Auction PropertyBuy to Let & Letting

Is There Any Such Thing As An EASY Buy To Let?


That’s the question I found myself asking last week.

It was prompted after the other half read my column for the Estates Gazette – he accused me of becoming a neg head on buy to let.

“Really?” I pondered to myself.  I’ve always considered myself a realist.

But you know, it prompted an interesting thought process and made me realise that life as a landlord since I’ve sold the letting agency is a lot, lot harder.  Now rental voids are much longer, rents are lower and the tenants are of a poorer quality.  All round the experience of running a property portfolio without your own letting agency is pretty damn hard work.  And I wouldn’t mind – but all I want is an agent to find me tenants.

Back in my agency days, portfolio landlords who wanted “Tenant Find Only” were cash cows – it was the on-going management and maintenance which used to take up all the time.  But now?  I don’t know if times have changed.  The properties I own which used to fly out the door, sit for weeks with no tenant interest.  Or maybe that is no agency interest.

And all of this has been playing on my mind lately – especially where some of the further afield properties are concerned, because short of hopping in the car and driving a 300 mile round trip, my hands are tied to using an agent.

So what to do?

I decided I wanted to take back control – but I didn’t want to start another letting agency.  10 years experience under my belt means I am well aware of Return on Effort (ROE) – a little talked about variable which every property investor should know about – right up there with ROI, and the difference between net and gross yields.

So I said to myself: “Is there any such thing as an easy buy to let?”

And when I stopped laughing maniacally at myself for asking such a dumb-ass question, I changed it around a bit.  I asked myself the following:  Knowing what you know now – what buy to let would you buy? 

Of course, my instant response was a pad in prime central London where overnight I could become an instant millionaire, but due to lacking several million in the bank to start with, that’s not an option which is open to me.

So I started thinking again.

And I found myself getting really excited about the prospect of aiming, from the outset, for an easy buy to let.  I mean, that’s never been my goal before, but I couldn’t help but wonder – was such a thing feasible?

The more I thought about it, the more excited I got.

“What If?” I said to myself.

So I started jotting down some key criteria for my new “easy” buy to let property, it looked like this:

  • London/South East
  • Within one hour travelling time of my home
  • Well connected to transportation routes (road and rail)
    • Train station to be within 10 minute walk of property
      • Less than 30 minute rail journey time to central London
    • Major roads to be within 10 minute drive of property
  • Property to be within 10 minute walking distance to amenities (shops, restaurants, schools etc.) 
  • Plenty of white collar (c.£20k per year) employment opportunities both locally and within commuting distance
  • In an area which feels safe (according to my personal standards)
  • Freehold
  • 3 bed house – family appeal with HMO/ sharer potential
  • Attractive to professional/working people
  • Moderate 5-6% rental yield (enough to at least cover costs and bring in a small surplus income every month)
  • An investment to hold for at least 5 years – with a view to owning for 10 years+
  • Good potential for long term capital growth and area improvement
  • Preferably not more than £250k purchase price
  • Minimum rental £1,000 per month

As luck would have it, I had just recently been reviewing the auction catalogues and circling properties of interest.  Armed with the criteria list above, I could now filter these results better.

I crossed off every single property from the list.  Except one.

So I went to view it.

The location ticked all the boxes and once inside the property, which I have to confess is a dump, I knew it fitted The List:  I was standing inside my potential “easy” buy to let.

And maybe it was the thrill of the challenge I had set myself, or maybe it was the belief in my wish-list – but I had to have the property.  I had to know for real: Is there any such thing as an EASY buy to let?  

I had to run an experiment.

And I believe it was meant to be.  Because for the first time in my decade long career of auction buying, I have finally managed to buy a property prior to auction.  I like to think it’s the culmination of all my Property Rules coming to the fore, but I know there’s also a dash of luck involved.

So the experiment has started; Friday I exchanged on my potential “easy” buy to let.  And I hope you’ll join me on this buy to let challenge – because if you’re a property investor too – I bet you’re also wondering: Is there really any such thing as an easy buy to let?

Sign up today for my blog updates and see how the easy buy to let experiment unfolds!

And if you’ve ever tried this challenge yourself – do share your tips and experiences with me – I’d love to hear more!

  1. sambo2104

    hey sam, im sam 🙂 just discovered your blog, some great reads! i am just wondering…. i bought a 125k property in cheltenham, which i am renting out at around 700 a month… i work out the rental yield to be in the region of 7%… is this a good figure/ no idea what a good figure is… (also, i now live in australia, and bought a buy to let from australia!!)

    1. Sam

      Hi, thanks for your comments. Yes your flat gives you a gross rental yield of 6.72%. To get a more accurate understanding you need to factor in all the additional costs to get you to a net rental figure – that means including your ground rent, service charge payments etc. You also need to allow for voids and maintenance as these eat away at the bottom line. These calculations do not include capital growth – although this is more difficult to calculate. Great you now own the freehold and yes this should add value – how much all depends on your local area. Freehold flats can be difficult to finance and so it is usual that you still create a lease for your flat and have a separate management company. Have you done that? Interesting you now have a BTL in Oz how is that going? What are the rental laws like there? How is the market?

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