COVID Rewrites UK housing rule book

In June the UK property market was buzzing with activity. This was odd just re-emerging from Covid. But would that housing market activity translate into sales?

We are learning the rulebook has been rewritten as the post-lockdown mini-property boom accelerates rather than slows down.

There is normally a seasonal slowdown in housing market activity over the Summer months, as both buyers and sellers turn their attention to Summer holidays. This usually translates into a softening of house prices of around 1.2%, an August fall, which has been the experience for the last 10 years.

UK Property - Surrey Cottage

But this year, there is an un-seasonal record high for new seller asking prices in seven regions, although London drags down the national average to a 0.2% fall due to its own more typical 2.0% seasonal monthly drop. Prices are more buoyant in places like Devon and Cornwall as people seek out-of-city dwellings and prices reach record levels.

Rightmove’s August house price index shows the highest number of sales agreed in a month since over ten years ago, up by 20% on the previous high, with a record total value of over £37 billion*.

There is the obvious pent-up demand filtering through and perhaps people reassessing their housing needs

Rishi Sunak’s SDLT holiday until the end of March ’21 has stimulated, not just home buyers but property investors and expats too, trying to pre-empt a 2% SDLT surcharge levy being introduced April ’21 for overseas buyers. Overseas buyers will pay the new 2% surcharge in addition to the existing 3% surcharge.

The lending market has been jumping around a lot as lenders try to find their ‘new normal’ with LTVs lowering and deals being pulled. The ‘shifting sands’ creates problems for investors not knowing whether they can rely on a lending facility they thought was there. This looks as though it might settle a bit but then the big challenge is how will lenders behave come October when the ‘Furlough’ scheme ends and more unemployment bites.

UK Regional property market

As ever there is a regional and segmented picture, not just one national one. In the East Midlands there has been a 3% rise in property investor inquiries since the SDLT holiday announcement. **

London seems to be suffering the most for landlord returns, this can be partly explained by the fact that rents have gone up considerably over the last few years and so there is a rebalancing but also current supply in London isn’t matched by demand, whereas cities like Bradford and Sheffield don’t have enough.

Interestingly rents have been rising with the average rent up 1.5 per cent at £965 from June**

Don’t work right to the SDLT deadline

The reality is that record levels of buyer activity lead to processing delays and mean that patience is required to get sales agreed to completion so investors might not want to work right up to the deadline of the SDLT holiday

Source: *RightMove August 2020 ** Zoopla July 2020

If you would like help finding the right buy-to-let properties for you then please get in contact.

My business focuses on helping time-strapped expats and busy business people who don’t have the local presence, or capacity, to acquire the targeted amount of properties for them. Property Venture® is an award-winning, Boutique property consultancy that finds the right investment properties for clients.

Compliant members of the PRS scheme and on the Advisory Board of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) the business has been vetted, approved and voluntarily commits to Industry Regulation and the Professional Code of Conduct. We are known for our quality customer service and non-pressurised approach to sales. This is what our clients say

Our clients get regular updates on hot deals and the latest changes in the property market. Want these? Go here

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Does Expat property Tax have to be taxing?

I have lots of property conversations with expats and there is always the thorny issue of what’s the best way to set up property investing tax-wise. So how to simplify a complex issue?

There are a few things worthy of consideration.

Should Investing be personal? Or via a Special Purpose Vehicle?

One of the challenging questions is how to set up your investing at the outset; buying personally or going down a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) route, which could be via a Limited Company (Ltd Co.) route or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) route.

Evidently everyone needs to have tailored advice for their personal situation, but are there any Rules-of-Thumb or principles that can be borne in mind?

Level of Borrowing

A key determinant is how you are going to finance the property purchase. If you plan to have a lot of borrowing, then it is worth giving serious consideration to buying via a SPV otherwise you could end up paying tax on ‘nominal’ income, given how the mortgage interest tax relief works for personal investments.

Prior to April 2017, landlords could deduct their entire mortgage interest costs as expenses against the rental income they earned. They would then pay tax at their personal tax rate on the remaining profits. Now though, mortgage costs are not treated as an expense, a 20% tax credit is used instead. This means higher-rate taxpayers are hit hardest and basic rate taxpayers could be drawn into the higher rate tax bracket unwittingly, by virtue of gross rental income being added to other forms of income.

Company structure

Limited Companies have a different tax structure, with Corporation Tax levied, currently at 19% for profits generated. And if you choose to take  dividends as a way of extracting profits from the company, dividend tax is applicable in addition (current rates), but you can time your dividend payouts for maximum tax-efficiency, or leave the profits rolling up within the company to buy the next property. A Ltd Company can help with IHT planning as well. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) still applies though.

So there is a constant tension and balancing between mortgage interest deduction, Stamp Duty Land Tax and the various other tax rates.

There are some accessible things you can do if married. You can apportion ownership between spouses – via a Declaration of Trust and assigning Beneficial Interest. Bear in mind you can’t just shift income between spouses, unless it is matched by a commensurate capital holding, or aligned with beneficial interest.

You can also do 90:10 split in a LLP vehicle.

Property Price point

The solution might be different whether you are buying at an accessible price point in the Midlands and up North, or at a higher SDLT tax band in London or the South east.

Non-resident investors used to be able to sell property free of Capital Gains Tax but that is no longer the case.

Number of properties

If someone is just starting out with 1 or 2 properties vs a portfolio landlord with 4-5+ properties, it is important to have a view at the outset of how many properties you intend invest in. It is harder and more expensive to switch from a personal investment to a Limited Company, but it is possible to hold properties in a mix of ways.

Nature of buying – trading or investing?

Are you a property trader or investor?

If you buy a property to make value-added improvements and sell on for a profit, you’re a developer or a trader. So you are likely to be better off buying as a limited company, given you have more flexibility for taking profits. As an individual you are more likely to have your gains taxed as income.

If you are a buy-to-let landlord you fall more into the investor camp. Traditionally investors have operated as personal investors, but some could benefit from using a limited company since the 2017 tax changes.

Personal vs Ltd Company mortgages

It’s important to consider the whole picture, not just tax. Lending is approached differently for a company vs personal secured borrowing so you need to also consider ability to borrow. Whilst there are more lenders who offer mortgages to Corporate bodies now, there is still more limited choice than for personal lending and what there is for Ltd Companies, usually comes at a premium to personal lending.

Top Tip – You need to take care unless you are holding – or plan to hold – a lot of properties – that you don’t end up spending more on the investment structure than you actually stand to make

Based on content from a Webinar interview by Louise Reynolds with Churchill Tax advisers

If you would like help finding the right properties or tax help then please get in contact.

My business focuses on helping time-strapped expats who don’t have the local presence, or capacity, to acquire the targeted amount of properties for them. Property Venture® is an award-winning, Boutique property consultancy that finds the right investment properties for clients.

Compliant members of the PRS scheme and on the Advisory Board of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) the business has been vetted, approved and voluntarily commits to Industry Regulation and the Professional Code of Conduct. We are known for our quality customer service and non-pressurised approach to sales. This is what our clients say

Our clients get regular updates on hot deals and the latest changes in the property market. Want these? Go here

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What next for property investors in UK and Europe?

Well we are all expecting that not much will change in the UK during the ‘Transition Period’ in 2020, or at least have been told as much.

Given the UK is outside the Schengen Zone – which provides for unchecked border crossings in a common-visa area – border checks for holiday-makers and business travelers have been the norm travelling to and from the UK during membership of the European Union. There is anecdotal evidence that some Continental European countries are tightening up border checks, where previously they may have been more relaxed. For example some border mountain passes between France and Italy have been reported to be tightening up on identity checks for ski instructors who have, until now, traveled back and forth freely on a daily basis.

Houses of Parliament: London UK Property market

Thinking beyond the ‘Transition Period’, the renewed gusto with which the UK government is brandishing the potential ‘Hard Brexit’ mantle has been unsettling and it is hard to unpick the political rhetoric and negotiation posturing from the reality.

For expat and entrepreneur UK property investors some of the things you will want to know are:

  • Am I still going to see my investment property perform?
  • How might mortgages be affected?
  • How will the economy and job creation fare?
  • How much red tape will be stripped away or created when investing for European-based expats?
  • How might my portfolio in UK and Continental Europe be affected?
  • What will be the changes, if any, travelling to and from the UK?

So just to focus on a few of these..

Am I still going to see my investment property perform?

Your property’s investment performance, whether a buy-to-let or HMO or Serviced Accommodation, that potentially serves an international tenant base, depends a lot on attracting the right type of tenants and minimising voids. Arguably many of the Europeans who intended to leave, may already have done so and the situation may not get that much worse. In 2018 it was estimated 3.35 million people with EU, EEA, or Swiss nationality were living in the UK. Of these 2.8m people had applied for Settled Status, about 80% of the total number. If the relationship between the UK and Europe worsens significantly this could be exacerbated in the short term. However the UK will remain an attractive place to be for non-European nationals.

Raising finance – mortgages how will they be affected?

The City and financial markets could be hit by the renewed talk of a ‘Hard Brexit’. The stance has been that the city wants to continue trading with the EU as now, meaning equivalence rules across fund management and investment banking. Divergence could have an impact on savings and pensions. There might be a sweet spot where some divergence could work and could be acceptable to EU regulators, which could make a difference to British savers and mortgage borrowers. There is now more talk of ‘outcomes-based equivalence’ meaning third-country regimes do not need to be identical but must have the same “outcomes” as EU rules to give access to its markets.

How this might affect mortgages at this point in time is difficult to assess, but affordability tests could be affected.

In the short term we might notice some subtle differences when travelling, but it might not be until the end of 2020 we get to see what is political-posturing versus economic reality.

As for the economy and red tape it might be too early to tell. However it does feel as though the UK is far more engaged since the December 2019 General Election in pro-actively shaping its future.

If you would like to discuss your situation or find out more then please get in contact.

I work with time-strapped expats and entrepreneurs who don’t have the capacity, local presence or gaps in their know-how to build property portfolios in the right way for them. (Or who are simply stuck with little progress). This means you can carry on your day-to-day lives without spending disproportionate time getting sucked into investing.

Our clients get regular updates on hot deals and the latest changes in the property market. Want these? Go here

Property Venture® is an award-winning, European investment property specialist and sits on the Advisory Board of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) the business has been vetted, approved and voluntarily commits to Industry Regulation and the Professional Code of Conduct. We are known for our quality customer service and non-pressurised approach to sales. Take a look at what our clients say

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Property Investor Brexit Strategies

During these times of prolonged uncertainty, businesses are spending money on contingency planning and in some instances stockpiling.

What about individual investors?

Some of them are stockpiling money and playing a wait-and-see game with investments.

Consequences of this investment strategy?

Well money can sit in banks, earning a low interest rate. Whilst inflation is currently contained at under 2%, many savings rates of return do not exceed this, or marginally so, particularly for higher rate tax payers.

But if you would like to shake off the early ‘hibernation’ and do something with some of your money, or dip your toe in the market then there are options out there.

Think about this

There are other investors out there who are making the most of this uncertainty and investing in keenly-priced stock. And for overseas investors or expats buying in the UK then the GBP Sterling exchange rate is very favourable currently.

And then there is the Property Cycle

Whether you are an advocate of the cyclical nature of property or not, there has tended to be a bounce back in prices after a period of sluggish house prices in some areas. Whether you think of it as a 10 year or 18 year cycle.

The Brexit-effect depends on the nature of your investments. Whilst we are in unchartered territory, as an investor it could be an optimum time to invest in new properties and spend time refurbishing or developing them. If an upturn is due you could be paving the way to profit once the next phase of the cycle hits.

Either way it makes sense to build in more exit options and greater levels of padding to your financial contingencies, so you are financially prepared to hold that property until the time is right.

An alternative way of investing

Some landlords and property investors are seeking ways of continuing their property businesses in a way that will give some reprieve from the landlord red tape and tax in the UK. It is a way of diversifying and getting exposure to a number of different investment categories; either different geographies, or different types of property, for example commercial vs residential property.

Alternative investing can include Crowdfunding or lending to developers.

So consider a developer who has end user ‘blue chip’ clients lined up, who knows what the end-user demand is before embarking on developments, one who works with big companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks. They also have Build-to-Rent as part of their offering, working with local authorities and sometimes pension funds, to build to demand. They have also bolstered their resources to navigate better the increasingly challenging planning approval process. And have a cross-functional board which evaluates rigorously development opportunities.  

Getting exposure to this type of developer, can be done in a measured way, in bite sized chunks. Some investments start at £5,000 or £10,000, some lower, particularly if part of an IFISA (Innovative Finance Isas), where entry levels can be £1,000. Investing via an IFISA, can be tax-efficient, when used as part of a personal Isa allowance, so returns can be tax free for UK residents.

What are the upsides of alternative investing?

The returns on offer can be inflation-busting and much higher than other forms of investing. They are not always correlated with economic returns, so helps spread risk during different economic cycles. They also usually offer defined timeframes (although there are no guarantees) so this can help with planning.

It is important to note that alternative investing provides an alternative way for entrepreneur investors to get exposure to all that property can offer, but none of these ways of investing are guaranteed. Capital is at risk and returns are projected, not guaranteed. This is why many of these types of investments, whilst being accessible tend to be only available to individuals with a certain asset base or income, or who aren’t investing too much of their money in any one of these investment types.

If you would like to discuss your situation or find out more then please get in contact.

I work with time-strapped Expats and Entrepreneurs who don’t have the time, local presence or have gaps in their know-how to build property portfolios in the right way for them. (Or who are simply stuck with little progress).

Our clients get regular updates on hot deals and the latest changes in the property market. Want these? Go here

Property Venture® is an award-winning, European investment property specialist and sits on the Advisory Board of the Association of International Property Professionals (AIPP) the business has been vetted, approved and voluntarily commits to Industry Regulation and the Professional Code of Conduct. We are known for our quality customer service and non-pressurised approach to sales. Take a look at what our clients say

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Pension power or pitfall? What role property?

This year has marked a new era in pension freedoms. Those 55 or over are meant to be able to freely access their pension pots (defined contribution, not final salary ones). This will empower some, or could create a whole new set of dangers. Why is that?

Continue reading Pension power or pitfall? What role property?

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