Two sets of figures seem to confirm what we were coming to know about the rental market. And yet some of the negative feedback surrounding the statistics is probably unjustified when we take a closer look.
On the one hand, we have been told that roughly one in five homes in the UK is now a buy-to-let and that a million more buy-to-let purchases may be completed in the next five years. Just days before that survey came out, a poll of tenants around the UK showed that one in five of them expect to never buy a place to live.
The two surveys’ findings are almost a mirror image of each other. Some people may cite them as an indicator of the problems caused by a shortage of house building and a spiralling property prices. But the issue is not so clear cut.
If we take the one in five homes being buy-to-lets, people see investing in property as a sound financial move. More homes being built may reduce the scarcity of housing but I don’t think it would reduce the appetite for buy-to-let: people are happy to invest their money in this way and, equally importantly, it seems people are happy to pay to live in rented accommodation. Let’s not also forget that many properties are privately let because the owners cannot sell due to negative equity. Renting them out suits both them and the tenants.
Which brings me to the findings in the second survey. Speaking as someone who works closely with both landlords and tenants, I can say that if one in five do not expect to ever purchase a property then this will, in many cases, be down to choice. We are moving, it would appear, towards a European model of living where renting is the norm. Traditional renting or buying stereotypes are being broken down: many of our landlords are buy-to-let investors but we also have tenants who have also invested in buy-to-let properties.
Rising house prices have made it harder for people to buy their first hom. I want to see property become more affordable for everyone. But I don’t believe affordability is the only factor. Many people who do not believe they will ever purchase a home tell us it is because of the flexibility renting offers. At Let-Leeds, we even have a number of happy tenants who have chosen to sell their homes and become lifelong renters.
They say they prefer renting because of the freedom and flexibility if offers. If they need to move they can relocate relatively simply. Their outgoings on accommodation are consistent as there is no mortgage rate going up or down and the landlord pays for unexpected expenses such as a broken boiler.
In an era in which a lot of us are leaving it later in life to settle down, renting has become a popular lifestyle choice for the reasons I have mentioned. It remains to be seen whether all of these “one in fives’’ do stay true to their belief that they will never buy a home. And if they never do, it may not be the worst case scenario some people would have us believe it to be.