Bridging loan brokers are handling more buy-to-let business than at the start of the year as landlords expand their portfolios but increasingly find they cannot raise money – either at all, or quickly enough – from the high street.
Specialist bridging lender West One Loans says that 98% of brokers are now writing more BTL business than six months ago. When the company did the same survey in February, 73% of brokers said they were writing more BTL business than in the previous six months.
However, slightly fewer brokers think this is a good time for landlords to expand their portfolios than at the beginning of the year.
In February, when West One Loans last surveyed brokers on their confidence in the buy-to-let market, 83% said they thought it was a good time for investors to expand their portfolios. Six months later, that proportion has fallen to 81%.
At the same time, the number of brokers who are unsure of the market has doubled, from 5% in February to 10% in August.
Duncan Kreeger, chairman of West One Loans, said: “While there has been a fall in the number of brokers who are certain investors should expand their portfolios, the change is small – and 81% of brokers are still confident it’s a good time to invest in the sector. Furthermore, the number of brokers who think it’s definitely not a good time to pile into the market has fallen to less than one in ten.
“Landlords and brokers have different opinions of the market. While fewer brokers think it is a good time to invest in buy-to-let, high demand from landlords suggests they feel otherwise.
“Despite a slight cooling of broker sentiment towards buy-to-let as an investment for the future, thanks to the current demand from landlords, buy-to-let bridging is flourishing.
“Bridging is still not being affected by increasingly problematic conditions in the wider residential market. In fact, it’s thriving off the back of them.”
The growth in BTL business is reflected in brokers’ customer profiles, with 38% of bridging customers now landlords, up from 37% six months ago.
The increase has been driven by demand from professional, rather than amateur landlords, with professional landlords now representing 25.4% of brokers’ bridging customers compared to 23.3% in February.
Kreeger said: “I am pleased to say that the growth in buy-to-let business seems to be steady, rather than explosive at the moment. We aren’t seeing a massive increase in the number of brokers saying buy-to-let is booming – this is a moderate, sustained rate of growth. The long-term macro-economic picture appears to back that up.
“Given the current housing shortage, buy-to-let should represent a sound investment for the future.
“But professional landlords are finding it difficult to get access to finance from high street lenders. Even when they can, it’s painfully slow.
“Over the last six months, they have woken up to the fact that bridging loans provide a rapid solution to their problem. And as property investors embrace bridging, brokers are seeing the benefits.”