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Buy-to-letwatch – Ying Tan – June 2012

In his most recent article David Whittaker, managing director at Mortgages for Business and my fellow columnist on Buy-to-letwatch, reported that May was an exceptionally good month for his company.

This was despite Q1 2012 lending figures being lower than the same quarter the year before.

So are we seeing the first signs of the buy-to-let market running out of steam?

Like Whittaker, I agree that one quarter of downward data is not enough to predict that buy-to-let lending is levelling out.

Despite June being one of the wettest in living memory, it did not dampen the spirits of landlords and property investors. We have experienced an extremely buoyant start to June.

And like Whittaker, at my firm we have received a new high for hits to our website and a record number of leads.

These opportunities are being converted into written business as we look to hit our monthly target with a week to spare.

So, what to make of these contrasting bits of data?

The economic fundamentals of buy-to-let are still strong. Rental demand remains buoyant. First-time buyers still struggle with the lack of interest-only mortgages and are choosing to rent.

Meanwhile, the need of young professionals for flexibility and rapid response to changing circumstances means renting remains the obvious option.

Continuing demand from these two areas will ensure that rental yields stay attractive.

The volatile stock market, the challenges in Europe, and the low returns generated from cash deposits are driving investors to look for enhanced returns in bricks and mortar.

Unlike other vehicles, property offers a unique opportunity to take control of an investment and add value to it.

A recent survey by The Mortgage Works shows that the number of professionals who believe they will buy more properties this year has increased to 58%, up from 48% last year.

Many astute landlords have been saving the increased cash flow from historic low bank base rate tracker mortgages to accumulate deposits for further property investment.

Does this mean buy-to-let is returning to the dizzy heights of pre-credit crunch?

No, and not for some time. But any doom and gloom around the buy-to-let market is premature.

What we are seeing now is a more sustainable level of business with a pronounced upward trend.

The big news on the product front in the past few weeks is the return to 85% LTV for buy-to-let mortgages.

Kent Reliance is the only lender in the market to offer such a high LTV, with a rate of 5.49% and a 2.5% arrangement fee.

Previous offers of 85% products have been closer to 6%, making the rental cover only workable on high yielding properties such as student lets or houses in multiple occupancy.

This product opens the door a little to more vanilla properties.

If service levels at Kent Reliance can match its desire for increased business, it will be an innovative buy-to-let lender to watch out for.

BM Solutions has refreshed its product range to cater for larger loans with flat arrangement fees, and Godiva has withdrawn a number of its products to reduce volume to ensure its good service is maintained.

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