The UK’s largest private landlord has sold almost half of his entire portfolio of around 900 residential properties, according to the Financial Times.
Fergus Wilson, widely considered to be one of the most controversial landlords, and his wife Judith have reduced the number of their properties from 900 to around 500, after declaring the era of successful amateur buy-to-let investors to be nearing its end.
Wilson, 68, announced his intention to sell his entire £250m portfolio, centred in and around Kent, at the end of last year, saying he was sorry to be giving up on his properties but “common sense must prevail”, mainly because he was “getting no younger”.
The property tycoon said that he was still waiting for a number of exchanges to complete, but hopes to emerge with a gross profit of around £200m after repaying the £45m or so owed to mortgage lenders.
Wilson, who controversially increased rents across his residential property portfolio by up to 33% last year following the tax relief changes announced by the former chancellor George Osborne, recently said that he believed buy-to-let landlords would become richer as a result of the UK’s vote to the leave the EU, as tighter immigration policies are likely to lead to better quality tenants.
But he appears to think the age of the amateur landlord is now “over” as lending criteria had become tougher.
“If you were an amateur landlord in those days, as long as you could spell your name, you would get a mortgage,” he said. “No one appeared to check anything. I wouldn’t say it is impossible but it is much tougher. Some [banks] are offering loan-to-value of only 60%.
“Is it the wrong time to be an amateur landlord? Yes. Some people will succeed but on the whole, too many amateurs walk into pitfalls … The day of the amateur landlord is over.”
However, despite the various challenges landlords face, Wilson still believes that the indications are that bricks and mortar will remain a safe long-term investment for the 2million or so private landlords in Britain, supported not just by increasing rental values but also higher property prices, fuelled by a supply-demand imbalance in the market.
He added: “All the time there is a shortage of houses, the prices will continue to go up. It is impossible for the developers to deliver the number of houses required for next 15 years.”