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Maximising Profits From A Student Let


By Simon Thompson
 
     
Making as much profit as you can is the main objective of any student landlord. Profit is derived from a positive cash flow, which means you have more rent coming in than bills going out. Your student letting business may make a profit already, but you may still be able to make even more money by following some of our tips. Don't make the classic landlord mistake The classic landlord mistake is concentrating on the property and not the finances. Many investors buy a property, refurbish and let then move on to the next investment without considering tax-effective ownership, keeping good financial records and dealing with HM Revenue and Customs. Then, two or three years down the line, the tax man chases them for his share of the profits and they find the lack of record keeping leaves them open to paying more tax than they should, plus fines and penalties. Letting student property is a business and no business can run without up-to-the-minute information about cash flow, expenses and future tax liabilities. Thinking a property 'makes' £35,000 a year because that's how much rent comes in is bad financial management. Rent is cash flow – it's the money the property generates for paying the bills. The money the property makes is the profit at the end of the year after all the bills are paid. Three student landlords can each own and manage identical properties next door to each other on the same street and still make a vastly different profit while receiving the same rental income. That's because variables come in to play for each landlord – one might have a more expensive mortgage or maybe one is a little lax about rent collection and lets arrears build up. Here, we look at finding different ways to bring in more cash. Don't forget not all these tips will work for your student letting business because personal and local factors often limit what you can do. 11 Tips For Improving Profits A business has to remain competitive – that does not mean you can't charge more and become the Stella Artois of student lets, but if you do, you have to offer that little extra that your rivals don't. Letting to students is profitable because a property that might generate £10,000 a year from rental to a single tenant can return twice or even three times as much rent when let on a per room basis. The rewards are greater for landlords who take the plunge in to student letting, but it's not easy money. Student lets are more management intensive than ordinary buy to lets, have increased regulatory standards to meet and often need a greater investment in furnishings and equipment. Pushing up the rents Putting the rent up instantly increases cash flow and the money coming in to the business, and providing expenses and other outgoings stay the same, putting up the rent increases profits. Many landlords are scared of frightening students off by charging rents that nudge the upper limits for their accommodation. A successful landlord is hard-nosed and has to take the emotion out of the relationship with tenants. Soft negotiation, below market value rents and lax credit control lets the tenant take the upper hand in your business. That's what you are running – a business. Any money you give away to the tenant is money you have to find from somewhere else to pay the bills. The fact is too many students are chasing too few letting rooms in most university towns and cities. Offer good accommodation at a fair market price backed with top notch customer service and you will let your property without a problem. Review your rents at least once a year and make a modest increase at least in line with inflation to make sure your bills are not eroding your profits. Pushing down expenses A good businessman knows putting up prices increases cash flow, but pushing down expenses increases profits. You don't want to cut expenses to the bone, but shop around for good deals when insurance renewals and other contracts come up; get quotes from tradesmen rather than relying on a 'mate' and try to find competitive suppliers. It's also a good idea to have a 12-month maintenance plan tied to the financial year (April 6 one year until the following April 5). That way you can budget for the cost and can negotiate a price rather than pay through the nose for a last-minute call-out. Avoiding rental voids Marketing is a crucial part of a property business. A room in a student let is not earning money while it stands empty. Rental voids impact on profits and the pound in a landlord's pocket. Manage your tenants – take a prebooking for the following academic year from your tenants in time to list your property at the local university's house fair. This means you need to have an agreement in place around Christmas or the New Year with your current tenants, as the new intake are generally looking for accommodation during January. Joining a university or local council accreditation scheme will also reinforce your place in the market as students will have more confidence in your business. Manage the rents Students are great at spending money on stuff they don't need and not always as good at paying the bills. Make sure you impose credit control – • Screen your tenants as best you can before they move in • Set a regular date in the tenancy agreement for collecting the rent • Don't let rent arrears build up Just remember it's the landlord that goes short if a tenant fails to stump up the rent on time. The missing money has to come from somewhere – if it is out of cash-flow, then the money is not available to spend elsewhere or is borrowed at cost on overdraft. Refinance your mortgage Easier said than done in the current financial climate, but a good way of improving your personal finances is to remortgage to extract your initial investment back from the business. This is a double-whammy. On the one hand you can set off the mortgage interest as a business expense, while on the other you can put the cash back in your bank or spend the money however you want tax-free. Don't forget many landlords often do not claim interest on the money they borrowed against another property, like their home, as a business expense. The rules say your letting business can reclaim any interest on borrowing, whether they are secured against a business asset or not – this means the landlord's home or even interest on money spent on a credit card. Improve your student house This is not necessarily an instant solution. Improvements are capital costs that are dealt with via capital gains tax when you sell an investment property. The result of the improvement, like an extra couple of rooms in the loft or an extension generate more rent, which leads to improved cash flow and more profits providing expenses do not jump pro rata. One point to watch for is not over extending a property so the size and value makes the home difficult to sell to anyone other than another student landlord. Keep good financial records Landlords need to keep detailed records that are cross-referenced by owner and property so you can: • Look at the financial performance of each property to see which ones make most profit or lose most money and why • Look at the profit and loss of each owner and produce accurate figures for their personal tax returns These records should be archived by tax year and kept for five years in case of any inquiry from HM Revenue and Customs. Keeping solid financial records means you can examine your costs to claim any tax reliefs that are available. This not only applies to day-to-day running costs, but other financial reliefs like capital allowances. For instance, if you own a car and business use makes up 30% of the mileage, you can claim 30% of the running costs of the car – plus capital allowances which are special reliefs for business that reduce the tax you pay. These reliefs are automatic and you do not have to jump through hoops to qualify for them, but you need to prove you have incurred the costs to claim them. Tax effective property ownership This is a simple tax reducer missed by so many couples who own property jointly. Take a married couple who own a student let that makes £15,000 a year profit. If they have equal shares in the property, the one who is a top rate taxpayer (40% or more) has £3,000 to pay HM Revenue and Customs while the other pays £1,500. Often the lower rate taxpayer does not work or has an income well short of the top rate threshold (£35,000 for 2011-12). If the shares are adjusted so the lower rate taxpayer takes more of the profit, the overall amount of tax due is reduced. Note, this only applies to married couples or civil partners as the transfer is capital gains tax exempt for them but not for anyone else. Take our couple above. Switch their shares of ownership from 50:50 to 80:20 in favour of the lower rate taxpayer and the tax liability comes down because the tax on the 80% share is charged at 20% on £12,000 (£2,400) and 40% on £3,000 (£1,200). Instead of paying £4,500 income tax jointly, they only pay £3,600 on the same profits. The strategy has the same effect on capital gains tax. Beware of the stamp duty tax trap, though. If the value of the transferred share exceeds £125,000 and is mortgaged, stamp duty may be payable on the transaction. Kitting out your student let Every property needs occasional maintenance and repairs. Remember your property is your business. You do not live there, so do not expect to finish the property like you would your own home, but think of the needs and wants of your tenants. There's a fine line between overspending and reducing your yield and profits and not spending enough that makes your property unmarketable. Many landlords with more than one property impose the same colour schemes across their portfolio. This way they can buy paint and soft furnishings, like curtains, in bulk and ask for a discount. Buy fittings and furniture for your market as well. Students might like a stylish, top of the range kitchen with granite work surfaces, but be realistic about your tenants and how they will treat your property. Rather than heading for cutting-edge design, you want sturdy, functional and robust furniture and fittings. Students are notorious for knocking things about and not considering the consequences of their clumsiness. If you are not sure what to buy to kit out your house, view a rival student let or go through some photos on web sites to see what other landlords are providing. Some landlords look at reducing their repairs when they buy – for instance flat roofs are notorious for requiring regular maintenance and bay windows are more expensive to double glaze than flat windows. Manage the property yourself Many landlords have no idea what they are letting themselves in for when they start letting to students. If you live a distance from your investment or work full time, you may well want to consider letting through an agent who will find the tenants, collect the rent and handle small repairs. This service costs money – about 15% plus VAT of the annual rent. If you have more than one property with a letting agent, negotiate a discount on the fees – most will come down to at least 12% if not more. Landlords who live close to their investments are often more hands on and manage their properties themselves. This can be labour intensive, especially if you have three or more properties because the problems will fly in thick and fast and sorting them out almost becomes a full time job. Market your features and benefits Look at how the big boys in the student lettings game, like private halls provider Unite, market their properties. The offer a student package rather than a room to let. The packages often include bills, contents insurance, broadband and wi-fi marketed as a single monthly payment. Also highlight your distance from campus, transport links and local facilities. Providing a hotline for dealing with problems and repairs also shows you are customer-conscious. What sort of return should you expect from a student let? If you trade in a void without any figures for comparison, you will never know whether your business can make more money or whether you are at the top of your game. Benchmarking is the process many businesses apply to measuring their performance against others in the same market. The problem is funding reliable data and statistics as comparisons for your property business. Several organisations publish student letting data – NatWest Bank and Lloyds TSB have annual student surveys, London commercial estate agent Frank Knight publishes stats for student lets in London and specialist landlord mortgage provider Paragon Mortgages has a letting index as well. The big corporates like Unite also publish useful data in the annual reports to shareholders. All of these publications can give provide good indicators of performance, like average rents, yields and occupancy, often broken down by region. Comparing these figures with your letting business can be useful, but remember they are often regional averages rather than precise statistics for individual properties. A good measure of profitability and performance is to work out the return on investment or 'yield' from a student let. To calculate yield: • Work the annual rent received • Work out the total annual expenses • Deduct expenses from profits to leave a net profit • Add up your cash investment in the property, which is your deposit plus annual expenses ( from the step above) • Divide the profit or loss by your cash investment • Multiply by 100 For example, you buy a student let for £350,000 and let the property for an annual rent of £22,000 and annual expenses of £8,000. Your cash deposit was £87,500. Net profit is £22,000 - £8,000 = £14,000 Cash investment is £87,500 + £8,000 = £95,500 Yield is £14,000 divided by £95,500 x 100 = 14.65%
 
 
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Section 21 Notices To Be Scrapped
 

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The UK's buy to let hotspots revealed
 

The UK's buy to let hotspots revealed

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Fears of a new buy to let landlord exodus have been raised over a new tax blow.

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The data reveals that, on a monthly basis, rents grew by 1%.

In England and Wales, rents rose by

     
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Rogue Landlords Warned Not To Exploit Students
 

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Posted by on 27/03/2019 10:55:36
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Buy To Let Investors Are Getting Younger
 

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The average age of buy to let investors in the UK has fallen by 3.5 years over the past 12 months, one online estate agency says.

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HMRC Urges 'Accidental' Landlords To Pay Tax
 

HMRC Urges 'Accidental' Landlords To Pay Tax

A campaign launched by HM Revenue and Customs aimed at accidental landlords urging them to pay tax might be failing, one accountancy firm says.

The Let Property Campaign was launched in 2013 to encourage

     
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Rents Are Increasing Quicker Than Inflation
 

Rents Are Increasing Quicker Than Inflation

Average monthly rents have increased by 3.8% over the past year, which means rents are increasing at a rate quicker than inflation, one index reveals.

The figures from HomeLet highlight that the average re

     
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What Tenants Want From A Home
 

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The findings from Zoopla found that when looking for rental properties in England, Wales and Scotland, the most coveted feature want

     
Posted by on 13/03/2019 12:07:11
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Rising Costs Lead Landlords To Cut Spending
 

Rising Costs Lead Landlords To Cut Spending

Higher taxes and rising running costs have led to 36% of landlords reducing their expenditure, research reveals.

The data has been published by Kent Reliance, a specialist mortgage lender, who say that the

     
Posted by on 13/03/2019 12:02:30
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Government Plans DSS Advert Crackdown On Landlords
 

Government Plans DSS Advert Crackdown On Landlords

The Government has announced that it will start cracking down on those landlords who refuse to let a property to tenants receiving benefits.

Plans have been revealed that will end discrimination ag

     
Posted by on 08/03/2019 12:06:47
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BTL Tax Reforms Are 'Misguided'
 

BTL Tax Reforms Are 'Misguided'

The government is being urged to reconsider its BTL tax reforms as rents begin to soar and the number of landlords begins to fall, one firm of estate agents say.

According to data from haart, the number of landlords r

     
Posted by on 08/03/2019 11:58:39
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Rent To Rent 'Breaches Human Rights
 

Rent To Rent 'Breaches Human Rights

The Government's controversial Right to Rent scheme has been ruled by the High Court to breach human rights.

The scheme demands that landlords check the immigration position of a potential tenant before they are a

     
Posted by on 08/03/2019 11:46:50
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Btl Investors Look To The North West
 

Btl Investors Look To The North West

Growing numbers of buy to let investors are looking to the North West of England in the search for better returns than can be enjoyed in London, one real estate firm says.

According to Savills, the North West has

     
Posted by on 27/02/2019 15:22:00
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Btl Confidence Remains High Despite Market Challenges
 

Btl Confidence Remains High Despite Market Challenges

Investors remain confident in the buy to let sector and there's little sign of a market slowdown, says one online agency.

In an analysis from yieldit, the firm says that the number of new listing

     
Posted by on 27/02/2019 15:15:01
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Highest Rent Rises Since September Are Recorded
 

Highest Rent Rises Since September Are Recorded

Growing numbers of landlords put up rents in January to record the first rises since September 2018, according to data.

ARLA Propertymark has crunched the numbers and found that the number of letting

     
Posted by on 27/02/2019 15:02:39
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Landlords Could Be Illegally Letting Energy Inefficient Properties
 

Landlords Could Be Illegally Letting Energy Inefficient Properties

There could be tens of thousands of landlords who are unwittingly renting out a property illegally because they do not have an energy performance certificate of at least an 'E', one technology f

     
Posted by on 21/02/2019 12:28:18
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Buy To Let Lending Suffers A Slump
 

Buy To Let Lending Suffers A Slump

Fewer landlord investors took out a new BTL mortgage in December, leading to the continuing slump in mortgage activity, one organisation reports.

According to UK Finance, just 5,100 new buy to let mortgages were ag

     
Posted by on 21/02/2019 12:21:25
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Students Call For The End Of 'Landlord Exploitation'
 

Students Call For The End Of 'Landlord Exploitation'

The National Union of Students is calling for an enquiry into the way landlords and agents are letting homes to students after a survey found many have adopted 'unfair practices'.

The organisation

     
Posted by on 21/02/2019 12:07:40
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Average Tenancy Deposit Cost Revealed
 

Average Tenancy Deposit Cost Revealed

The average tenancy deposit value across the UK has risen over the past year, according to The Dispute Service (TDS).

In a report, the organisation says that the average value of tenancy deposits and the number

     
Posted by on 14/02/2019 12:28:59
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Economic Uncertainty Boosts Rental Home Demand
 

Economic Uncertainty Boosts Rental Home Demand

Economic and political uncertainty is boosting demand for rental properties, one index reveals.

According to HomeLet, the private rental sector is offering greater security and certainty for those who a

     
Posted by on 14/02/2019 12:23:15
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Landlords Hit By A Decline In Tenant Numbers
 

Landlords Hit By A Decline In Tenant Numbers

For the first time in more than 10 years, the total amount of rent being handed to landlords has fallen, a survey reveals.

The findings from real estate firm Hamptons International reveals that fewer peop

     
Posted by on 14/02/2019 12:05:11
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Property Professionals Looking To Expand Portfolios
 

Property Professionals Looking To Expand Portfolios

Most property professionals in the UK are looking to expand their portfolios this year, one survey reveals.

The survey was carried out by MT Finance which found that affordability issues and politi

     
Posted by on 08/02/2019 09:59:06
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Big Rise In Landlord Numbers Leaving The Sector
 

Big Rise In Landlord Numbers Leaving The Sector

Along with rent rises for tenants, there's been a big jump in the number of landlords who are leaving the rental market, according to a report.

The findings from Arla Propertmark are based on December

     
Posted by on 08/02/2019 09:53:32
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