While many people are feeling the pinch right now, including landlords, there’s some positive news for UK buy-to-let as properties continue to be snapped up by tenants.
The UK buy-to-let sector needs more homes to keep up with the racing demand of the country’s tenants, according to recent comments by Richard Rowntree, managing director for mortgages at Paragon Bank.
This comes on the back of Paragon Bank’s latest landlord survey which found the highest ever level – 67% – of respondents had experienced increased tenant demand during the first quarter of the year. It is up from the 65% recorded in 2022, another year marked by a high need for rental homes and the previous record high.
Just less than half (44%) of respondents described the increase in tenant interest as “significant”, in a sign that UK buy-to-let is more in demand than ever. It is also the highest figure recorded for this response from landlords, since records began in 2011 in the data compiled by BVA BDRC.
UK buy-to-let prices pushing up
As would be expected when the level of tenant need surpasses the supply available, the increased competition can push prices up and this has been happening for many months now, with rental costs now at record highs across much of the UK.
Of those surveyed, 85% of landlords said that rents were indeed on the rise in the area where they let property. More than half (52%) said they themselves would be putting rents up across their portfolios over the coming six months, with an average rent hike of 8.2%.
There is probably more to the rental price increase than just greater demand, though, as landlords are facing a tougher environment in many respects than before. Higher mortgage costs are affecting the buy-to-let sector, while repair and maintenance costs have also increased, and many landlords are passing these hikes onto tenants.
According to 73% of landlords, they were putting rents up to cover the higher running costs of their properties, while 60% were doing so to align with local market rents, and 49% were using a rent hike to cover the increasing costs of mortgage borrowing.
Where are homes most in demand?
Paragon’s survey narrows down the varying levels of demand on a broad regional basis across UK buy-to-let homes, but within these regions there will be huge variations again. For example, demand may be higher in cities than in some out of town areas, as well as varying by specific property type.
The poll found that, in the east of England, around 90% of landlords had experienced an increase in tenant demand. By contrast, only 73% of West Midlands landlords reported high levels of increased demand.
In the south west, 94% of respondents described the demand for their properties as strong or very strong, compared with 92% in Wales, 92% in the West Midlands and 91% in the south east.
While UK buy-to-let properties are certainly hugely sought after among tenants at the moment, which can have a positive impact on landlords due to the fact that it is easier to fill their homes, it means the landscape can be extremely challenging for tenants.
Richard Rowntree, managing director for Mortgages for Paragon Bank, said: “The fact that we’ve seen another high in the proportion of landlords who have told us that they’ve experienced an increase in tenant demand reinforces what I’ve said previously; put simply, we need more private rented sector homes, not less.
“An important element of this is a policy that strikes the right balance between driving up standards and providing tenants with protection while not acting as a barrier to investment.
“Failure to address this will further drive rental inflation and increase competition for rented homes at a time when affordable housing is as important as ever.”