A deluge of taxes and an uncertain market has seen a number of landlords abandon the buy-to-let industry in recent years.
Some reports suggest that landlords have in more recent times been offloading close to 4,000 properties a month, and as a result reducing the supply of much-needed housing stock.
But growing confidence among property buyers has translated into an upturn in activity in the housing market, including the buy-to-let sector, illustrated by the latest mortgage lending figures.
Buy-to-let mortgage lending ended 2019 on a positive note, the latest UK Finance Mortgage Lending Trends Statistics show.
There were 5,700 buy-to-let mortgages for new property purchases completed in December 2019, up 3.6% compared with the corresponding month in 2018.
There was also an increase in remortgages in the buy-to-let sector, with 13,300 remortgages recorded, up 2.3% year-on-year.
Shaun Church, director at Private Finance, commented: “After a period of continuous decline, the buy-to-let market is finally starting to show signs that it is regaining strength, with buy-to-let purchase activity up 3.6% year on year.
“News of a strengthening buy-to-let market should be welcomed by landlords and renters alike. An increase in buy-to-let purchase activity will mean a greater supply of rental housing stock, generating more choice and more competitive prices to be enjoyed by renters up and down the UK.”
He added: “With the Budget around the corner, the government might be tempted to tweak buy-to-let regulation further. However, with the buy-to-let market now more professionalised and starting to show glimmers of growth, we strongly urge the Government to focus on redressing other areas of the market which are in need of attention, primarily the challenges facing last-time buyers and second-steppers.”
Damian Thompson, group managing director – retail finance at Aldermore, also welcomed the uptick in buy-to-let market activity.
He said: “It is encouraging that 2019 finished with the strongest quarter of the year for buy-to-let volumes, but the sector remains in a ‘new normal’ since the regulatory change, with a continued split between muted house purchase activity and more buoyant remortgaging.
“Landlords have become more diversified in their needs, with many moving away from a growth strategy focusing more on portfolio management, and the sector is gradually adjusting to the shift towards professionalisation.
“Whatever a landlord’s future intentions, the increase in regulatory measures and more complicated mortgage applications means specialist lenders are now more vital to the market.”