Buy-to-letwatch

With a property services index showing rents in England and Wales at a £757-a-month high in September, 2014 looks positive for the sector

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As we approach the end of 2013 it seems only right that we take a look back at what has been an incredible year for the buy-to-let sector.

The last 12 months have been some of the best yet for buy-to-let. Innovation has made a triumphant return to the sector and lending figures have surpassed all expectations.

The year began with rumours that Lloyds Banking Group planned to ramp up its buy-to-let offering as lenders realised the year could be a promising one.

And indeed the market turned a corner in the second quarter when Council of Mortgage Lender’s figures showed buy-to-let lending hit a massive £5.1bn.

In June the government’s call to make buy-to-let landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants received widespread criticism – although this failed to dampen the good spirits of the sector.

That same month BM Solutions became the latest lender to remove its minimum income criteria – a move that was warmly welcomed (especially since many, like me, fail to see the need for minimum income in the buy-to-let arena).

BM Solutions was also one of a number of lenders to announce it would be changing its criteria and lending to landlords with tenants claiming benefits.

There was good news for portfolio landlords in the summer when Accord announced it had increased the maximum amount of properties a landlord can have in his portfolio from 10 to 15, although only 10 are allowed to be mortgaged.

Accord’s announcement came after Santander Commercial launched its innovative portfolio product which allows 10 or more properties under one umbrella loan at a market leading rate and chose The Buy to Let Business Mortgage Club to be one of just two firms to pilot the product.

The government’s decision to bring forward the second phase of its Help to Buy scheme (announced in September) led to some scaremongering that buy-to-let could be negatively hit as a result. Those of us on the front line of course know this will not be the case.

In October the launch of the Castle Trust product showed just how far this market has come in terms of innovation and creativity. I’m sure there are few landlords who would have foreseen a year or two ago that they would be able to effectively lend at 85 per cent LTV.

And the year ended, quite fittingly, on a high as LSL Property Services’ latest Buy-to-let Index revealed average rents across England and Wales rose to £757 per month in September, 2.1 per cent higher than they were at the same time last year and £13 per month higher than the previous all-time record of £744 (October 2012).

It has been an exciting year for all those involved in buy-to-let and I for one can’t wait to see what 2014 holds.

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