Barry Searle

Top slicing is not the only way to tackle low yields



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A lot of commentary about the buy-to-let market focuses on yield – the annual return an investor can expect to earn based on the value of the asset.

This is why areas with cheaper house prices – particularly university towns – are heralded as the next buy-to-let hotspots. 

But landlords don’t always focus on yield. Often an investor will want a reliable property in an area with strong and sustained demand that can provide dependable long-term growth. These properties tend to be found in more expensive areas so rarely deliver particularly attractive yields.

According to the latest buy-to-let yield map by Totally Money, Liverpool boasts the highest buy-to-let yield of 11.79%, while there are parts of London that only achieve a yield of 1.5%. Despite this huge gap in the yield that could be achieved, there are still many investors who would rather buy in those areas of London. In fact, in monetary terms, a 1.5% yield in London could still deliver more profit than a 12% yield in Liverpool.

We know there is significant demand from landlords for solutions that help them to buy low-yielding properties because of the number of lenders that have started to offer top slicing, where they use the landlord’s income to supplement the interest coverage ratio (ICR). A lot of big names have recently entered this previously niche market and it goes to show that standard ICRs are not sufficient for the requirements of many landlords.

Top slicing is one way for landlords to purchase low-yielding properties within mandatory minimum stress tests, but it is not the only option.

Another approach is to structure a loan where some of the interest is serviced, but the interest on the remainder of the loan is rolled up. Because there are no monthly payments due on the rolled-up part of the loan, this element is not subject to a stress test. So, with a balance of serviced interest and rolled-up interest, it is possible to build a loan that fits the required stress test. This is something we are able to do at Castle Trust, and here’s an example of how it works.

We worked with a broker to help their client – a portfolio landlord – to buy a desirable three-bedroom maisonette in Fulham for £1,050,000. The client wanted to borrow £755,000, but the rental value was only £2,625 per month and the yield did not support this loan amount. Based on PRA stress testing, the client would only have been able to borrow £395,000 from a traditional lender, or £458,000 if the property was purchased by a limited company. This would mean the landlord would have to evidence up to £2,400 additional monthly income.

As the client was an experienced landlord, we were able to structure a solution by splitting the balance and enabling the client to service interest of £365,000 and roll up the interest on £390,000. This meant the client was able to invest in a sought-after property with robust potential for capital gains even though it delivered a low rental yield.

Top slicing may be flavour of the month with many lenders, but it is not the only way to meet demand from landlords for low-yielding property. With the right lender, you can structure a deal for your client that blends serviced and rolled-up interest to enable them to invest in the property of their choice.

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