UK landlords are failing to take running costs into account when measuring buy-to-let returns

Landlord Expert
By Landlord Expert May 7, 2015 14:57
  • Three-quarters of UK landlords don’t factor in the running costs they incur
  • 12% of buy-to-let investors do not take any costs into account
  • Average cost associated with running a buy-to-let property can add up to over half (52%) of gross annual rental income

UK landlords are at risk of overestimating the profitability of their buy-to-let (BTL) investment by neglecting to take into account key running costs, according to new research from Platinum Property Partners, the specialist buy-to-let business.

The total potential cost associated with the annual running and upkeep of a BTL property – including letting agent fees, maintenance, repairs, marketing fees and mortgage interest – amounts to an average of £8,359. 

However, almost one in eight (12%) landlords do not take any costs into consideration when calculating the financial performance of their BTL portfolio, leaving them particularly vulnerable to misjudging the returns they will make from their investment.

The research also shows that for all costs, there is a gap between the proportion of property investors who incur the different types of costs, and those who include them in their portfolio measurement.  

Three-quarters (75%) of UK landlords incurring the top 10 most common costs don’t account for them when calculating their portfolio’s financial performance– meaning the returns on their investment could be lower than they think. 

Table 1: Top 10 most common costs incurred by landlords


% Landlords who incur costs

% Landlords who incurred costs and did not  take them into account when measuring financial performance

Average annual cost per property

Repair costs




Letting agent fees to manage property




Refurbishment and decoration costs




Letting agent fees to find tenants




Regular exterior maintenance costs e.g. gardening, window cleaning




Maintenance fees




Regular interior cleaning costs




Service charges




Mortgage interest




Advertising or marketing fees to let property




All other costs








Source: Platinum Property Partners research, February 2015

Landlords may be overestimating BTL returns by up to 50%

Based on a typical portfolio of two rental properties, the total bill associated with running a BTL portfolio could stack up to £16,718 every year, which in turn equals 52% of gross annual rental income (£32,388). 

The most accurate way to measure the performance of a BTL investment is by using ‘Return on Investment’ or ‘Return on Equity’, as these methods take into account gross profit, capital gain, and the costs of running the property – including the amount spent on refurbishment.

Majority of landlords ignore the impact of void periods on their rental income

In addition to these regular maintenance and day-to-day upkeep costs, encountering void periods is often an inevitability for landlords at some stage.

In any one year, up to 60% of landlords face void periods, however, only 12% of these take this into account when assessing the ongoing health of their property portfolio. This means a staggering 88% aren’t acknowledging the impact this has on their rental income. 

By including estimates of void periods in their financial measurements, landlords will have a better picture of the potential net returns they will get from their investment.    

Steve Bolton, Founder and Chairman of Platinum Property Partners (PPP) comments:  “The buy-to-let market is a hot ticket investment at the moment for budding landlords looking to generate an income and good level of capital growth from rental property. This is particularly the case now that new pension freedoms have opened the gates to alternative financial plans for retirement. 

“But becoming a landlord isn’t a walk in the park, and running a successful BTL portfolio takes continued investments of time and money on top of your initial lump sum investment. Many landlords appear to be burying their heads in the sands and are seriously in the dark about the ‘true’ value of the returns from their BTL investment if they don’t take into consideration regular outgoings such as letting agent fees, repairs, redecoration costs, and mortgage interest. Property investors need to keep note of all these additional expenses to make sure they are evaluating their returns rigorously, as that’s the only safeguard to check if they’re still on course to achieve their goal of retirement income or to supplement or replace their salary. 

“If landlords don’t have all the information at their fingertips, they can’t properly assess market risk and opportunities to make informed decisions about the future of their portfolio, or plan effectively. It also makes it extremely difficult to compare the performance of a BTL portfolio against other forms of investment.”

Landlord Expert
By Landlord Expert May 7, 2015 14:57

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