Most people were expecting the buy-to-let market to be hit by the increase in stamp duty on new purchases, and the changes in taxation for those who own buy-to-let properties. However, the reality was shown in stark contrast with previous months when the figures for lending in March were revealed.

March 2017 saw £900 million approved for buy-to-let loans, according to new data released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. This is a sharp contrast with the figure seen at the same time last year, when £4.4 billion was lent to landlords. This means there was a huge decrease of 79.5% between last March and this March.

One final rush to the door

The figures are no doubt slightly skewed by the fact many landlords rushed to get mortgages and complete purchases last March, before the new rules came into effect. But the huge drop in lending has shown that some landlords are leaving the market altogether.

“A drop of nearly 80% in lending was hardly imaginable a year ago,” said Darren Pescod, managing director of The Mortgage Broker Ltd. “But we can see the new tax rules and the hike in stamp duty have combined to make buy-to-let investing a no-no for many people. Some have done their figures and realised their profits have been all but wiped out, which may mean we see more properties being put up for sale soon, too.”

Although comparing year-on-year is inaccurate to an extent, because of the rush to buy before the new stamp duty rates came in last year, it does indicate how many landlords were desperate to buy at the old stamp duty rates. And of course, there has still been a drop in lending to this group – understandable given the changes we have seen in the market.

Far fewer buy-to-let loans issued, too

Another key element of the month was the drop in buy-to-let loans approved. Typically, over 10,000 loans a month were approved prior to the changes in stamp duty, but this dropped to 6,500 in March – a drop of around a third.

We also have figures relating to the year-on-year market, which indicated a large drop in the loans approved. Between March 2015 and 2016, 142,100 loans were approved for buy-to-let landlords. In contrast, the year from March 2016 (when the stamp duty surcharge came into force) to March this year saw 71,100 loans being approved for these properties.

It remains to be seen whether we will see a levelling-off at the new figures, or whether there will be a bounce-back at some point. Many people have abandoned the buy-to-let market completely, while others have trimmed down their portfolio or put the brakes on buying any further properties.

This does however mean there are fewer rental properties on the market for those looking to rent. Conversely, there may be more properties available for buyers to purchase, which was part of the reason why the changes were brought in to begin with.

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