Savills’ research suggests that buy-to-let profits have plunged to their lowest level since 2007, and their is a “very real risk” that landlords will leave the PRS in their droves as a consequence.
Investors’ average net profits fell below 4% on average in the first quarter of 2023, marking a dramatic shift in finances for mortgaged buy-to-let buyers, the company said.
Average net profits for landlords are now at their lowest since 2007, due to the impact of 12 successive increases to the Bank base rate, exacerbated by restricted tax relief, says Savills.
Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, commented: “Following a boom period for buy-to-let landlords, 2023 marks a turning point for Britain’s private rented sector. Between 2014 and 2021, landlords on average were making ‘year 1’ cash profits of 23% of rental income, but successive interest rate hikes have seen this figure plummet to under 4% this year.
“The incoming Renters Reform Bill, abolition of the Assured Shorthold Tenancy, and increasing EPC regulations, are expected to add to investors’ caution as landlords now face the prospect of having to invest to bring their properties up to a minimum EPC, further eating into profits
“There is a very real risk that landlords will exit the sector, particularly those with high levels of borrowing, putting increased pressure on a sector where demand significantly outweighs supply in many locations.”
Despite growing tenant demand, landlords’ ability to continue to make a margin will depend on debt exposure, according to Cook.
He continued: “Debt exposure of mortgaged buy-to-let landlords will play a critical role in the future shape of the private rented sector. Viability will be a real issue for smaller landlords with higher levels of debt who are coming to the end of their fixed rate, while larger, wealthier landlords are in a much better position to benefit from the rental growth seen in the period post pandemic.”
According to Savills research, three in four mortgaged buy-to-let properties have a Loan-to-Value (LTV) of less than 60%, while one in three have an LTV of less than 50%.
In Q1 2023, those with an LTV of 60% were able to generate an average profit of 10.2% and those with an LTV of 50% generated 16.5%. While landlords leveraged at 80% saw profits move into negative territory (-2.4%).
“Future investment is now likely to be dominated by cash buyers and those with low borrowing requirements. Even landlords with modest gearing are now more likely to enter the sector or expand existing portfolios in areas furthest from London, with a greater focus on smaller properties which offer bigger returns,” said Cook.
Added to this, many landlords who have been active since buy-to-let took off in the early 2000s are now nearing or in retirement, which risks limiting the future supply of rental stock..
Savills research reveals 1,911,000 properties are currently owned by 620,000 landlords aged over 65, with a further 1,982,000 properties owned by landlords aged between 55-64.
“While existing tenants will benefit from greater security, a combination of factors means there is a risk that new tenants will have less choice. With fewer properties available, stock is more likely to be let out to tenants who are better paid, and in more secure employment, inadvertently hitting less affluent households unless measures are taken to increase rental supply,” added Cook.