Robert Sinclair: Double trouble for the buy-to-let market

Robert Sinclair 2012 700x450

The Government has turned decisively against the private landlord in favour of the first-time buyer.

While the various purchase assistance schemes that speckled the last government, culminating in two flavours of Help to Buy, provided welcome support to get people on the housing ladder, it has clearly not been enough. Indeed, it seems a long-term trend away from owning a property with a mortgage may have spooked the tacticians in Tory central office.

The recent tax changes by adding all private buy-to-let receipts to income and reducing any deductible costs to the basic rate of tax is a significant adjustment to the immediate returns a small landlord can make.

The decision to double this up with the recently proposed stamp duty hike underlines a real change in focus. The income tax changes had already started a debate about whether landlords needed to move to limited company structures. The move to impact landlords with less than 15 properties with a 3 per cent surcharge on purchase gives the first-time buyer a real edge.

With the Financial Policy Committee mood music set upon controls on loan-to-value or loan-to income on buy-to-let lending products, we are seeing a clear need for more up-front capital from the smaller landlord.

The move to remove residential property from being the investment asset class of choice for many looms large. It is clear there is a desire to move individual pension investments back to more traditional products.

The full impact on the buy-to-let market is yet to be seen, as is the potential for a fall in house prices as a result.

Robert Sinclair is chief executive of AMI