The lopsided UK residential property market

A new look at old data suggests that buy-to-let has been the 'only game in town'" in the UK property market for the last 15 years. Tighter regulatory and fiscal policy threatens to disrupt that growth, with potentially significant consequences for the whole residential property market.

2001 was a long time ago. It was the year in which, Sven-Goran Eriksson became the English football manager; and Tony Blair won re-election to his second term as Prime Minister.

 

However, since that time the number of owner-occupied homes in the UK has increased by less than 150,000 (or just 1%). In stark contrast, the number of privately-rented homes (i.e. buy-to-let) has increased by 2.9 million (or a whopping 117% ... that is not a typo).

This highlights the polarisation in the housing market over the last fifteen years as price-to-income multiples have spiralled higher. The dream of home ownership has become a distant prospect for millions, whilst growing property portfolios have been a reality for a subset of the population.

 

Tighter fiscal and regulatory policy now threatens to change the market dynamics. The tax advantages of property investment have been curtailed...

It is too early to tell whether these changes are mere flies in the ointment or have fundamentally upset the apple-cart. However, we should not make the mistake of seeing buy-to-let as a sideshow in the UK residential property market. For the last decade and a half, it has been the only game in town.

 
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