Buy-to-let UK property has long been seen as a lucrative investment, often used to provide an inheritance for the investor’s children, as a pension alternative, or as an ancillary form of income. Buy-to-let investors are looking North. And UK expat buy-to-let investors need to be looking North too! There’s also been a clear growth in the number of buy-to-let landlords operating as a limited company compared to last year.
According to research from the BVA BDRC Landlord Panel for Q1 2021, this is the first time in over 4 years that a higher proportion of landlords are intending to expand their portfolio rather than reduce it (19% vs. 17%). The same research has also shown that 61% of landlords plan to use a buy-to-let mortgage to fund their next purchase and 29% of buy-to-let borrowers intend to remortgage in the next 12 months.
The Need for Higher Returns.
Due to legislative tax changes in the last few years, landlords are having to seek out areas that offer higher returns. In 2016, a 3% stamp duty surcharge was introduced for the purchase of second homes. In April 2020, it was announced that landlords could no longer claim mortgage interest as a tax expense. These changes have slowly eroded some of the profitability for UK expat and foreign national landlords. Despite this, landlord optimism in the near-term prospects for capital gains and rental yields has significantly increased year-on-year, by 26% and 24% respectively.
Landlords operating in London are most likely to have seen a fall in tenant demand in Q1 2020 and Q1 2021. It is because of this fall that buy-to-let investors are looking North to so called ‘UK hotspots’ where higher returns offset the impact of the changing legislation and price entry points are a lot lower than some of the more traditional buy-to-let property areas.
London Investors Looking Outside the Capital.
Between January and July 2021, 12% of UK property purchases were by investors. This was the highest since 2016 and is testament to the strength of UK property investment. ‘As a UK expat or overseas investor, it’s vital to see where investments are being made’ says Stuart Marshall of Liquid Expat Mortgages. ‘Keeping track of these trends will help you to recognise where the most profitable areas will be when looking to invest.’
So, where should potential UK expat and overseas buy-to-let investors keep an eye on?
‘What’s really interesting to see’, continues Stuart Marshall, ‘is where the capital’s property investors are putting their money. 63% of homes bought by London-based property investors in 2021 have been bought outside the capital. This figure has been steadily rising for years – more than doubling from the 26% we saw ten years ago in 2011. The main driver for buying outside of London is obvious – the returns are higher elsewhere!’
Although a rental recovery is happening in the capital, it’s not enough to keep London-based investors there. Only 35% of investors who bought in London this year are seeing rental yields above 5%. Further, as of June 2021, rents in London were 16.5% lower than the same time a year ago, meaning investors who purchase in the capital are losing out on rental earnings. Though this has recovered from the 20.4% depression that we were seeing in April, it’s still not enough to keep UK expat and foreign national investors from looking elsewhere. For example, the average yield in cities across the rest of the UK is 6.2%. This figure is also the same for the average rental yield in areas outside of cities across the UK. So, London is falling far behind other areas of the UK and it’s forcing UK expat and foreign national investors to look elsewhere in the search for higher returns.
Where to Look for UK Expat and Foreign National Investors.
One area of interest, particularly when charting the behaviour of capital-based investors, is the North East. Here, landlords were responsible for almost a quarter of all purchases between January and July this year. ‘Both rental yields and capital growth in London are being far surpassed by Northern regions. And, increasingly, London’s investors are looking toward these areas for greater returns. For UK expats and foreign nationals looking to invest, taking note of this trend is important as it’s a strong indicator for where the best rental yields are going to be found. For example, in Middlesbrough and County Durham, London’s investors bought 28% and 25% of properties sold respectively in those areas in the last year. It’s clear to see why these areas have garnered such recent popularity with Middlesbrough and County Durham earning yields of 9.2% and 9.6% respectively.’
The North West continues to perform strongly when it comes to buy-to-let property investment. Though the average rental yield in the North West is currently lower than the North East – 7.8% compared to 9.1% – the North West is still a consistent favourite for UK expat and foreign national investors. ‘This may be to do with the incredible regional growth that we see in the North West’ muses Stuart Marshall. ‘In fact, the North West has the highest level of regional growth of anywhere in the UK. Regional growth in the last year has reached almost 12% in the North West, compared to the North East’s 9%. So, many UK expat and foreign national investors are favouring the North West because, in effect, you’re earning twice on your investment – once from the rental yield and once from the capital growth. As always, the best thing to do when looking to take out a UK expat buy-to-let mortgage is to talk to a specialist who can help to point you in the right direction and navigate some of the pitfalls.’
Liquid Expat Mortgages
Unit F2, Waterfold Business Park,
Bury BL9 7BR
Phone: +44 (0) 161 871 1216
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