How to invest in bricks and mortar

Michelle McGagh
house model in safe box. real...
house model in safe box. real...



Property investments has a uniquely strong draw for Britons but there are ways to invest in bricks and mortar without becoming a landlord.

Some property investments cannot be held in pensions or ISAs so before signing up make sure that your 'wrapper' can accommodate the investment you are interested in.

Investors should also make sure they have a diversified portfolio and are not putting all their money on the property market, as their home is likely to make up a large chunk of assets already.

Buy-to-let

Purchasing a property to rent out can only be done outside of a pension or ISA as residential property cannot be held in these wrappers.

With most lenders requiring at least a 25% deposit for buy-to-let mortgages, this avenue is often closed to those who don't have a large sum to put down.

Those who can afford to purchase another property could do well from renting. David Whittaker, managing director of Mortgages for Business, said "plain vanilla" properties now command an average yield of 6.3% and houses of multiple occupation – where a house is divided into lots of flats – yielded 9.3%.

However, buy-to-let is not without its dangers; specifically void periods with no tenants covering the bills, letting agents fees, repairs, tax on money earned, insurance and deposit scheme requirements. All of this can add to the cost of buy-to-let and the time needed to deal with it.

For those who already own a buy-to-let but want the upside of being a landlord without the hassle, there is a way to invest – and the investment can be held in a pension. Mill Residential is Britain's first listed buy-to-let real estate investment trust (Reit).

The trust will swap residential properties with landlords in exchange for shares in the investment company. It will focus on investments in London and the South East and aims to yield 3% after costs but Mill's chief executive David Toplas, said the yield is "quite acceptable to investors" as it was underpinned by rising house prices.

Reits

Reits, like Mill Residential, have been around for a long time and typically offer exposure to commercial property in different geographies and sectors.

Martin Tilley of Sipp specialist Dentons said Reits – which are listed on the stock exchange and issue shares, the price of which goes up and down depending on how well it is doing – can be risky but "the risk will probably outweigh the reward".

"With Reits you are concentrating on certain area of growth and this could backfire," he said. "They are more complex than people realise because of the geographic spread and the industry spread, as well as the economic environment in the part of the country you're invested in."

Property funds

According to the Investment Association there is £24,382 million invested in UK property funds and the property sector has returned an average of 42.3% over the past five years.

Tilley said that for those investing through an ISA or pension then collective property funds are a good way to gain exposure to the sector.

"[Property funds] have had two very good years and expectations for 2015 are promising," he said,

However, he added that after large house price rises, those investing in property should be targeting rent not more growth.

"From now on [property investment] will be for the yield from the rent, not the capital growth."

For those who want a quirky take on investing in property, or who want to invest in residential property rather than commercial, Tilley said individuals could look at the Castle Trust 'Housa' – a mix of 'house' and 'ISA'.

The Housa tracks the Halifax property price index so when prices are going up then so does your investment. There are different variants of the index. There is a growth option which delivers 1.5 times the returns on the index over five years and 1.7 times over 10 years. If the index falls, investors will suffer 50% over five years and 30% if held for 10 years.

There is also a protected fund where the return matches the income but are guaranteed their original investment back if the index falls over a certain period. There is also an income option that pays 2-3% a year plus the rise or fall of the index.

Since launching in October 2012, the Housa has delivered between 11.8% and 13.4% growth.

Shares

If you are happy stockpicking and have faith in the UK property market then investing directly in housebuilders may be a preferable. However, the buoyancy that has been seen in the housing market and boosted housebuilders last year may be coming to an end.

Liberum analyst Charlie Campbell downgraded two of the biggest sector names after worried that housebuilders have a "wall of worry to climb", even though the risks in the sector were "all known and fairly limited".

Campbell cut his rating on Barrett Developments from "buy" to "hold" as he "no longer sees enough upside to our target price [of 489p per share]".

He added: "To be more positive on the stock we need greater clarity on volume ambitions beyond 2016 and returns to rise more quickly."

Campbell also cut the rating for Bovis Homes from "buy" to "hold".

"We have lost our nerve slightly on Bovis' volume growth potential as sales rates are likely to slow in 2015," he said. "A positive investment case requires a rising capital turn to transform leading margins into returns at least in line with the sector. We believe that slower sales rates may impede progress on this front".

Campbell added that housebuilder Persimmon was his "least preferred pick".



Read more:
How to choose an investment property

How to put buy-to-let property in your pension

Commercial property investments explained

Property Price Gap at Record Level
Property Price Gap at Record Level