Location, location, location … but what does it really mean for property investors?
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Location, location, location … but what does it really mean for property investors?

Analysis, Buy To Let

In property it’s often said that location, location, location is everything. But if you’re investing in property for buy to let how exactly is that relevant to you?

The fact is, location is still vital when investing in property to rent out. But the locational factors you need to consider are different – in some cases totally different –than when buying for any other purpose.

If you’re buying for yourself then you might put factors such as peace and quiet, a community feel or a ‘villagey’ location (funny how owner occupiers even in London rate this highly) as your main locational considerations. But this isn’t the same when buying property to let.

The answer to finding the best locations for investment is to know, and put yourself in the shoes of, your prospective tenants.

More often than not your prospective tenants will be in employment, and may even be moving for employment reasons. So that means ready access to places of employment is absolutely crucial for any buy to let that you intend to let to working people. (It’s no coincidence that the most expensive places to buy property in the UK are where most of the jobs are, ie. the south east.)

In the case of student lets exactly the same applies. But for work read college.

In either case, access to work is all important. So access to transport whether roads, rail or bus services (and in some cases walking distance) is all important. And very important in these days when travel is often difficult and expensive – consider all these factors not just in terms of geographical distance but in terms of travel time and cost too.

Also consider access to other amenities your type of tenant might rate highly, such as shops and places of entertainment. Although to some extent location will always trump this – if the access is right and they can easily travel to those places.

Family and personal links are often overlooked too. Although this is very difficult to quantify. People will normally pay a premium to be close to family and friends, especially where the type of property they require is in limited supply.

Another aspect to consider is that considerations that attract owner-occupiers might not offer much pull at all to prospective tenants:

Quality fixtures and fittings are nice to have and may make your property easier to let. But few tenants are prepared to pay a premium for them.

School quality is something that has pre-occupied owner occupiers for years. It isn’t always the case but generally unless you are targeting long term family tenants specifically local school quality won’t make your property more desirable. (And in fact it will usually mean you pay a premium for your investment property, jeopardising yields.)

Ditto pleasant views, a villagey location and a sense of community for that matter. Tenants who don’t plan to stay long will rarely be attracted to, nor pay extra, for things that owner-occupiers put at the top of their wish list.

To take this all a step further, tenants will overlook an awful lot of factors – and in some cases some truly awful ones like busy roads or railway lines – if your property is located where they want and need to be. (And the even better news is that such sub-prime locations can be a good opportunity for investors, offering lower capital values and subsequently higher yields.)

This article looks at sub-prime investment locations: Why The Worst Places Are Often The Best For Investors

So what does location, location, location mean in practice for buy to let landlords and investors?

It means that is it vitally important to profile your prospective tenants. Think about who you are going to rent your next investment purchase to. Think about where they really want to be, and invest accordingly.

At the end of the day this all takes us back to fundamentals like supply and demand. The best locations for buy to let will usually be those that have good demand because they are in a location where tenants want to rent (and preferably where supply is limited too).

You might also find this report useful: Making Money In Buy To Let. It’s Really All About …. Demand

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