By Alessandro Pasetti, 16 August 2018
As the Inveztments team continues to look at ways to help landlords monetise their properties in order to boost rental income streams, there remains plenty of risk for traditional landlords who choose the monthly cash while adding little value to their tenants – and at the same time the number of people who believe the property market is out of control is growing by the day.
So, what has been said in the marketplace, especially given that the BBC writes that giving tenants “greater support so they can hold their landlords to account is being considered as part of government proposals on social housing in England”?
“The tide is turning, and voters are ready for sanity to return to the housing market,” The Telegraph reported earlier this month.
Elsewhere, in a story published by The Guardian last week, one author argued that “UK rents do not have to rocket”, noting that every element “of this (housing) system is set up to screw the average renter” – the British housing system “is the product of political choices that have lined the pockets of landlords at the expense of everyone else”.
The article highlights the growing support for a renters’ union, while adding that “Britain’s landlords already collectivise: they have a body called the National Landlords Association (NLA), which proudly announces on its website that part of its work is lobbying the government”.
Obviously, the NLA talks of rent control as being the greatest enemy of the private rental sector, although, as The Guardian author reported, “part of the reason your rent is so expensive is because the NLA has been lobbying the government so that it doesn’t adopt policies that might make it cheaper”.
Poor landlords: what else should they do?
To start with, lobbying need not be a bad word. It is part of any viable business where politics and economics are so intertwined.
Moreover, the opinion piece ran by The Guardian completely overlooks the fact that demand – of which there’s plenty in the UK and London, and where INVEZ has a few irons in the fire – clearly outpaces supply for house purchases and rents. Equally, social housing is a good idea in theory but needs careful consideration (“A history of social housing” is worth a read if you are not familiar with the topic).
In an interview with Forbes earlier this year, social housing expert John Boughton, took a detailed look at the issue and concluded it is one of the biggest threat to landlords’ pricing power, given how seriously it could affect demand/supply dynamics.
The author of Municipal Dreams – defined by The Guardian as “an important and timely book, in the wake of Grenfell Tower, which emphasises how public investment enriches lives” – said that the housing crisis, particularly in the overheated markets of London and the South-East, consists of two elements, which we have extensively covered on this platform: “the lack of new homes being built to house a growing number of UK households”; and “the expense (whether for purchase or rent) of the homes we do have”.
While there’s no real sign of a housing bubble, let alone a crisis, anywhere in London, the housing trade has become tougher, and about 250,000 new homes nationally need to be built annually to meet demand.
“Historically, that figure has only been met when council housing (as it then was) formed a vital part of the mix – at around 100,000 homes a year,” Mr Boughton noted.
While the bears suggest all sorts of problems for landlords, recent reports still point to values spiking “across St John’s Wood and Regent’s Park as overseas families increasingly opt for luxury developments over five-star hotels for their summer sojourns.”
But should landlords fear a social housing resurgence?
Forbes has a point when it says that the creation of social or council housing interacted positively with economic growth, but I dispute the idea that its absence could harm the conditions for social and economic dynamism in the UK.
“The National Housing Federation, which represents the country’s social housing providers, estimates that every new social home built generates an additional £108,000 to the economy and creates 2.3 jobs. In a post-Brexit world, this is money and employment directly benefiting the domestic economy,” Mr Boughton concluded.
Estimates are often misleading and could be debated – and then, how about unintended consequences?
One caveat, I reckon, is how Britain, and London in particular, wants to be perceived by the rest of world in the wake of the Brexit deal. Would the capital benefit from heavy investment in social housing? I simply don’t know, but there are obvious risks for landlords if investment in social housing becomes heavier, and it is hard to quantify the real benefits for the local economies.
Either way, what is apparent is that landlords, particularly in London, remain in the driving seat.
According Knight Frank’s latest data, annual rental value growth was 1.1% in June, and this was the second successive month of growth following a 28-month run of declines.
(Source: Knight Frank)
The numbers I quoted in my latest post, which do not include social housing data, already pictured solid trends and a healthy outlook, so UK rents might actually be set to rocket.
The Guardian wrote in early 2014 that housing had “become the defining economic issue of our times“, and while from a social perspective the British newspaper raises some valid questions, look at the chart below (and enjoy it if you have skin in the housing game):
(Source: Trading Economics)
Then, look at this week’s headlines from the macroeconomic front.
Finally, regardless of what the British press writes daily, there remain relatively cheap places to rent in London…
… as well as very expensive opportunities, which are shown in the table below, for wealthy tenants.
Bad landlords exist, but even if the bears are right, the bad times could be just a nuisance – that is surely the case if the right remedies are applied with the help of the Inveztments team.
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(This post was written by Alessandro Pasetti. Ale is the founder of Hedging Beta Ltd. He writes about investment strategy and assets valuation for European clients as well as Seeking Alpha, The Loadstar, Transport Intelligence and others. Based in London, he previously worked for about five years at Dow Jones/The Wall Street Journal, producing analysis for the IB community. Prior to that, he contributed to the launch of London-based Loan Radar, where he worked for three years. He had stints in equity research at Bear Stearns in London, HVB in Munich, and Unicredit in Milan.
It was edited by Gavin van Marle, managing editor of London-based The Loadstar. Gavin is also the author of the book Around the World in Freighty Ways: Adventures in Globalisation. He has won numerous awards, including the Seahorse Journalist of the Year 2011 and 2009, and Supply Chain Journalist of the Year 2010 and 2014.)