Could Brexit uncertainty spell good news for private landlords?

Brexit Graphic
Brexit Graphic
Homlet CEO Martin Totty
HOMELET
Chief executive Martin Totty

HOMELET, the country’s leading tenant referencing and specialist insurance provider, holds the UK’s largest and most up-to-date pool of data on agreed rental price trends, based on newly agreed tenancies. Chief executive Martin Totty sets out his views on what Brexit – deal or no-deal – and the outcome of Today’s vote may mean for the private rental sector.

In times of uncertainty, people tend to defer major purchases, waiting for the uncertain times to pass, and there is nothing more ‘major’ than buying a property. In the case of Brexit – deal or no-deal – the period of uncertainty is not likely to pass for a considerable length of time, which could spell good news for private landlords as more people choose to rent than risk entering the property market.

What does this mean for House Price Growth?

Even with Brexit uncertainty, most commentators are predicting modest, single-digit house price growth in 2019. I expect that the upwards trend in rental values isn’t likely to change anytime soon, nor will the demand for private rental properties. A rise in interest rates from the current near all-time lows, coupled with high deposit levels, would make home ownership affordability even more of a challenge – especially for first-time buyers.

Our latest data shows the average rental cost as £921 (£763 when London is excluded from the UK model) in December 2018, a rise of £76 (1.5%) over the year. But this rate of growth still remains below the UK inflation rate, last reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) at 2.3%.

Without a large deposit, those entering the property ownership market could face longer-life mortgages, with many providers now extending their maximum term on mortgages to 40 years. Our data shows the average age of a tenant today is 32 years old – making it a real possibility that those same people may be dealing with a mortgage that matures post-retirement.

So, as people are aware that making what’s likely to be the biggest purchase of your life at just the wrong time in the cycle can be a huge risk, and they are unsure how mortgage rates, the UK economy and their own jobs will be affected by Brexit, many are choosing to wait until the dust settles.

Private Landlords Show Optimism

This means that private landlords still have something to be optimistic about, despite being buffeted by a perfect storm of increased taxation, more regulation and a more interventionist government, whose near-miss at the last general election demonstrated that younger people will vote if they believe a party will improve their lot.

Our most recent survey of 2,900 private landlords showed that nine out of ten landlords intend to either keep or expand their portfolio in the next year, despite one third also expressing their concerns of the potential implications of Brexit.

The immediate risk for landlords however, is the potential rise in unemployment levels, which could lead to tenants struggling to keep up with their rental payments. This risk and increased legislation in the market has increased demand for rental protection insurance products and services from letting agents that safeguard rental payments. 

A period of uncertainty supports a flight to safety – which is what we are currently seeing in the market. Maybe Brexit isn’t all bad for the UK’s private landlords – and maybe tenants are equally comfortable that the landlords are there, meaning that there is still the choice of rental properties at affordable rates whilst they wait out the uncertainty of the market.

For more information on HomeLet and the HomeLet Rental Index, please visit https://homelet.co.uk.

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