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BLOG: The buy-to-let phenomenon is alive and well

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Phil Coombes of Leeds Building Society considers falling student numbers and the impact on the rental market.

A recent report about the growth of buy-to-let got me thinking about the differences between the generations of the 1970s then and now, and why renting is making a huge comeback.

Back in the 1970s you finished secondary school and your choice was off to your first job, in a factory, office or as a tradesman. Some were academically able and went off to university, where for three years they enjoyed a free education before returning to life in the medical, legal or accountancy professions.

Those leaving university usually had the chance to buy property because of their status as professionals on leaving. Meanwhile, those in their jobs were just starting to look around for their first home, and after scrimping and saving, a 5% deposit was found, and our first timers were off to their semi and were on the housing ladder.

Cars? Well, there wasn’t any spare cash for the shiny new car, so it was the faithful Ford Capri or Austin Allegro (the one with the square steering wheel), usually third-hand, that found its way into the car-port.

So, thank goodness for MIG, for 100% top-up schemes and plenty of first-time buyers who wanted desperately to get on the housing ladder before starting their families.

So, move forward 40 years and what do you have? Well. Youngsters are still leaving school but their ambitions have changed. Now it’s financial services and IT related work that is prevalent in today’s job market.

Those going to university know that they will leave with a large debt before they’ve even started earning, but if they are going into the professions, that usually won’t be a problem.

The numbers going to uni are down so what does this mean – are more youngsters going for buying their first home? Well, no, because now this generation realises they can keep their money, enjoy a good time with no long-term commitments and be able to afford a brand new car – sales of new cars are up.

That just leaves where to live and now those wishing to live somewhere other than mum and dad are moving in droves to properties bought by someone else but rented out – and thus the buy-to-let phenomenon is alive and well and doesn’t look like disappearing soon.

Phil Coombes is head of intermediary sales at Leeds Building Society

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