Landlord Advice

The Lockdown Landlords of Co. Armagh

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Despite Government regulations that have been in place since the 26th March 2020, when in-person viewings were made illegal, Co. Armagh buy to let landlords have, during that time, been chomping at the bit to buy additional properties to build their property portfolios.

There are plenty of investors who think nothing of legally committing to buying a property ‘off plan’ before it’s built – yet over the last few weeks, it has become the norm in the re-sale Co. Armagh property market with investors bagging some property bargains.

Good news for Co. Armagh property?

Normally, the average time between sale agreed and exchange / completion of contracts on a house sale (i.e. the keys and monies get sorted) is 10 to 12 weeks, which means buying today would mean you wouldn’t be getting the keys in your hand until late August at the earliest, but with the current restrictions and backlog of house moves to process this timeline is expected to increase significantly.

Traditionally, Spring is the time when most properties come onto the market, yet as one would expect, the number of Co. Armagh properties coming onto the market has been somewhat reduced since lockdown.  Propertypal reported the level of buyer interest has fallen by over 50% at the start of lockdown compared to the same time last year, but current enquiry levels have risen to 68% above pre-covid position.

For many Co. Armagh buy to let landlords and homebuyers, now is the very best time to do some research into the local property market.  Propertypal now has an area price tracker feature, so you can compare what has happened to various areas around Co. Armagh to spot those under-priced bargains, meaning you can get moving quickly after lockdown.

One of the biggest barriers in April was mortgage lending.  In the early days, most mortgage lenders removed many of their best deals in a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic.  Currently, though, we are beginning to see a revitalisation in the mortgage market since.  Since May many mortgage companies are beginning to adopt more ‘digital’ processes including desktop valuations, which has helped speed the mortgage approval rate along.

There is no doubt the Co. Armagh housing market got off to a good start in 2020.  Local house prices were robust and rental demand was high, the Co. Armagh property market was already in a good place to deal with the subsequent COVID-19 issue.

Now, I know there are a few ‘doom mongers’ in the National Press touting a massive crash in the NI property market, but you only have to look at any form of news these days to see there is a natural tendency to latch onto the worst-case scenario when it comes to our economic forecast.  We only have to think back to the lead-up of the 2016 Brexit vote with the HMRC stating that UK house values would drop by at least 10% in the first 12 months and up to 20% in two years!

How will things change when the property market reopens?

The Northern Ireland Executive gave the NI property market the green light to reopen on the 15th June 2020, but agents now must operate under strict conditions.  These cover social distancing, suitable PER being used and hygiene regulations concerning viewings, moving and dealing with tradespeople.

There’s a lot of new regulations to take in, and as a landlord you will need to be on top of it all. (read the full NI guidelines here).  If you don’t have the time or resources to do so right now, then you need to enlist the services of local experts, like us, who can do it all for you.  We’ve saved landlords thousands by keeping them on the right side of the regulations and up to date with ever-changing property compliance.

Is property still a good investment?

In short – yes.  Buying a property for investment means you have a tangible asset.  The returns from investing in property come from both capital appreciation and income from the rent, and yes whilst property values can go up as well as down, successful buy to let landlords are inclined to take a long-term view on their property investments.

So, should you wait to buy your Co. Armagh buy to let investment?

Interest rates are at record lows, meaning borrowing money is cheap now, so it may be a good time to buy, as you will pay a reduced cost for borrowing money to buy that investment.  Yet, if you waited and local property values are on the decline, it may be a good idea to wait, as you could end up getting a better deal on the same type of home, yet if that happens, access to the cheap finance might dry up (meaning you could save some on the purchase price, but the cost of borrowing could go up).  It can be very hard to accurately predict what interest rates or property values will do, so these shouldn’t be deciding factors – but they are worth considering.

If you are thinking about investing in a buy to let property in Co. Armagh, why not give me a call to talk things through?  I’d love to hear from you!

Gavin is a Landlord and founder of Orchard Lettings. After being dissatisfied with how his own properties where being managed by other agents he decided to create his own property management company in 2007 and hasn't looked back since.

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