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The rumours of the death of buy-to-let in Glasgow are greatly exaggerated

Buy-to-let investors could be forgiven for feeling rather under siege as 2015 draws to a close.

Landlords who had been encouraged over the years to build up a robust private rented sector have suddenly become pariahs.

As Chancellor George Osborne's focus shifted in the Autumn statement to the largest housebuilding investment since the seventies, a by-product was his bid to protect the first-time buyer market from buy-to-let landlords and multiple home owners.

To effect this, he slapped a new additional stamp duty rate of 3% on buyers of buy-to-let properties and second homes from April 2016, a change which will also apply in Scotland, now the SNP government has followed suit.

The stamp duty imposition followed hard on the heels of news that, from 2017, mortgage tax and some other reliefs for landlords would be scaled back.

The headline writers have had a field day, with predictions of the death of the buy-to-let market and the absolute certainty that profits in the sector will be wiped out, leading to a mass exodus by investors.

Well, there may be some justification for hysteria in already overheated markets such as London and the South East where rental income on low-yielding properties is likely to be lower relative to investors' mortgage costs.

But while there may be a rush for the exit in the southern strongholds of buy-to-let, other parts of the country such as Glasgow will, I firmly believe, be able to shrug off these temporary setbacks.

Why? It's all about the fundamentals. Properties in Glasgow are much more affordable, with the average price for a flat of around £125,000.

Most landlords only own one or two properties and have a mortgage of less than 75% of the property value, so they will be much less exposed to potential price falls and the risks of negative equity.

And, Mr Osborne's latest assaults aside, the recent market in Glasgow has been in good health. Rents grew on average by 4.4% year on year to an all-time high of £685 per month. In addition, properties typically let in just 25 days, resulting in low vacancies.

The West End, city centre and Merchant City have the highest rents, with two-bedroom flats renting for an average of £882 per month. They have also seen some of the highest growth in rents at 9.6% year on year growth. Other lively growth areas include Newlands (13.6%), East Kilbride (10.3%), Govan (9.1%) and Maryhill (6.8%).

Is this sustainable? The answer is yes, again for fundamental reasons of supply and demand.

Firstly, the population of Glasgow, after a period of stagnation, has been growing over the last 15 years and, according to the General Registers Office of Scotland, is expected to grow by 10% from today’s 600,000 to 660,000 by 2035.

The number of households is forecast to grow even more quickly – by 26% by 2035 as a result of growing population and falling average household size.

Secondly, the private rental sector has been growing quickly in Glasgow and this is expected to continue. In the 2011 census, of the 286,000 households in Glasgow, 48,000 were privately rented, accounting for 17% of households (around one household in every six). This is more than double where it was 10 years earlier.

And despite rising demand from an increasing population, new build rates in Glasgow are at around half their long term average after falling steeply in the economic downturn.

So the impact of strong demand, and limited supply of new properties is driving the growth in rents and property values. These are long term trends, and they give me confidence that buy-to-let investors in Glasgow can look forward to attractive growth for many years to come.

*This article was written by Neil Livingstone, director of Douglas Dickson Property Management Limited

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