The Current Buy to Let Mortgage Market

The buy-to-let mortgage industry has gone from nothing in 1997 to an industry that in the first 6 months of this year saw loans being taken out of £21.2 billion. The stock of buy-to-let loans taken out is now £108 billion equating to 10% of all mortgage balances.

The good news for landlords is that the UK buy-to-let mortgage market is probably the most competitive and innovative in the world resulting in around about a thousand different buy-to-let mortgage products on the market at any one time.

The numbers have however been cut back recently as buy-to-let lenders have responded to the credit crunch by reigning in the more risky buy-to-let mortgage products. The other bad news for buy-to-let borrowers is that buy-to-let lenders have also repriced the risk premium within the costs of these buy-to-let loans. This means that the margin banks & buy-to-let lenders charge over the Bank of England base rate has risen by between 0.25%-0.5% as well as individual buy-to-let lenders tightening their lending criteria. At the same time the product fees charged by most buy-to-let lenders have also risen.

The bad news is largely a function of the good news. This is that the huge choice of products means that there is also the potential for landlords to get confused. Not only are there nearly a hundred providers of buy-to-let mortgages but there is also a large range of different type of buy-to-let mortgage products. The main ones are:

* Fixed rate – the interest rate charged is fixed for given period or up to a given date

* Discount – the rate of interest charged is reduced during an initial period then reverts to buy-to-let lenders standard variable rate

* Tracker – these buy-to-let mortgages track one of the recognised key mortgage rates such as Bank of England base rate or LIBOR (London Inter Bank Offer Rate)

Which type of buy-to-let mortgage product should I choose?
The type of buy-to-let mortgage product that is suitable for you as a landlord will very much depend on a landlord’s personal financial circumstances and also a landlord’s attitude to risk.

Landlords who are concerned that if interest rates should rise, that their buy-to-let payments may become unaffordable may want to consider a fixed rate buy-to-let mortgage product. This type of buy-to-let mortgage will give a landlord the certainty of a definite mortgage payment each month during the period of the fixed term regardless of what happens to interest rates.

A landlord who may be presented with a short term problem; perhaps where a variable buy-to-let mortgage payments will be greater than a landlords rental income may want to consider a discounted buy-to-let mortgage product. In this way a landlord can make lower than normal buy-to-let mortgage repayments whilst their rental income rises and / or the general interest rate drops. However, a landlord needs to be cautious about this approach. This is because if interest rates rise further or a landlord overlooks the fact that their rate and therefore their cashflow is only on a temporary footing the ending of the discount rate would cause them even more financial hardship.

A variable rate or tracker is often the safest and cheapest over the term of the buy-to-let mortgage as the landlord frequently avoids paying an ‘insurance’ premium to the buy-to-let mortgage provider by not taking out a buy-to-let mortgage product that insulates landlords against an unexpected interest rate change or that gives them a preferential repayment rate.

Things for landlords to look out for

Landlords seeking a buy-to-let mortgage product should always look out for the APR attached to any buy-to-let product. An APR or Annual Percentage Rate is the true cost of the loan worked out for the entire term of the loan. This annualised rate reflects the true rate of interest any landlord & buy-to-let borrower will have to pay on a landlords loan advance over the entire term of the buy-to-let mortgage. This figure will therefore take into account any fees or charges incurred in setting up the loan as well as the rate of the loan once any initial discount or special term have ended.

Where should landlords go to find out about buy to let mortgages?

There are a number of routes for landlords to use to find out about buy-to-let mortgages and find a buy-to-let mortgage product suitable for a landlord’s needs. The first one is for a landlord to approach their bank directly to see if they provide buy-to-let finance. The problems with this is that a landlords choice of mortgage product will be small and therefore a landlord is unlikely to be able to secure the most suitable buy-to-let mortgage for them.

The other is for a landlord to go on Google to see if it is possible to find a buy-to-let mortgage provider or product that suits them. This can be a bit of a ‘hit or miss’ affair. There are many mortgage companies that are on Google or advertise there. However, the lending criteria and restrictions that a buy-to-let mortgage provider puts on their product means that not all will be suitable for a landlord’s requirements. The other point is that a landlord will not get the biggest choice of buy-to-let mortgage products by just accessing one bank, building society or buy-to-let mortgage provider.

Whether landlords should use a to mortgage broker?

The other alternative is for a landlord is to source a loan through a buy-to-let mortgage broker. Brokers act on a landlord’s behalf to find the best deals in the market place. A buy-to-let mortgage broker does this by having access to most buy-to-let lending products through an online database. A buy-to-let mortgage broker should therefore pick up the best buy-to-let mortgage deals that match a landlord’s specific requirements. For this service a landlord should expect to pay a fee of between a £200-£500+, payable only if and when the buy-to-let mortgage is approved.

Landlords may ask, why use a buy-to-let mortgage broker at all when you can find so much of this information over the Internet for free? There are a couple of reasons. First of all, there is the matter of time. As long as a landlord is specific with their selection criteria; a good buy-to-let broker should be able to come up fairly quickly with a number of suitable buy-to-let mortgage products. This can save a landlord a considerable amount of work by not having to check through all the mortgage products, their interest rates, conditions and limitations. Secondly, where a landlord’s financial circumstances are straightforward it should be fairly easy for a landlord to find a suitable buy-to-let mortgage. However, when a landlord’s circumstances are more complex the time taken to source the right buy-to-let products can be considerable. In this situation buy-to-let mortgage brokers can easily earn their money by finding buy-to-let lenders that provides a buy-to-let mortgage product that fits a landlord’s very specific requirements.

Not all buy-to-let landlords are aware that by using a buy-to-let mortgage broker that they can access preferential buy-to-let mortgage rates and deals not available to all landlords. Therefore it’s always worth checking with a buy-to-let mortgage broker first to see what exclusive buy-to-let mortgage products they have access to, after all this will cost a landlord nothing.

Finally, the other benefit of using a buy-to-let mortgage broker is that they take care of most of the administration work involved in a buy-to-let mortgage application. Also many buy-to-let lenders look more favourably or less suspiciously on buy-to-let mortgage applications made through a buy-to-let broker or intermediary making it more likely that a landlord will have their buy-to-let mortgage application approved.