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Some say buy-to-let is dead – but my portfolio is built on strong foundations

It’s been a tough few years for buy-to-let property investors. The latest wave of cuts to tax relief on landlords’ mortgage interest were ushered in last month and reports have been rife that landlords are exiting the buy-to-let sector in their droves.

However, many believe the death of buy-to-let has been greatly exaggerated.

Analysis by research consultancy BDRC, which was carried out on our behalf, revealed profitability remains high, with 86 per cent of landlords surveyed saying they were making money, while the average yield remained stable at 5.9 per cent.

“We have seen a raft of changes over the past few years but, what is obvious is that there’s a continuing demand for buy-to-let investors looking to make gains in the long-term,” said Marc Goldberg, our commercial chief executive. “It’s an exciting time for the market as it evolves and we are seeing landlords, particularly those with larger portfolios, adapt to the changes.

“However, some buy-to-let landlords are finding they can no longer finance their property portfolios with mainstream lenders when it comes to remortgaging, because of some banks’ stricter underwriting rules, and they are looking to specialist lenders, who have more knowledge and expertise of this niche section of the mortgage market.”

Scottish landlord Victor Singh, 53, has built up a portfolio of nearly 60 properties, which he started by snapping up cheaper properties at auction, before renovating them and letting them to tenants within weeks.

The savvy landlord followed his entrepreneurial father who moved from India in the 60s, selling goods out of a suitcase before successfully turning his hand to property, buying up buy-to-let homes and factories in Glasgow.

Mr Singh initially joined the family business working for his father but decided to go it alone 20 years ago, and employs his own daughter Brooke, who manages the lettings side from the company’s newly-opened offices in the centre of Dumfries.

Mr Singh said: “I started off having just enough money to get the ball rolling on my own and it just grew from there. It would be a four-week turnaround, no matter what the state of the property, and we worked like that day and night for 12 years.”

Like thousands of other landlords up and down the UK, he has raised money through remortgaging his current portfolio, using the cash to buy up more residential houses and flats and commercial property, as well as land.

In the past, he’d always secured funding through high street lenders to buy properties around Dumfries and Carlisle, Cumbria. However, more stringent underwriting rules have meant bank finance has been harder to come by in recent years.

Mr Singh said: “It is obviously harder to obtain finance now, and that’s one of the key issues for people starting up as professional landlords.

“We had a good bit of business with the mainstream lenders over the years but they lost their appetite for lending after the crash of 2008 and, since then, funding just dried up.”

After being unable to release £2.7million through a remortgage to invest in more properties, Mr Singh started doing his own research online, and contacted us. We looked closely at his previous experience as a landlord. Our regional development director for Scotland, Steve Clark, visited Mr Singh’s new offices and agreed to refinance the portfolio.

Mr Singh said: “Everything ran very smoothly and Together were able to provide the funds I needed to refinance the business. Now we are looking to grow in the future.”

Experts have predicted that a more professional buy-to-let sector will involve fewer “dinner party” landlords – who maybe own a single property – quitting the market, leaving portfolio investors able to capitalise on buying properties sold off by individuals.

Mr Singh said: “There are a lot of hurdles and it is not going to be as easy as it has in the past but I’m keeping open minded about the future. There will be more properties coming onto the market and more options available for professional portfolio landlords.”