on the buy to let market for British (and de facto) Ashford investors have slowly been turned with new barriers and challenges for buy to let investors. With changes in taxation rules on mortgage relief starting to bite plus a swathe of new rules and regulations for landlords and mortgage companies, it cannot be denied some Ashford landlords are leaving the buy to let sector, whilst others are putting a pause on portfolio expansion.

With the London-centric newspapers talking about massive reductions in house prices (mainly in Prime London – not little old Ashford) together with the red-tape that Westminster just keeps adding to the burden on landlords’ profit, it’s no wonder all appears to be doom and gloom for Ashford landlords … or is it?

One shouldn’t always believe what one reads in the newspaper. It’s true, investing in the Ashford buy to let property market has become a different ballgame in the last five years thanks to all the changes and a few are indeed panicking and selling up.

Ashford landlords can no longer presume to buy a property, sit on it and automatically make a profit

Ashford landlords need to see their buy to let investments in these times in a slightly different light. Before landlords kill their fatted calves (sell up) because values are not growing wildly beyond expectations, let’s not forget that a property also produce income in the form of rent. The focus on Ashford buy to let property in these times should be on maximising rent and not simply being preoccupied with house price growth.

Rents in Ashford’s private rental sector increased by 0.19% in the past 12 months

Rents in Ashford since 2008 have not kept up with inflation, it is cheaper today in REAL TERMS than it was 11 years ago and landlords are beginning to realise that fact with our help:

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Looking at the last few years, it can be seen that there is still scope to increase rents to maximise your investment (and landlords are catching on) yet still protect your tenants by keeping the rents below those ‘real spending power terms’ of the 2008 levels.

Buy to let must be seen as a medium to long-term investment….

Rents in Ashford are 4.29% higher than they were 3 years ago, and property values are 20.93% higher than Jan 2016

…and for the long term, even with the barriers and challenges that the Government is putting in your way – the future couldn’t be brighter – if you know what you are doing.

Investment is the key word here… In the old days, anything with a front door and a roof made money – yet now it doesn’t. Tenants will pay top rent for the right property in the right condition.

Do you know where the hot spots are in Ashford, whether demand is greater for 2 beds or 3 beds in Ashford? Whether town centre terraced houses offer better ROI than suburban semis? With all the recent regulation changes many Ashford landlords are employing us to guide them by not only managing their properties – taking on the worries of maintenance, the care of property and managing any wayward tenants’ behaviour – but also advising on the future of their portfolio. We can offer specialist support (with ourselves or selected partners) on the future direction your portfolio needs to meet your investment goals, (judging needs between long term capital growth and regular income), specialist finance, and whether you would benefit from transferring your property empire within a limited company structure.

If you know someone who is an Ashford buy to let landlord, do them a favour and share this article with them – it could save them a lot of worry, heartache, money and time.

£1,125pcm – The Average Ashford Rent

 

The average rent paid by Ashford tenants now stands at £1,125 per calendar month (PCM), a rise of 0.35% year on year and 0.45% higher month on month.

However, this attention-grabbing monthly rent figure masks stark differences in the various different parts of the Ashford rental market.

Demand in Ashford for high quality family homes with two or three bedrooms in good catchment areas for schools remains robust due to tenants wanting access to the schools. Other influencing factors that make certain areas popular are the proximity to transport links. However, I have noticed a drop in demand (and thus rents achieved) for property where the landlord hasn’t kept the property fresh; in terms of decoration, carpets, replacement windows and poor heating.

So, what does this mean for Ashford landlords and tenants?

With the new tax rules for landlords, many believed that the number of rental properties would narrow throughout 2017, as landlords sold up their Buy to let properties and looked to invest their money elsewhere, but evidently this hasn’t happened (yet). Many Ashford landlords are re-mortgaging their Ashford buy to let properties instead, as they still believe it’s a safer investment than, say the stock market.

However, demand remained strong in 2017 for Ashford private rental properties, meaning rents being achieved were at a decent level for landlords.

Keeping outgoings low is also an important consideration for investors.

Looking on a certain, well-known, financial services comparison site this morning, I found a High Street bank offering a 5-year fixed Buy to let mortgage for 2.17% with a 40% deposit  … I can well remember (as I am sure many of my readers of this blog can) when mortgage rates were at 15% – this is cheap money!

Looking at property values in Ashford, over the last 12 months and specifically at the lower of the market where buy to let landlords tend to buy their rental properties. Flats/apartments have fallen in value by 0.78% whilst terraced properties have risen by 4.07%.

Some Ashford landlords have seen their yields  remain squeezed.

However, most landlords can start to feel assured that, as capital growth in Ashford remains at a more realistic figure (good for long term stability in the property market), and long-term rents are on the rise, the overall corresponding annual return on investment (Annual ROI being annual capital + annual yield) has stabilised in all areas and is now starting to grow.

More and more people see renting as a long-term option.

Even with the challenges of the new tax regime, Ashford landlords, with the support of good advice and opinion, should continue to see renting as an attractive medium to long-term investment vehicle.

Ashford Millennials Spend £155,407 on Rent by Age of 35

 

The Millennials were born between the mid 1980’s and late 1990’s thus making them currently aged between 22 and mid-30’s. They are imaginative, artistic youngsters who grew up with the newest tech and computers and who are huge aficionados of music festivals, brunches, gourmet pizzas, emoji’s, selfies and old school nostalgia. Although known as Generation Rent, many Millennials have discovered that renting is a good choice for their shelter and accommodation – avoiding the hassle that comes from buying a home.

Nonetheless, that is not the only reason they don’t buy property:

When they should be concentrating on their profession, putting down roots and starting a family, Millennials are still suffering the pressure and strain of student debt whilst, at the same time, finding it tough to pay rent.

The hot topic at the moment is the cost of renting, with all political parties finding mileage in wooing the Millennial Generation’s voters. With the average rent in Ashford currently £1,088 per month, making it a big-ticket item in the monthly budget, I was intrigued to find out how much Ashford Millennials will spend on rent by their mid 30’s. The average age people leave home in the UK is 22; so looking at an Ashford 22-year-old who left home in 2005 then between 2005 and today that Ashford Millennial will have shelled out £155,407 in rent.

It’s no wonder local Millennials can’t afford to buy an Ashford home given their tremendous debt

Younger Ashford Millennials will probably carry on renting for the foreseeable future, simply because the prospect of buying a home is not yet achievable.. that is until you look more deeply at the numbers…

Ashford rent increases v inflation since 2005

Looking at the chart above, the average rent of an Ashford property in 2005 was £895pcm … if it had risen by inflation, today, that would be £1,261pcm. As I have already mentioned in the article, today it stands at just £1,088 per month. Looking over the last 12 years, adding up all the differences between what the average actual rent was compared to what it should have been if rent had gone up by inflation, the average Ashford Millennial tenant would have paid £169,284.

average Ashford rents have lagged inflation since 2005

This means that an average 35-year-old Ashford Millennial tenant, who has been renting since 2005, is better off by £13,877 when comparing the actual rent paid compared to what it would have been if it had risen by inflation.

In a nutshell, tenants have done well from sub-inflation growth in rents

In fact, if you recall I mentioned in an article a few weeks ago, the older Ashford Millennials are starting to use those savings and are gradually shifting towards home ownership. They are finally catching up with the British homeownership dream with the Bank of Mum and Dad helping with the deposit. Also, the scrapping of Stamp Duty from the Government starts to kick in together with the realisation that if the 5% mortgage deposit can be scraped together (95% first time buyer mortgages have been available since 2009), it is still a lot cheaper to buy than rent, which will unquestionably drive demand for Ashford homes for sale – good news for Ashford homeowners.

What does this mean for Ashford landlords?

Well the vast majority of younger Millennials are still renters and I foresee this to be the case for the next ten to fifteen years, minimum.

Landlords will, however, need to keep improving their properties to ensure they attract the best tenants and they will see a much higher rent achieved. Millennials will pay top dollar for the right property.

It is important to do things correctly as making money won’t be as easy as it has been over the last twenty years. With a greater number of properties on the market comes greater choice. Don’t buy the first thing you see, buy with your head as well as your heart … because as recently promised, the first rule of Buy To Let Investment is….. “You are not going to live in the property yourself”.

Ashford Private Rents an Average £15.86 per Foot

 

One the things I most enjoy about my job as an agent is helping Ashford landlords with their portfolio management. Gone are the days of making money by buying any old Ashford property to rent out or sell on. Nowadays, property investment is both an art and science. The art is your gut reaction to a property, but with the power of the internet and the way the Ashford property market has gone in the last 11 years, science must also play its part on a property’s future viability for investment.

The metrics most property professionals use when deciding the viability of a rental property is what properties are selling for, the average rent, yield and an average value per square foot.

However, another metric I like to use is the rent per square foot. The reason being it is a great way to judge a property from tenants’ point of view…. what space they get for their money. Now of course, location is a huge influencing factor when it comes to rents (and hence the rent per square foot). Like buyers, tenants have that balancing act between choosing a better or worse location, more vs. less rent, and size of accommodation (more or bigger rooms both normally equating to more money) and generally balancing where they live against making ends meet.

I know there are a lot of you in Ashford who like my statistics on the Ashford property market, so before I talk about the rental figures per square foot, I wanted to look at the average purchase price per square foot.

In Ashford and I must stress, these are average figures, so there will an enormous range between individual properties but, on average properties in Ashford, split down by type are achieving values of …

• Ashford Detached Property – £315 / sq ft
• Ashford Semi Detached Property – £287 / sq ft
• Ashford Terraced Property – £270 / sq ft
• Ashford Apartments – £242 / sq ft

So, to rental figures:

The average rental property in the Ashford area is 858.6 sq ft (interesting when compared to the 792.1 sq ft national average) and my research has found the average rent per square foot currently being achieved on Ashford rental property is £15.86 per sq ft per annum.

So, what can be deduced from this? Well the devil is always in the detail!

Whilst I quoted the overall average figure above in fact my research showed it was quite clear from the data that there is a relationship between the average £ per sq ft figures for property values and the average £ per sq ft on rental figures as a property grows in size. However, something quite intriguing happens to those figures, in terms of what any given property will sell for and what it will rent for, when we change and increase the size of the property.

Indeed doubling the size of any Ashford property doesn’t mean it will double in price … in either value or rent. This is because the marginal value increases diminish as the size of the property increases. In layman’s terms … subject to a few assumptions, double the size of the house doesn’t mean double the value … what really happens is a doubling of the size gives approximately a 40% to 65% uplift in value, but here comes the even more fascinating part for investors … when it came to the rental figures, doubling the size of the house only gives a 20% to 45% increase in rent.

In a future article, I will be discussing the actual added value an extension to an Ashford property can bring … but in the meantime, in an overall and sweeping statement – much of the time it makes sense to extend if you are going to live in the property as long as the extension is proportionate to the property, but if you are going to rent it out…. possibly not!

Ashford Rents Set to Rise to £1,225pcm Over Next 5 Years

 

It’s now been a good 12/18 months since the annual rental price inflation in Ashford peaked at 3.4%. Since then we have seen increasingly more modest rent increases. In fact this Autumn, certain parts of the Ashford rental market have seen slight falls in rents. So, could this be an early indication that the trend of rent increases seen over the last few years may now be coming to an end?

Well, possibly in the short term. However, over the coming few years, it is my opinion Ashford rents will regain their upward trend and continue to increase as demand for Ashford rental property outstrips supply, and this is why:

The only counterbalance to continued rental growth would be a meaningful increase in rental stock (i.e. the number of rental properties in Ashford). However, the Government’s new taxes on landlords being introduced between 2017 and 2021, means buy-to-let has (and will) be less attractive in the short term for certain types of landlords meaning less new properties will be brought to the rental market.

Interestingly, countless market experts assumed at the start of 2017, that the number of rental properties would in fact fall throughout the year. The assumption being as the new tax rules for landlords started to kick in, landlords would look to kick their tenants out, sell up, and invest their capital elsewhere. (Although ironically that would further lower the supply of rental properties, meaning rents would likely increase again!).

Anecdotal evidence suggests, confirmed by my discussions with fellow property, accountancy and banking professionals in Ashford, that Ashford landlords are (instead of selling up on masse), actually either (1) re-mortgaging their Ashford buy-to-let properties instead or (2) converting their rental portfolios into limited companies to side-step the new taxation rules.

The sentiment of many Ashford landlords is that property has always weathered the stock market crashes and runs over the last 50 years. There is something inheritably understandable about bricks and mortar – compared to the voodoo magic of the stock market and other exotic investment vehicles like debentures and crypto-currency (e.g. BitCoin).

Remarkably, there is some good news for tenants, such as the Tories’ recently published draft Tenants’ Fee Bill, designed to prohibit the charging of tenant’s fees on set up of the tenancy. However, looking at recent evidence in Scotland, I expect rents to again rise to compensate landlords, thus hammering reliable tenants looking for long-term tenancy agreements the hardest. This growth will be on top of any organic rent growth. It really is swings and roundabouts!

So, what does this all mean for landlords and tenants in Ashford? In my considered opinion:

Rents in Ashford over the next 5 years will rise by 9.2%, taking the average rent for an Ashford property from £1,122 per month to £1,225 per month

To put all that into perspective though, rents in Ashford over the last 12 years have risen by 21.5% and that rise won’t be a straight-line growth either, because I have to take into account the national and local Ashford economy, demand and supply of rental property, interest rates, Brexit and other external factors. The graph below illustrates my projections:

Ashford rent increases over next 5 years

In the past, making money from Ashford buy-to-let property has been as easy as falling off a log. But with these new tax rules, new rental regulations and the overall changing dynamics of the Ashford property market, as an Ashford landlord, you are going to need work smarter and have every piece of information, advice and opinion to hand on the Ashford, Regional and National property markets, to enable you to continue to make money.

One place to find that information is the Ashford Property News blog.

Council House Waiting List in Ashford Drops by 39.6% in last 12 years

 

Should you buy or rent a house? Buying your own home can be expensive but you could save money in the long term. Renting through a letting agent or private landlord offers less autonomy to live by your own rules, but gives more flexibility if you need to move.

Yet, there is a third way that many people seem to forget, although it plays an important role in the housing of Ashford people. Collectively known as social housing, it is affordable housing, which is let by either Ashford Borough Council or a housing association to those considered to be in specific need, at rents lower than generally found in the private rental market.

Waiting List

In Ashford, there are 4,646 social housing households, representing 17.21% of all the households in Ashford. There are a further 1,609 families in the Ashford Borough Council’s waiting list, which is similar to the figures in the late 1990’s. The numbers peaked in 2004, at 2,665 families, so today’s numbers represent a drop of 39.6%.

Households on ABC Waiting List

Nevertheless, this doesn’t necessarily mean more families are securing a council house or housing association property. Six years ago, Westminster gave local authorities the authority to limit the entitlement for social housing, conspicuously dismissing those that did not have a clear association or link to the locality.

Social Rents Increasing

Interestingly, rents in the social rented segment have also been growing at a far faster rate than those for private tenants. In the Ashford Borough Council area, the average rent in 1998 for a council house/housing association property was £221.56 a month, whilst today its £403.78, a rise of 82% in 19 years.

Rent increase v inflation

When comparing social housing rents against private rents, the private rent statistics don’t go back to the late 1990’s so, to ensure we compare like for like, we can only go back to 2005. Nationally, over the last 12 years, private rents have increased by a net figure of 19.7%, whilst rents for social housing have increased by 59.1%.

Supply and Demand

So, what will this mean for the homeowners, landlords and tenants of Ashford?

Rents in the private rental sector in Ashford will likely increase sharply during the next five years. Even though the council house waiting list has decreased, the number of new council and housing association properties being built is at a 70 year low. The government’s present crusade against buy-to-let landlords, together with increased taxation, and the banning of tenant fees to agents will all act to restrict the supply of private rental property which, using simple supply and demand economics, will cause private rents to rise – making buy to let property to continue to be a good choice of investment (irrespective of the increased fees and taxation laid at the door of landlords). Property values should also remain strong and stable as the number of people moving to a new house (and selling their old property) remains restricted and hence, due to lack of choice and supply, buyers will have to pay decent money for any property they wish to buy.

Interesting times are ahead for the Ashford Property Market!

Taylors Residential Lettings Limited, Company no. 6002742, Regd Office: Suite 1, Invicta Business Centre, Monument Way, Ashford TN24 0HB