Earlier this year, The Office for National Statistics produced two separate pieces of research analysing the state of UK housing. A review of the ‘Housing Affordability in England and Wales’ and ‘The UK Private Rented Sector’ provides solid evidence of recent trends and an indication of where we are heading next.
The latest research indicated that, on average, full-time workers can expect to pay just under eight times their annual workplace-based earnings to purchase a home in England and Wales1. Last year affordability stayed at similar levels in 2018 but this follows five years of decline.
Looking at the regions, 77 local authorities became less affordable over the last five years. Unsurprisingly most of these were in London, the South East and the East of England. There were no local authorities in which affordability improved.
Copeland, in the North West of England, remained the most affordable local authority with average house prices being two-and-a-half times the average workplace-based annual earnings. Kensington and Chelsea remained the least affordable with average house prices being nearly forty-five times workplace-based average annual earnings.
I found it fascinating to see that new-build properties were estimated to be significantly less affordable than existing dwellings.
Private Rented Sector
We all know there has been an increase in the private rented sector but the analysis paints a detailed picture of where we are right now. The number of households in this sector in the UK has increased from 2.8 million in 2007 to 4.5 million in 2017, an increase of 1.7 million2.
Younger households are more likely to rent privately than older households. In 2017 those in the 25 to 34 years age group represented the largest group at 35%. However, households in the private rented sector have been getting older over the last ten years. The proportion of households with occupants aged 45 to 54 increased from 11% to 16%.
62% of households in the private rented sector in the UK had spent less than three years in the same accommodation and only a small proportion (4%) had been in the same residence for more than 20 years.
More people living alone
A report in The Guardian in April revealed that there has also been an increase in the number of people living alone. The number of those living on their own increased by 16% between 1997 and 2017, to 7.7 million and it is predicted that nearly 11 million people could be living alone in 20 years’ time. The new research found that the rise in single-person households was greater than the population increase of 13% and was concentrated in midlife and older age groups.
This increase in single living reveals the trends we can expect over the coming years in the mortgage market.
Houses of multiple occupation
Many landlords know that ‘homes of multiple occupation’ (HMOs) can make very good investments. HMOs have the potential to provide rental yields that cannot be achieved with standard buy-to-lets. Add this to the reduction in affordable houses and the increase in the rental market, and with more people now living alone it is easy to see why this area is bound to grow if these trends continue.
Saffron Building Society have launched their own range of HMO mortgages and we expect other providers to follow. It will pay mortgage brokers to know the requirements in detail as this can be a complicated area. HMOs offer many benefits but there is also more to think about.
The benefits of HMOs
The largest benefit of HMOs is that rental yields can be as much as three times higher4. There is less risk of ‘void periods’, which occur when the property is empty between rental periods. With multiple occupation this risk is spread across multiple tenants. This also applies to arrears; with multiple tenants, landlords are less exposed if one of them falls behind with the rent as there will be others still paying.
The drawbacks of HMOs
HMOs can be more complicated to manage. There is more legislation and there are more planning requirements than with more straightforward buy-to-lets. Some landlords find it harder to raise finance, but we have tried to simplify the process through a combination of our expertise and new product range.
Not every property can work as an HMO, so the number of suitable properties in an area might be limited compared to single lets. Capital growth can sometimes be lower, as when a property has been converted into an HMO the resale market consists almost exclusively of specialised landlords.
Finally, the up-front costs of an HMO start-up can be higher than traditional buy-to-lets, as the property often needs refurbishment to comply with additional environmental health and fire regulations.
The future of HMOs
We believe that HMOs are going to be a major growth area for the foreseeable future, and brokers will be able to benefit if they focus on this segment and are working with flexible lenders who can help.
1 Housing affordability in England and Wales , ONS
2 Housing affordability in England and Wales, ONS
3 Nearly one in seven Britons could live alone by 2039 , The Guardian
4 The Cases For And Against Investing In HMOs in 2019, , Property Investments UK