Two of Britain's best property timers may finally be pulling out of the market

Rents hit record high of £774
Rents hit record high of £774

If it's movies, it's Brad and Angelina. Music and sport? Posh and Becks.

But the pin-up couple of buy-to-let property? That would be Fergus and Judith. And they were in the news again this week, offloading some of their property.

Should you be doing the same?

The maths teachers who got aggressive and got lucky

Like so many who stumbled into buy-to-let property in the 1990s, former maths teachers Fergus and Judith Wilson are accidental landlords. Or at least, they were at first.

"We had a house to sell and another to buy", Mr Wilson told the FT. '"I thought with a fair wind, I could keep both at the time and rent one out."

Many people made that same decision back then. And the winds really did turn out to be fair. A generation of buy-to-let landlords was born.

Plenty of them grew their portfolios beyond that first flat, helped by a mid-to-late-90s financial innovation known as the buy-to-let mortgage.

Could you be a buy-to-let landlord?

Easy lending and a rising market made it all so easy. You borrowed against a house. You watched it rise in value. You re-mortgaged at a higher price, took out some of the equity and used it as the deposit on another place – or in the Wilsons' case, many other places.

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"Be aggressive in a bull market", runs the saying, and that's just what the Wilsons were – more so than anyone. "In early 2000, the main requirement for gaining a mortgage was the ability to sign your name", says Mr Wilson.

They took full advantage, so that by 2007, they're believed to have owned as many as 1,000 properties, mostly two- and three-bedders in Kent.

They survived the financial crisis – just – and were bailed out, like all landlords and debtors, by the subsequent suppression of interest rates.

Their debt-servicing costs were minimised and their portfolio has since benefited from the asset-price inflation brought on by zero interest rate policies (Zirp), quantitative easing (QE) and all the rest of the manipulation of money that has gone on since 2008.

Could you be a buy-to-let landlord?

"We've never made money like we've made in the last five years", says Mr Wilson. "God knows how much we've made daily on capital value."

The gains they've made at a time when ever fewer people can afford their own home – and no doubt, comments like the above – have made the Wilsons the poster-children for the loathing many feel towards buy-to-let landlords.

My own view is a little more benign. I don't blame the Wilsons for trying to make money, so much as I blame government policy for creating this distorted market in the first place (stupid planning laws, debt-based money, a failure to include housing in official inflation measures, and all the rest of it – read this if you want to know how to fix housing).

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