Buy to Let Investments- A beginners guide

It seems in yachting that a true measure of one’s success is not whether you have made the rank of Captain or worked as Chief Engineer, but rather the number of houses you own. Depending on the area that you choose to buy in and the term you wish to keep your money invested for, property is the safe option. It may not necessarily provide the greatest return but generally your money is safe and maybe this is why it's the favoured one.

In the wake of George Osbourne’s shock tax change to Buy to Let income, unveiled in the summer Budget on July 8, many landlords are now looking to sell off their portfolios. This presents a unique opportunity to yacht crew who are tax exempt under the non-resident landlord scheme and the Seafarers Earning Deduction. This scheme is available to those who spend less than 183 days in the UK each tax year and means that any rental income derived is tax exempt. In the following article I will carefully present a strategy for acquiring buy to let property.

Market:

It is important before making any investment that you have a clear understanding of the market. Investing in a buy to let as opposed to a fund requires significant amounts of personal capital and potentially a mortgage. On a rising market there are significant gains to be made by leveraging above your mortgage debt, but when prices fall your deposit will suffer but the mortgage will remain the same.

Investing in property has worked very well for many people, both in terms of income and capital gains. However it is essential that one does not lose their head, acknowledging the potential risks and gains.

Location:

Location is key to ensuring that your investment benefits from capital gain. It is important to carefully study if there are any changes that will affect the area that you are investing in, both positively and negatively. In this day and age where we have information so readily available there is no reason why you should not carefully research the area that you are looking to invest in.

Individuals who chose to invest in property in Stratford ahead of London securing the Olympics would have reaped enormous benefits from this decision. Another key consideration is if there are any planned improvements or investment in new infrastructure in the location that you are looking to invest in. If there is a new high speed rail link planned for example this would make areas previously outside the commuter belt suddenly accessible to young professionals.

Rate of Return:

It is important before you commit to purchasing a property that you sit down and calculate the return you will receive. Buy to Let mortgages typically command a higher Loan to Value (LTV) and also come with higher arrangement fees. It is also essential that you factor in maintenance costs as these can often be overlooked at the outset. Below is an example of how to calculate the return on your investment:

Property:

It is worth considering properties that require improvements to be made to them before they can be let out. This is a good way to achieve quick capital gains and will provide you with a greater safety margin on your investment. However if the property requires a lot of work you will find that you will have a void period on your rent until the renovations are finished. This will also mean that not only will you be paying for renovations but you will be servicing a mortgage at the same time.

Negotiating:

Do not be afraid to negotiate- Estate Agents expect this and so in many cases houses are valued slightly higher to factor this in. It is always worth getting a property surveyed as this report will provide you with a means to negotiate and potentially reduce the cost further ahead of completion.

Lender:

The mortgage market has changed significantly since the crash but providing that you consult with the right bank or mortgage adviser it is still possible to obtain one. There are still a lot of Buy to Let lenders out there most notably of which are Skipton BS, BM Solutions, Natwest, Woolwich & Accord.

It is essential that you seek advice before accepting a mortgage offer, fortunately comparison sites certainly make the task of choosing the right lender a lot easier nowadays. You must also look closely at any forthcoming economic changes such as an increase of the base rate before picking a fixed or tracker rate as gains can be made if you choose correctly. It is essential though that you have a Decision in Principle in place before you make an offer on a property and even then the offer can still be audited before you are able to draw down the funds.

It is very difficult nowadays for those who to choose to remain non resident to qualify for Buy to Let mortgages especially as Lloyds International have now closed down their mortgage section. However it is easy to become resident again if the correct advice is sought.

Tax:

If you are careful about the way that you structure your tax affairs you can certainly shelter yourself from a lot of the costs. Landlords have the option of renting furnished, which has significant tax breaks, or unfurnished. However tenants who tend to let longer term prefer unfurnished properties as they already have their own furniture.

It is also advisable as a seafarer to complete a Non Resident Landlord form so that tax is not taken at source and you receive the full amount each month.

The majority of lenders nowadays request evidence of the successful submission of at least three tax returns. They request this in the form of an SA302 letter and a Tax Overview. These forms are available from HMRC to those who have submitted annual tax returns.

Tenants & Agents:

The success of any buy to let investment can be determined by the tenants you attract and the agent you appoint. If you buy in a commuter town and renovate your property to a high standard you will certainly increase the chance of attracting professionals which by their very nature tend to pay their rent on time and look after the property.

It is important to always try to ensure that your property is let as void periods equate to losses. If you appoint the correct agent you should be given the option of a rent protection policy which will help to cover these losses. Agency fees are typically between 8 & 10% but it is worth checking this before you appoint an agent.

In our opinion now is a brilliant time to invest in property in the UK. George Osbourne’s new tax changes will change the face of Buy to Let investments forever. The budget did not include any changes to non resident landlords or the Seafarers Earnings Deduction so individuals who qualify for these tax exemptions are in the unique position of being able to capitalise on these changes. Be advised though that with any investment comes risk so it is worth seeking professional advice before proceeding.

Any tax advice in this publication is not intended or written by Marine Accounts to be used by a client or entity for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party matters herein.

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