The buy-to-let market has been hit by a double-whammy of changes recently. Firstly, the stamp duty surcharge that came in almost a year ago, and secondly, the forthcoming changes to tax relief on mortgage payments for buy-to-let properties, have both influenced the market.

However, recent research has revealed more landlords are turning away from mortgages and towards cash as their preferred method for buying new rental properties. This allows them to escape the problems that would come with the tax relief on mortgage interest.

Well over half of landlords now buying for cash

In January, 61% of landlords purchasing buy-to-let properties opted to use cash to fund those purchases. This is the highest percentage seen since records started to be kept in 2007. While this only covers a period of a decade, the changes seen in that time are significant.

When records began, 41% of landlords used cash to buy a property mortgage-free. This climbed to 58% in 2010, but has since fallen back to lower levels. Thus, reaching the high of 61% is notable, and may partly have been driven by the changes to tax relief.

Cheaper house prices further north trigger a higher percentage of cash purchases

The index, released by Countrywide, revealed cash purchases are more common in the north-west of England than anywhere else. Here, a full 70% of landlords bought for cash. This is likely to be indicative of cheaper house prices in the area. Conversely, only 42% of landlords in the London area could self-finance their purchases in the same period.

Meanwhile, other areas further north also had high outright purchase percentages. Yorkshire and the Humber saw 68% of rental purchases made for cash, while the figure only dropped marginally in the north-east, to 67%. The same applied in the south-west.

Wales saw 63% of rental properties bought this way, with the figure dropping to 60% in Scotland. London was significantly lower than the next-lowest figure – 10% lower than the east of England, where 52% of landlords managed to buy for cash.

Landlords looking for good deals on buy-to-let mortgages should stump up a big deposit

This will come as little surprise, but those who aren’t paying cash outright for their rental properties can get better deals the higher their deposit is. The past year has seen a significant drop in rates offered to landlords who can produce a 40% deposit. The average was 2.59% 12 months ago, whereas now it is 2.27%.

Meanwhile, other good deals focus on offering a tempting interest rate over a longer period – such as Barclays’ 10-year deal for 2.99% fixed. Whether anyone else will follow that trend is as-yet unknown.

So, landlords who have a significant pot of cash to dip into will fare better when searching for a suitable mortgage, or considering buying outright. It will be interesting to see whether the percentage of cash buyers continues to rise, or whether it has already peaked at the start of this year.

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