Monday, 20 August 2018

‘Taxing’ Time for the 2,655 Ramsgate Buy To Let Landlords

Over the last twenty years, there has been a shift in the way the Ramsgate (and the UK’s) property market works. In the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, a large majority of twenty somethings saved up their 5% deposit, went without life’s luxuries of going out and holidays etc., for a couple of years and then bought their first home with their hard earned savings.

By 2000, 40.8% of Ramsgate 25 to 29 years owned their own home (compared to 46% Nationally (and 57% of Ramsgate 30 to 34 year olds in 2000 owned their own home – again compared to 64.2% nationally) whilst the remaining youngsters mostly rented from the Council and in some rare cases, privately rented.

Now it’s 2018, and those levels of homeownership have slipped dramatically and now only 21.8% of Ramsgate 25 to 29 year olds own their own home and 38.4% of Ramsgate 30 to 34 year olds own their own home (interestingly mirroring the National picture of 24.5% for the younger age cohort and 64.2% for the older 30 to 34 year cohort).


There was concern in Government since the late Noughties that this shift from homeownership to private renting wasn’t good for the well-being of the Country and things needed to change, to make it a more level playing field for first time buyers. House prices needed to be more realistic and there needed to be a carrot and stick for both landlords and first time buyers.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, interest rates were the weapon of choice of Government to cool or heat up the UK housing market – and it did work – up to a point. It’s just interest rates also affected so many other sectors of the UK economy (and not always a in good way). The policy of interest rates to control the economy is called ‘Monetary Policy’. Monetary policy is primarily concerned with the management of interest rates (and the supply of money) and is carried out by the Bank of England (under direction from the Government).

It’s just in this post Credit Crunch, Brexit environment, the use of higher interest rates wouldn’t directly affect landlords (as around two thirds of buy to let properties are bought without a mortgage). Therefore, an increase in interest rates would have hardly any effect on landlords and hit the first time buyers - the people the Government would be trying to help!

Also, given muted growth of real income (i.e. real income being the growth salaries after inflation) in the past few years, an uplift in interest rates (from their ultra-low 0.5% current levels) would have a massive effect on Brit’s household disposable income. Yet, over 90% of new mortgages in 2018 being taken are fixed rate and with such low rates, it has made buying a property comparatively attractive.

Instead, over the last 8 years, the Government has encouraged first time buyers and clipped the wings of landlords with another type of economic policy – Fiscal Policy (Fiscal Policy is the collective term for the taxing (and spending) actions of the Government).  First time buyers have had the Help to Buy Scheme, Stamp Duty Exemption and contributions to their deposit by HMRC. On the other side the coin, landlords have had the way they are able to offset the tax relief of their mortgage payments against income change (for the worse), an increase in Stamp Duty (for the worse) and they will be hit with additional costs as the Government will be phasing out fees to tenants in the next 12 to 18 months.

So, what does this all mean for the 2,655 Ramsgate landlords?

The days of making money in Ramsgate buy to let with your eyes closed are long gone. There are going to be testing times for Ramsgate landlords, yet there is still a defined opportunity for those Ramsgate landlords who are willing to do their homework and take guidance from specialists and experts.

It’s all about looking at your Ramsgate portfolio (or getting a property professional to do so) and ascertaining if your current portfolio, mortgage and gearing are designed to hit what you want from the investment (because that is what it is – an investment) in terms of income now and income in the future, capital growth and when you plan to dispose of your assets.

I have seen many Ramsgate landlords (both who use me and my competitors) to manage their rental property or find them tenants – and on many occasions recently, I have told them to SELL – yes sell some of their portfolio to either reduce mortgage debt or buy other types of property that match what they want in the short and long-term from their investments. I know that sounds strange – but my role isn’t just to collect the rent  .. it’s also to give strategic advice and opinion on the landlord’s portfolio to help them meet their current and future investment goals.

The opportunities will appear in the Ramsgate property market for Ramsgate landlords from gentler growth in property values linked with a restrained Ramsgate property market, meaning if you put in the time, there will be deals and great bargains to have. Many landlords in Ramsgate (both clients and non-clients) send me Rightmove links each week, asking my opinion on the suitability of the investment. Some are exceptional – whilst others are duds. The bottom line is, private renting will continue to outgrow first time buyers in the next 5 to 10 years and as we aren’t building enough homes in the UK, which means rents can only go in one direction – upwards!

Friday, 3 August 2018

What Will Happen to Margate Property Values Now That Interest Rates Have Risen?

The current average value of a property in Margate currently stands at £228,000 and the base rates are now at 0.75%. In many of my articles, I talk about what is happening to property values over the short term (i.e. the last 12 months or the last 5 years), but to answer this question we need to go back over 40 years, to 1975. 

The average value of a Margate property in 1975 was £11,038

However, since 1975, we have experienced in the UK, inflation of 807.5%.

Back in 1975, the average salary was £2,291 and average car was £1,840. A loaf of bread was 16p, milk was 28p a pint and a 2lb bag of sugar was 30p. Inflation has increased prices, so comparing like for like, we need to change these prices into today’s money. In real spending power terms, an average value of a Margate house in 1975, expressed in terms of today’s prices is £100,181. 

That means in real terms, property costs a lot more today, than in the mid 1970’s, but has it always been that way? Looking at the important dates of the UK property market, you can see from this table, the last two property boom years of 1989 and 2007, show that there was a significant uplift in the cost/value of property (when calculated in today’s prices).


Before we move on, hold onto the thought that you can quite clearly see from the table, in real terms, properties are cheaper today in Margate than they were in 2007!
So, it made me wonder if there was a link between house prices, inflation and other external economic factors, such as interest rates? Interest rates have a strong influence on inflation and property values, principally because changes in the interest rate affect the cost of mortgage payments for homeowners and they affect the flow of foreign currency in (or out) of an economy, thus changing the exchange rate and prices we can sell our goods and services abroad and prices we pay on imports.
So how exactly do interest rates affect property values?
When interest rates rise, it has a substantial effect on increasing the monthly cost of mortgages. Higher mortgage payments will discourage prospective homebuyers or people looking to move up market (meaning their mortgage payments go up) – thus making it comparatively cheaper to rent.
Furthermore, the high cost of mortgage payments sometimes also pushes some existing home owners to sell, meaning there is an increase in house sellers and a decline in house purchasers, and as the law of economics state, when supply is increased and demand falls, (house) prices fall. Another fallout of a rise in mortgage payments is a rise in repossessions. Interestingly, repossessions in the UK rose from 15,000 per annum in the late 1980’s to over 75,000 per annum in the early 1990’s, meaning even more properties came onto the market, exasperating the issue of over supply – pushing property values even lower. 


High interest rates caused property values to fall in mid 1970’s, early 1980’s and most recently, the early 1990’s (who can remember the 15% mortgage rate!) Conversely though, the drop in property values in 2008/2009 – was not due to interest rates, but due to the credit crunch and global recession.
So, what will happen if when interest rates rise?


It is vital to remember that interest rates are not the only factor affecting property values. Now that interest rates have increased (which they have from 0.5% to 0.75%), property values can also continue to rise (it happened throughout the mid to late 1980’s and again between the boom years of 2002 and 2007). When confidence in the economy is good, and we as a Country experience a period of rising real incomes (i.e. after inflation), then the British in the past have continued to buy bricks and mortar, notwithstanding the rise in interest rates.
Another important factor on property values is the supply of housing. A big reason in the current level of Margate house prices is due to the shortage of supply, which has kept property values higher than I would have expected. An additional factor is whether homeowners have a variable or fixed rate mortgage. 90.6% of new mortgages taken in the last Quarter were at a fixed rate, and 66.2% of all mortgaged homeowners are on fixed-rate mortgages, therefore, they will not notice the effects of higher interest rate payments until they re-mortgage in a few year’s time, meaning there is frequently a time-lag between higher interest rates and the effect on property values. Another factor on mortgages is the ability to get one in the first place. Back in 2014, mortgage providers were told to be stricter on their lending criteria when arranging mortgages following the footloose days of 125% loan to value mortgages with the Northern Rock. These new rules are a lot more rigorous on borrowers' ability to repay the payments (although it makes me laugh, when with starter homes it nearer is always cheaper to buy then rent!).
I think the final point is this … affordability is the key. Look at the graph (the red bars) and you will see in REAL HOUSE PRICE terms – it’s cheaper to buy a home today than it was in 2007, yet why aren’t we seeing people buying property at the levels we were seeing in the 2000’s before the credit crunch? Again, looking at the reasons why, I will talk about in future articles.
In conclusion, interest rates are important – but nowhere near as important on the Margate (and British) property market than they were 15 or 20 years ago.


So, before I go, one final thought - how do we measure the success of the Margate property market? Well I believe one measure that is a good bellwether is the number of property transactions, as that could show a more truthful picture of the health of the property market than property values. Maybe I should talk about that in an up and coming article?