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UK landlords are failing to take running costs into account when measuring buy-to-let returns

UK landlords are failing to take running costs into account when measuring buy-to-let returns

UK landlords are at risk of overestimating the profitability of their buy-to-let (BTL) investment by neglecting to take into account key running costs, according to new research from Platinum Property Partners, the specialist buy-to-let business.

The total potential cost associated with the annual running and upkeep of a BTL property – including letting agent fees, maintenance, repairs, marketing fees and mortgage interest – amounts to an average of £8,359.

However, almost one in eight (12%) landlords do not take any costs into consideration when calculating the financial performance of their BTL portfolio, leaving them particularly vulnerable to misjudging the returns they will make from their investment.

The research also shows that for all costs, there is a gap between the proportion of property investors who incur the different types of costs, and those who include them in their portfolio measurement.

Three-quarters (75%) of UK landlords incurring the top 10 most common costs don’t account for them when calculating their portfolio’s financial performance– meaning the returns on their investment could be lower than they think.

Table 1: Top 10 most common costs incurred by landlords

Costs

% Landlords who incur costs

% Landlords who incurred costs and did not  take them into account when measuring financial performance

Average annual cost per property

Repair costs

90%

52%

£376

Letting agent fees to manage property

77%

63%

£438

Refurbishment and decoration costs

77%

73%

£392

Letting agent fees to find tenants

76%

66%

£230

Regular exterior maintenance costs e.g. gardening, window cleaning

72%

80%

£259

Maintenance fees

67%

81%

£506

Regular interior cleaning costs

66%

85%

£206

Service charges

66%

83%

£500

Mortgage interest

66%

80%

£1,343

Advertising or marketing fees to let property

65%

87%

£177

All other costs

£3,933

TOTAL

£8,359

Source: Platinum Property Partners research, February 2015*

Landlords may be overestimating BTL returns by up to 50%

Based on a typical portfolio of two rental properties, the total bill associated with running a BTL portfolio could stack up to £16,718 every year, which in turn equals 52% of gross annual rental income (£32,388).

The most accurate way to measure the performance of a BTL investment is by using ‘Return on Investment’ or ‘Return on Equity’, as these methods take into account gross profit, capital gain, and the costs of running the property – including the amount spent on refurbishment.

Majority of landlords ignore the impact of void periods on their rental income

In addition to these regular maintenance and day-to-day upkeep costs, encountering void periods is often an inevitability for landlords at some stage.

In any one year, up to 60% of landlords face void periods, however, only 12% of these take this into account when assessing the ongoing health of their property portfolio. This means a staggering 88% aren’t acknowledging the impact this has on their rental income.

By including estimates of void periods in their financial measurements, landlords will have a better picture of the potential net returns they will get from their investment.

Steve Bolton, Founder and Chairman of Platinum Property Partners (PPP) comments:  “The buy-to-let market is a hot ticket investment at the moment for budding landlords looking to generate an income and good level of capital growth from rental property. This is particularly the case now that new pension freedoms have opened the gates to alternative financial plans for retirement.

“But becoming a landlord isn’t a walk in the park, and running a successful BTL portfolio takes continued investments of time and money on top of your initial lump sum investment. Many landlords appear to be burying their heads in the sands and are seriously in the dark about the ‘true’ value of the returns from their BTL investment if they don’t take into consideration regular outgoings such as letting agent fees, repairs, redecoration costs, and mortgage interest. Property investors need to keep note of all these additional expenses to make sure they are evaluating their returns rigorously, as that’s the only safeguard to check if they’re still on course to achieve their goal of retirement income or to supplement or replace their salary.

“If landlords don’t have all the information at their fingertips, they can’t properly assess market risk and opportunities to make informed decisions about the future of their portfolio, or plan effectively. It also makes it extremely difficult to compare the performance of a BTL portfolio against other forms of investment.”

View our most recent report “£300 billion of buy-to-let investment goes unmeasured as landlords fail to assess portfolio performance effectively”

*The results are based on the responses of over 200 landlords surveyed in February 2015.

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