Buy-to-Let Mortgage Guide

Buy-to-let is one of the most popular ways to invest, and there are an estimated 2.7 million landlords in the UK. Most people who purchase a property with the intention of letting it out do so with a buy-to-let mortgage. In this guide, we’re covering everything you need to know about getting a mortgage for your buy-to-let, including how they differ from residential options, the types available, criteria, tax implications and much more. Plus, we’ll cover the key parts of finding and letting a buy-to-let property. 

How do buy-to-let mortgages work?

Buy-to-let mortgages are similar to residential options, just with a few differences. Their primary reason for existing is so you can borrow a portion of the money required to buy a property and then let it to a tenant via the rental market. 

A buy-to-let mortgage usually requires a higher deposit than a residential mortgage, and the interest rates associated with the loan also tend to be higher. Most buy-to-let mortgages are borrowed on an interest-only basis, meaning you pay back the interest but not the capital (more on that later). The fees are usually more expensive than a conventional mortgage. 

Most buy-to-let mortgages have a term of 25 years, though it can be longer or shorter depending on your requirements. Within that length, there is a fixed or tracker term, which usually lasts for two, five or even 10 years. We’ll cover the differences between fixed and tracker mortgages in a bit. 

It’s worth noting that buy-to-let mortgages aren’t typically regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) unless you’re renting the property to a family member or you plan to live there yourself. Essentially, you should get a buy-to-let mortgage if you want to purchase a property and rent it out to tenants, earning passive income from the monthly rental while benefiting from the property’s value increasing over the long term. 

What is an AIP?

Before you can begin the buy-to-let mortgage application, you will need to get an AIP. It stands for “agreement in principle” and is also known as a “mortgage in principle” and “decision in principle”. Lenders use different acronyms, but they all do the same thing. 

What does an AIP do? 

An AIP indicates the amount you can borrow for the mortgage and if you meet the standard eligibility requirements set by the lender. Anyone who borrows a mortgage – whether buy-to-let or residential – will need an AIP before starting the application process. 

How can I get an AIP?

There are two ways to get an AIP: from the lender or a broker. You will need to answer a few basic questions, such as whether or not you’re a UK resident, your annual income and whether you already own any buy-to-let properties. An AIP usually takes a few minutes, and most of them can be done online or via the phone if you’re using a broker. 

It’s important to remember that an AIP only provides an indication of how much you can borrow. It lets lenders know that you are more likely to pass their lending requirements, but it’s not a guarantee of the loan. For example, if your AIP says you can borrow up to £250,000, you won’t know the actual figure until going through the mortgage application process. The amount could change once an extensive application is completed.

Will it affect my credit score?

Your credit score is unaffected by an AIP, as it’s just an estimation of how much you can borrow. There’s no commitment involved, and the lender doesn’t need to examine all of your details, including a credit score, to give you an estimation.

Some lenders may perform a soft search, but again, this doesn’t affect your rating. If you decide to apply for a buy-to-let mortgage after receiving an AIP, the lender will then perform a credit check during the process. That’s why it’s important to only apply for one mortgage at once, as too many applications will harm your score.

How reliable is an AIP?

Again, while an AIP doesn’t provide a definitive answer to how much you can borrow, it does offer a reliable estimation. Of course, the answer depends on your honesty when providing the details required. Because there’s no credit check or any other rigorous checking from the lender, they can only go by the information you’ve provided. 

What happens after an AIP? 

Getting an AIP is the first part of borrowing a mortgage to fund your buy-to-let property. However, there’s no obligation to complete a full application after receiving an AIP. Some people get an AIP because they’re curious about how much they can borrow but don’t get a mortgage right after the decision. 

Others get several AIPs with different lenders, as lending requirements vary, and they want to see their options. Regardless of your reason for getting an AIP, doing so gives you more insight into how much you can borrow and is a necessary precursor to beginning the buy-to-let mortgage application process. 

Are there any alternatives?

Whether it’s the lender or broker, most buy–to–let mortgage websites have an online calculator. This is a stripped-down version of an AIP that gives you an idea of how much you might be able to borrow. You don’t need to submit anything to the lender or broker, and you can enter specific details about the property, such as its value, your deposit and the expected rental income.

What else do AIPs help with?

Once you get an AIP, the lender will send you a digital certificate via email stating that you’re eligible for a specific amount. You can then use the certificate with estate agents and homeowners to prove you’re a serious buyer. In many circumstances, the estate agent wants to see proof of an AIP before setting up a property viewing. 

Fixed-rate or variable mortgage?

There are many different deals available for buy-to-let mortgages, but they all roughly fall into two categories: fixed-rate and variable. But which one should you choose? Essentially, it comes down to what you want from your mortgage. Below, we’ve got the lowdown on fixed-rate and variable mortgages. 

Fixed-rate

In the current mortgage market, fixed-rate options tend to be the most popular. They offer a special short-term rate lower than the lender’s standard mortgage rate, which is fixed for a period of time, usually two or five years, though some 10-year options are available. 

Regardless of what happens with interest rates in the market, your fixed-rate mortgage will be locked to the length of the deal. So if you have a mortgage with interest rates of 1.5% but the lender raises them to 2% during your term, your rate remains at 1.5%. However, this works both ways as if the interest rates go down, you won’t benefit from this drop.

Once your term is over, you will be moved onto the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR). This is usually considerably higher than the fixed rate. That’s why most people remortgage when their initial fixed rate is about to expire, as they look to remain on a lower, competitive rate.

Pros and cons of fixed-rate mortgages 

Pros

Cons

A fixed-rate mortgage gives you certainty for the length of its initial term

If interest rates fall, you’ll still be stuck on the agreed fixed rate

Your payments remain the same throughout the fix, no matter what happens with interest rates in the mortgage market

There are usually high penalties involved if you wish to leave your fixed-rate early

You know the exact amount you’ll pay, meaning you can budget accordingly

Variable

Also known as a tracker, a variable mortgage moves up and down according to the lender’s real-time rates. Those rates tend to change in line with the economy, so rates may go either up or down if there are any significant movements. 

When there’s growth and inflation, interest rates usually go up to discourage people from spending. In downturns, the interest rate is often subject to a cut to encourage spending. 

The Bank of England (BOE) sets the base rate, and lenders add their own rates on top. Currently, the BOE base rate is 0.25%, up from 0.1%. Even with the rise, these historically low-interest levels have led to fewer people getting variable mortgages.

To make matters more complicated, the variable rate tends to follow three categories: trackers, standard variable rate (SVR) and discounts. 

  • Tracker. This typically tracks the Bank of England or Libor. When these rates go up, so does your tracker mortgage. And when they go down, your payments decrease
  • SVR. Set by the lender, SVRs are usually a couple of points above the base rate. Lenders can change this rate as they please, though it still tends to follow the BOE base rate
  • Discounts. Like fixed-rate, these deals tend to offer a discount on the lender’s SVR. However, unlike fixed-rate mortgages, they aren’t locked in for the initial term. 

It’s worth keeping an eye on variable mortgages. With forecasts predicting increases in interest rates over the next few years, variable mortgage options could become popular again with buy-to-let investors. 

Repayment or interest-only?

If you’re buying a home to live in, there’s no real need to get an interest-only mortgage. With a repayment mortgage, you pay off the interest and the amount owed each month until the house is paid in full. And it shouldn’t be any different with a buy-to-let property, right? That’s where things get a little bit more complicated. Allow us to explain… 

What is an interest-only mortgage?

An interest-only mortgage means you only pay off the interest on the loan. You still owe the initial amount borrowed at the end of the term. So if you borrowed £200,000, you’d still owe that amount when the mortgage finishes. In most cases, an interest-only mortgage isn’t a good investment strategy. For buy-to-let, however, it’s the most popular option. 

Why is buy-to-let usually interest-only?

Only paying the interest significantly reduces your monthly mortgage payments compared to a repayment option. If your interest is 1.5% on £200,000 borrowed, you only pay 1.5% of the mortgage, which is about £3,000 over 12 months (or £250 per month).

And if the monthly rental income for your property is, let’s say, £1,200 per month, you have £950 left after paying the mortgage. Essentially, this increases your short-term profits and allows you to earn more money through rental income. As a result, landlords tend to opt for interest-only mortgages to enjoy passive income and keep mortgage payments lower. 

But what about paying for the mortgage?

Buy-to-let is a form of investing. As well as earning passive income through the monthly rental, the goal is to see your property’s value increase over the long term. Therefore, if you bought a place for £350,000 with a £200,000 mortgage and its value increases to £500,000 within 15 years, your margins would increase. You go from having £150,000 worth of capital to £300,000. 

If you decide to sell the property, you pay the £200,000 back in full and make a profit of £150,000 after the initial deposit, minus capital gains tax (more on that shortly). As most mortgages are at least 25 years, there’s no real pressure to pay back the mortgage, as long as you can prove that you’ll have the means to pay it back in full at the end of the term (usually through the sale of the property). 

You can also extend your mortgage term when you remortgage, which, again, removes the pressure of having to pay the mortgage off in full. There’s an element of risk involved, but that’s the case for all types of investing. Unlike stocks and bonds and the markets, buy-to-let is generally safer because house prices usually always increase in value in the long term. 

Can I get a buy-to-let on a repayment mortgage?

There’s nothing to stop you from getting a buy-to-let on a repayment mortgage, but your monthly payments will be higher. As a result, your profit margins from the rental income will be lower. For example, that same mortgage of £200,000 on a 1.5% interest-only charging £250 per month would cost you £800 per month. It’s important to remember that interest rates tend to be higher on buy-to-let mortgages, so you can also expect higher monthly payments on a repayment mortgage. 

Buy-to-let mortgage interest rates

Lenders add their interest rates on top of the BOE base rate. Currently, the buy-to-let mortgage market is particularly competitive – especially as rates are still at a historic low even with the marginal rise towards the end of 2021. 

Interest-only mortgages become even more important when you factor in the higher interest for buy-to-let. Even so, it’s still necessary to search the market for a good deal and the most competitive interest rates. 

How do I find the best interest rates?

There are three ways to search for the best interest rates. These include looking at the lender’s rates directly, using a search comparison website and instructing a broker to find the best deals on your behalf. 

Direct with the lender

Lenders will display rates on their website, so you can see them directly. This is helpful if you know which lender you want to get a mortgage with. If, however, you’re like most people and don’t know which lender to use, finding and searching through each lender’s website can be time-consuming. 

Search comparison website

Using a search comparison website is one of the best ways to check interest rates. It works the same as if you’re using a website to check broadband or electric deals. You enter the property’s value, the amount of deposit and how much you need for a mortgage. There’s also an option to display interest-only results. Once you’ve entered the relevant criteria, the search engine will come back with all of the available results so you can easily compare lenders. 

Broker

Many buy-to-let investors use a broker because it saves time. A broker will take your details and requirements and then search the market for the best results. It’s not too dissimilar to a search comparison website, only the service is more personal, and brokers often have access to interest rates and lenders not on the high street or comparison websites. Some brokers charge a fee for their service if you get a mortgage with them, while others are entirely free

How do I keep interest rates down? 

It’s important to find the best mortgage deal with favourable interest rates, but you can also take action to lower the rates associated with a mortgage. For example, the higher your deposit amount, the lower the interest rate. While many lenders ask for a minimum deposit of 15%, it’s worth going higher if you can, as you will be eligible for better interest rates and lower monthly repayments. 

What else should I know about interest rates?

Lenders will want you to pass the ICR. This determines if your monthly rental property can cover a certain percentage of the mortgage payments. The figure varies between lenders, but most ask for rental payments to cover 125% of the mortgage repayments. 

For example, if you borrow £250,000 with a 1.5% interest rate, your rental income will need to be around £395 per month, which is just over 125% of the mortgage interest repayment. 

Who can get a buy-to-let mortgage?

Anyone can get a buy-to-let mortgage as long as they meet the criteria and plan on letting the property to tenants. Before you apply for a mortgage, the lender will ask a series of questions to determine your suitability and ensure you meet the necessary criteria. Requirements vary depending on the lender, though some aspects are universal to the process. 

Buy-to-let lending criteria

  • Already own your home with or without a mortgage (although there are some exceptions where you don’t need to be a homeowner)
  • Aren’t bankrupt or have had CCJs
  • Have good credit
  • Earn £25,000 or more per year
  • Are within the lender’s age limit (usually between 21 and 80)
  • Have a minimum deposit of 15% (although many lenders ask for 25%)
  • Own fewer than four buy-to-let properties (if you have more, you will need a portfolio mortgage)
  • Have a UK address
  • The property’s projected rental income should be 125% of the mortgage repayments.

The right type of buy-to-let

Lenders will typically ask more specific questions about the type of buy-to-let you want, e.g. will you use it for long-term lets, short-term holiday lets, HMO etcetera. They will also ask if you’re going to purchase it as an individual or a limited company. Your answers will determine the type of buy-to-let mortgage you’re eligible for.

What about buying as a limited company? 

There are many different types of buy-to-lets, such as individual, HMO and SPV. The latter involves buying a property as a company rather than an individual. To do this, you will need to set up a limited company known as a Special Purchase Vehicle (SPV). For more info on SPVs, jump to our “different types of buy-to-lets section”.  

What if I’m a portfolio landlord?

A portfolio landlord is classed as someone who has four or more properties. It’s at this point that you’ll need to get a unique buy-to-let mortgage based on all of your properties. The lender will assess the existing portfolio to ensure the overall loan to value (LTV) and the interest coverage ratio (ICR) is sustainable. It’s possible to bring all your properties into one portfolio mortgage, so you only have one lender and make one monthly payment. 

How much can I borrow?

It’s hard to achieve your buy-to-let dreams if you don’t have the right finances in place. Therefore, you need to know how much you can borrow and the deposit amount necessary before embarking on your buy-to-let journey.  

The maximum amount you can borrow essentially depends on the predicted rental income of the property. Lenders usually ask for rental income between 20 to 30% higher than your mortgage payment. If you’re unsure about the property’s projected rent, you can ask a local agent or look on property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla. 

For example, if you want to borrow £250,000 at 1.5% on an interest-only costing you about £250, and the lender asks for a rental income of at least 30%, the property needs to achieve at least £325 per month in rental income. 

Once you have the rental figure – even if it’s only an estimate – you can enter the details into a mortgage calculator, which should give you a better idea of the amount you can borrow.

What about the deposit? 

You will need a deposit if you’re purchasing a property with a buy-to-let mortgage. This is the amount you pay for with your own money, and deposits for buy-to-let mortgages are usually considerably higher than residential ones. 

You will need to meet the lender’s loan-to-value (LTV) requirements. The LTV is how much the lender will provide compared to the amount you pay from your pocket. LTVs vary between lenders, with some asking for 85% (you pay a 15% deposit, and they lend you 85% of the property’s value). Others only offer 65% LTV. However, the most common figure is 75%, meaning you pay 25% of the property’s value, and the lender covers the remaining 75%. 

How does that look in real life? If you’re buying a property for £300,000 with a 25% deposit, you would need to pay £75,000 of your own money, and the lender would cover the remaining amount of £225,000. 

Credit score

Your credit score will also play a role in the amount you can borrow, as well as the interest rates you’ll be charged. Generally speaking, the higher your credit score, the lower the interest rates. When you go through the full application, the lender will perform a hard search on your credit report to determine if you are eligible. A hard search is a check on your report visible to other lenders. 

If you want to improve your credit, consider the following: 

  • Joining the electoral roll
  • Ensure you don’t miss credit payments
  • Don’t have any CCJs or bankruptcy
  • Don’t apply for credit just before applying for a mortgage
  • Don’t use too much of the credit
  • Don’t falsify information on your application

Personal circumstances

When getting a buy-to-let mortgage, lenders don’t consider personal income the primary factor. That’s because the calculations are largely based on the projected rental income of the property, although lenders will still consider your personal circumstances to some extent. 

Most lenders expect you to have your own income through employment or self-employment. The range for what you earn varies from lender to lender, but you can expect requirements to sit somewhere between £20,000 and £25,000. If you’re self-employed, you will need to provide at least two previous tax returns. 

What do I need for the appointment

Once you have all the details needed and have done the calculations, it’s time to arrange an appointment. This will either be direct with the lender or with a broker, who will gather all your information and look for the best mortgage options. Once the broker has found a suitable mortgage, you will need to provide them with the same details that you would give the lender. The only difference is that the broker then passes these onto the lender and acts as an intermediary. 

What do I need for a mortgage appointment?

  • At least three months’ bank statements
  • At least three months’ wage slips
  • At least two years’ tax returns if you are self-employed
  • Details of existing mortgages/loans/credit cards
  • Details of arrears, county court judgments or defaults (if applicable)
  • Details of existing life insurance, endowment, savings, pensions or healthcare policies
  • Proof of ID, either a passport, driving licence or other legal documents
  • Proof of address
  • P60 (if available).

It may also be worth having a copy of your credit report to hand – or, at the very least, you should know your credit score in advance of the appointment. 

What happens during the appointment?

The appointment will either take place in person or via a phone call. If it’s in person, you will need to bring the relevant documents with you. If, however, it’s via phone, the lender or broker will ask you to upload them to their online portal. 

During the appointment, the lender or broker will assess the following:

  • How much you want to borrow
  • Deposit size
  • Your credit history
  • Your employment status and income
  • Outgoings and existing debt
  • Your age
  • If you have any dependents.

All of the above is taken into consideration to get a better idea about how much you may be able to borrow. 

How long does a mortgage appointment take?

Again, the length varies depending on the questions asked and the lender’s requirements. But you should aim to keep around an hour free, just in case it takes a little on the longer side. It’s not something that you want to rush, and the lender or broker will ask lots of questions about your circumstances, such as income and expenditure. Most mortgage appointments tend to last for about 45 minutes. 

What are typical buy-to-let restrictions? 

Ever since the financial crash in 2008, buy-to-let lenders have tightened their purse strings. As a result, borrowers need to meet all of the lender’s requirements, which sometimes seem pretty strict. 

Some lenders have watertight requirements they need you to meet before lending. Although we’ve already covered some of the lending criteria, the more specific requirements lenders may ask for are below. 

Owning your home

Many lenders require you to own a property before purchasing a buy-to-let – preferably one you live in as your home. They will see you as less of a risk if you’re currently paying for a mortgage you can comfortably afford. There are some exceptions, however. You might not need to live in your own home if you already have another buy-to-let property. In this scenario, some lenders will see you as an experienced landlord and feel more comfortable giving you a mortgage even if you don’t own the home you live in. 

You can’t live in the property

Lenders won’t give you a buy-to-let mortgage if you plan on living in the property. If that’s your primary aim, you will need to get a residential mortgage. This is because the projected rental income is the driving factor in the lender giving you a mortgage. If there’s no rental income because you live in the property, they will see you as high risk. However, if you currently live in a property with a residential mortgage and wish to rent it out, the lender may give you special permission to do so. 

Can’t let to family

Buy-to-let lenders typically won’t give you a mortgage if you plan on renting it out to a family member. This is because you’re likely to treat loved ones differently from non-related tenants, such as charging them rent below the market rate. Essentially, it becomes less about the business side of letting and more about helping out a family member. 

More than four properties

You’re considered a portfolio landlord when you have more than four properties. You also won’t be able to get a conventional buy-to-let mortgage as an individual and will need to borrow based on all of your assets combined. 

New homes

Most lenders are happy to give you a mortgage for a new home, but they may have some restrictions in place. For example, you will likely need a higher deposit, as the majority of lenders offer lower LTVs on their mortgage products for brand new properties. In most cases, you will need a deposit of 35%, with the lender covering the remaining 65%. New homes are usually classed as two years old or less since construction. Some lenders don’t offer any type of buy-to-let mortgages on new homes. 

Buy-to-let fees

Buy-to-let mortgages tend to come with fees. These are separate from the monthly payments and are often required before the mortgage begins, although sometimes they come into effect at the end of the mortgage. It’s important to account for these fees as they make up a mortgage’s “true cost”. The true cost is the amount you pay, including mortgage fees, lender arrangements fees and essentially anything you’re charged on top of the loan amount.

Fees can range from the cost of the product to a charge for arranging the mortgage. They are clearly displayed, with brokers and lenders also detailing any costs you may incur during the mortgage application process.

Booking fee

You may find that some lenders charge a booking fee to secure specific buy-to-let mortgage rates. Such a fee is commonly found on fixed-rate buy-to-let mortgage products and should usually be paid when submitting the mortgage application.

Broker fees

Using a buy-to-let mortgage broker can give you access to previously unavailable rates, which usually saves you money in the long term. You may, however, be required to pay a fee for the broker’s services if they find you a suitable and acceptable mortgage. Some brokers also charge just for their advice, although this isn’t common practice. Many brokers are entirely free to use. 

Lender arrangement fees

Before completion of the mortgage, you may be required to pay lender arrangement fees. These are typically added to the final mortgage amount, although you can pay them separately. Lender fees can be anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand pounds. For example, if the mortgage is £250,000 and the lender fee is £2,000, your final mortgage amount will be £252,000 if you want them added to the loan.

Expect to pay legal fees to solicitors for conveyancing when you buy a property. The average cost is around £1,000 and covers multiple checks on the property, the mortgage transfer, and the exchange of contracts. Lenders who remortgage their buy-to-let are unlikely likely to pay legal fees.

Telegraphic transfer fees

Expect to pay between £25 and £45 for telegraphic transfer fees, which are needed for the solicitor to transfer money. These fees are often payable to the solicitor.

Valuation fee

Some lenders charge a valuation fee, while others do them for free. It mostly depends on the lender, and you can expect to pay between £300 and £900 if you’re required to pay for the valuation. The valuation will determine if the property you’re buying is worth its sale price and take place either via desktop (digital) or visit from the surveyor (physical). 

Mortgage exit fee

A mortgage exit fee is different from an early repayment charge and comes into effect when you close your mortgage account. The fees are generally inexpensive when compared to other mortgage costs, usually ranging from a few pounds to a few hundred. Not all lenders charge exit fees. 

Early repayment charges

If you’re on a fixed-term rate and leave the mortgage before it expires, you’ll likely need to pay the lender an early repayment charge (ERC). The amount you’ll need to pay depends on the lender but is usually a percentage of the remaining mortgage term. For example, if you have two years left on your fixed rate and you want to leave early, the charge will likely be 2% of the mortgage. If there’s one year left, expect to pay 1%.

Solicitor

You will need to pay for a solicitor to conduct the conveyancing process during the application. This involves the solicitor performing checks on the property and ensuring everything runs smoothly. Prices depend on the solicitor you instruct, but you can expect to pay at least £1,000. 

Valuation

The lender will need to perform a valuation to see if the property’s value is the same as the purchase price. Most valuations are performed via desktop, using previous data from the housing market. Some, however, require a physical valuation, where a professional visits the property. There may be a cost for a physical valuation, usually between £300 and £700. 

Different types of buy-to-let

There are different types of buy-to-lets available for landlords, meaning there’s more than one mortgage option when it comes to financing the property. The buy-to-let mortgage you get will depend on how you plan on utilising the investment property. 

Individual

An individual buy-to-let mortgage is the most conventional type available. It sees you purchasing a property with the intention of renting it out to a tenant. You assume personal responsibility for the mortgage and typically let the property via an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Most lenders offering individual buy-to-let mortgages provide products up to 85% LTV. 

PV

SPV means Special Purchase Vehicle and sees you purchasing your buy-to-let property as a limited company. Over the years, SPV mortgages have grown in popularity as they can reduce tax bills for some landlords who fall into the higher tax bracket. With an SPV, you pay corporation tax rather than personal income tax, and you could save thousands per year. However, it’s always worth going through the numbers with a financial advisor before setting up an SPV to see if it’s suitable for your needs. Most buy-to-let lenders now offer SPV mortgages, although they aren’t typically available with high-street banks. LTVs tend to go up to 80%, but it depends on the lender. 

HMO

HMO stands for House of Multiple Occupation and is an alternative type of buy-to-let. With an HMO, landlords rent out the rooms to three or more unrelated tenants, each receiving an individual rental contract. This is different from a conventional buy-to-let, where the landlord uses one contract to rent out the property. You will need an HMO buy-to-let mortgage to borrow the necessary funds for this type of let and may also need a licence from the local council. If the property has fewer than five bedrooms, then you need to check with the council where the property is located. If, however, it has five or more bedrooms, a licence is mandatory. 

BRRRR

BRRRR is an acronym for Buy, Refurbish, Rent, Refinance and Repeat. It sees landlords identifying below-market value properties that need significant renovation. The aim is to purchase the property, renovate it, bring its value in line with the local market and then rent it out. Once the property has a tenant, the landlord refinances to borrow more capital and invests in another BRRRR opportunity. Generally speaking, investors won’t be able to get a buy-to-let mortgage with a BRRRR and will need alternative finance, such as a bridge loan or renovation mortgage (more on that shortly). 

First-time landlord

Some first-time landlords struggle to get a buy-to-let mortgage, especially if they don’t own a property or have other buy-to-lets. Most lenders won’t lend to a first-time landlord if they don’t, at the very least, own their home. There are, however, some lenders who offer special buy-to-let mortgages to first-time landlords. You will usually need to pay higher interest rates if you’re a first-time landlord purchasing a property and don’t own your home or have previous buy-to-let experience. 

Portfolio mortgages

A portfolio buy-to-let mortgage is available to a landlord who has four or more investment properties. It sees you borrowing against the total value of your portfolio as opposed to the property you want to purchase. The lender assesses the LTV and ICR on all of your properties combined.

Other types of mortgages used for buy-to-let

A buy-to-let mortgage is enough to secure funding for your investment most of the time. There may, however, be occasions where it doesn’t meet the requirements, and you will need to source alternative financing options. Below, we’ve detailed the most common borrowing options landlords use when a buy-to-let mortgage isn’t available. 

Let to buy

A let-to-buy mortgage sees you rent out your current home and buy a new one to live in. You will need to have two mortgages, one for the property you’re renting out and another for the home you plan on moving into. 

Let-to-buy mortgages are aimed at people who didn’t plan on becoming a landlord but have found themselves in a situation where, for whatever reason, they’ve decided not to sell their current property yet need to move home. This might be because they’re relocating for temporary work, or it’s taking longer than they expected to get a sale. 

As the borrower, you rent out your current home and convert the mortgage into a buy-to-let. Then, you buy a new home with a residential mortgage. The rental payments from the property you rent out will cover the buy-to-let mortgage and maybe even the residential one. 

Bridging finance

Bridging finance can bridge the gap between the sale of one property and purchasing another. It acts as a short-term option covering the missing finance landlords might have as they wait for the sale of their previous investment to go through. Bridging finance is more common in the business world, but it’s also available for individual buy-to-lets and is often referred to as bridge-to-let. 

Before getting a bridging loan, you will need to have a strategy in place detailing how you plan on paying off the loan. As well as being used for the purchase of a property while you wait for another sale to go through, it can also be used for unconventional buy-to-lets that may otherwise struggle to get a mortgage. Bridging loans tend to last between one day and 18 months. 

Renovation mortgage

Some landlords prefer to buy properties that need renovation, purchasing them for below market value with the intention of raising their value through repairs and redecoration. However, most properties that need significant work don’t qualify for a conventional buy-to-let mortgage. Therefore, you will need a renovation mortgage, which lets you borrow the amount for both the purchase and the renovation costs. 

They allow you to buy the property and make the required upgrades. Funds for renovation mortgages are usually released faster than traditional buy-to-let mortgages so the investor can get to work renovating the property. You can generally borrow up to 75% of the property’s value with a renovation mortgage. 

How can I find the best buy-to-let mortgage?

Searching for a buy-to-let mortgage can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. Essentially, there are three primary ways to source any type of mortgage, including buy-to-let: directly with the lender, using a search comparison website or through a broker.

Direct with the lender

One option for finding a buy-to-let mortgage involves going directly to the lender. There’s no intermediary involved, and all of your dealings will be with a team member who works for the lender. 

This is the easiest route for some borrowers, as there is a direct line of communication. However, this option takes the most work on your part as you need to find the best mortgage product. 

Plus, not all lenders advertise their services on search comparison websites or are even visible online. That means you could lose out on potential mortgage products because the lender only works with brokers, or it’s too hard to find their services online. 

Search comparison website

A search comparison website shows you the available lenders, their rates, product details and fees. If you’re not using a broker, a search comparison website is the best way to find a mortgage, as it groups all of the available lenders based on the search terms you’ve listed. 

To illustrate, if you’re searching for a mortgage of £250,000 and have a deposit of £100,000, the search results will be based on your requirements. You can then contact the lender to see if it’s possible to get a mortgage with them.

The primary search comparison websites are:

Using a comparison website gives you a solid overview of the market. It is, however, important to note that not all lenders advertise their services on comparison websites. That means you might not necessarily have access to the best rates and products. 

Broker

Brokers are usually the most popular option with buy-to-let investors. You give your details and requirements, and they find the most suitable mortgage products. The broker will provide you with a few options and make a recommendation. 

Once you’ve decided on the lender you’d like to apply with, the broker acts as the intermediary between yourself and the lender. This is the best approach for many landlords, as it removes the hassle, and they know a broker is working for them to simplify the borrowing process. 

Brokers also have access to mortgage products that aren’t on the high street, so they could potentially find you a deal you wouldn’t be able to source yourself. Some brokers charge a fee for their service, while others are free to use. 

What happens during the mortgage application

Regardless of how you find a lender, you will need to complete the application process after receiving your agreement in principle. It’s good to know what to expect in advance to prepare and get the correct information together to speed up the application.

Documents

First, you will need to provide your documents. These include your bank statements, payslips, proof of ID, address and other information related to purchasing a property. The lender will also perform a hard credit check to better understand your affordability and credit history. 

Solicitor

You will need to appoint a solicitor for the conveyancing process. Conveyancing is part of the legal work involved and sees the solicitor making sure the property you purchase is a good investment. They do this by performing a survey on the property to make sure there are no underlying issues. They also arrange the contracts and take the deposit from you. The solicitor is involved throughout the entire process and will be in direct contact with you during the application. Average solicitor costs are around £1,000. 

Valuation

The lender will need to confirm that the property value matches the sale price. To do this, they will perform a valuation, either by sending a professional to the property or using a desktop valuation. Most property valuations take place digitally, and the lender will do this by looking at past sales data in your local property market. There may, however, be times when a physical valuation is required. There may be a charge for a physical valuation. 

Underwriting

Once the lender has all of the details, the underwriter will review everything and make a decision on your suitability for a mortgage. Essentially, the underwriter’s job is to ensure that you can afford the mortgage repayments and that lending you the money isn’t a risk. The underwriter works directly for the mortgage lender. 

Exchange

If you get the green light for a mortgage, the lender will issue you an official offer. If you’re happy with the numbers involved, the solicitor will arrange for the exchange of contracts between yourself and the seller. This is the stage where you legally agree to the purchase and can’t back out. The solicitor will set a date for the exchange, usually within 10 days or two weeks of you accepting the mortgage offer. 

Completion

Ownership is transferred from the seller to yourself, and you get the keys to your new buy-to-let investment property. Now it’s time to put it on the rental market. 

How long does the mortgage application take?

There’s no set amount of time it takes to get a mortgage. It depends on each specific application – some are smooth with few issues, while others take longer if the lender requires more information. As a rule of thumb, the average mortgage takes around three months to complete. 

Some mortgages can take as little as a few weeks, but in most cases you will need at least a couple of months. This is due to the conveyancing process, which involves your solicitor performing a thorough check on the property to ensure that you’re making a solid investment. If the property is an apartment, expect checks to take slightly longer as the solicitor will likely need to review the leasehold. 

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