Anyone who’s thinking of taking advantage of the new pension reforms to invest in rental property might want to reconsider after reading about the weekend I’ve just had.
It started on Friday evening with my head under a toilet trying to fit a new seat after the old one fell apart, and finished with me frogmarching a guy out of a shared rental flat after I discovered he had moved in without my permission.
In between, I fitted a new shower screen, wasted Saturday afternoon trying to buy a replacement cupboard door in Ikea, arranged repairs to a boiler, a radiator and a tap, and spent two hours preparing a new tenancy agreement, credit-checking tenants and their guarantors and protecting their deposit.
By Sunday evening I was knackered, and I’m not that old. I can’t imagine my nan getting down on her arthritic knees to replace a loo seat and I’m not sure how she would have confronted a six-foot, 19-year-old lad found living illegally in her flat.
Given that these are the sorts of shenanigans landlords get up to, I’m not convinced that rental property is the right investment for pensioners.
Of course, you can invest in a buy-to-let without being a hands-on landlord if you hire a management agent, but it will be harder to make a profit from the rental income if you do. Leaving aside the periods of immense stress, a buy-to-let might not make financial sense for those who have already reached retirement.
For a start, if you withdraw your entire pension pot, you’ll lose a chunk of it in tax as you can only take out 25 per cent tax-free, which makes me think that these new pension freedoms are just a cunning wheeze by the Government to claw back the tax relief on pension contributions.
Also, the average pension pot for Londoners is less than £100,000, which wouldn’t even buy a small flat in an unfashionable borough, so unless you buy with a partner, you’ll have to take out a mortgage.
The good news is that you can get a buy-to-let mortgage up to the age of 75, and maybe even older, assuming the rent will easily cover the interest repayments.
The bad news is that rental yields in London are so low you’re unlikely to have anything left to live on.
Yields are better in some other cities, but latest research from the National Landlords Association found that almost one third of landlords who own only one property don’t make any profit at all.
Most people buy property for capital growth rather than rental yield, but you need to hang on to it for at least five years to realise any significant gain, so even if you’re only in your mid-fifties now, you could be into your sixties by the time you can sell at a reasonable profit.
If you don’t sell it, but leave it to anyone other than your spouse or civil partner in your will, they could lose up to 40 per cent of its value in inheritance tax if your estate is worth more than £325,000. This is different to pensions that are, broadly speaking, no longer subject to inheritance tax.
No doubt some pensioners will become successful landlords thanks to the new freedoms, but it is best to get independent advice, preferably before you dive in.
Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock