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Why pension reform will not spark a buy-to-let bubble

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Radical pension reforms have sparked talk of a buy-to-let bubble. But property expert Giles Beswick says we are unlikely to see a flood of retirees heading to their local estate agencies.

As many readers will be well aware by now, as part of the 2014 Budget, the Chancellor announced a huge change in pension rules by stating that retirees can now draw their entire pension pot rather than having to purchase a retirement annuity.

This has major implications for the over 55s who are considering which steps to take next with their pension as it gives them a freedom of choice which was previously unavailable.

This announcement – which has been heralded as George Osborne’s ‘flagship’ measure – has triggered widespread debate. Sceptics have proclaimed that many will simply blow their pensions on Lamborghinis or luxury holidays, while others have heralded it as the catalyst of a huge buy-to-let property bubble.

However, I’m inclined to think that the general population in the UK hasn’t been given enough credit – people simply aren’t as naïve as has been suggested.

There’s no way that the majority of us would blow all of our hard-earned savings on a one-off luxury item and the buy-to-let market isn’t one that you enter impulsively.

Purchasing a traditional buy-to-let house or apartment would, for most people, involve taking out a mortgage and then having to regularly pay for the general upkeep of the property – it certainly doesn’t represent a one-off capital outlay.

Alongside this, not many people I know are planning on spending their retirement ‘doing-up’ houses and finding tenants to fill them.

What would be worse than this potential buy-to-let boom would be if people were simply too nervous to do anything with their retirement reserves, out of fear they could lose it all. This could result in an extremely stagnant market, with people never realising the potential of their savings.

Rather than scaring people with talk of a bubble, the industry and the media should be instead encouraging future retirees to have the confidence to explore the market and find out what investment vehicles are out there and how they can access them.

If this happened then people would find a plethora of alternative schemes that could fit their personal circumstances perfectly. For example, here at Select Property we are offering purpose-built student accommodation that will provide steady income and has a relatively low entry point, without the drawbacks of a cumbersome mortgage or time-consuming tenancy management.

Many people won’t realise that there are products like these available, but they have been sought-after for many years by clued-up investors from around the world. For example, we have several Australian clients who have invested their pension pot- called a ‘superannuation’ in the land Down Under – in student accommodation as they had the freedom to make their own financial decisions long before we did in the UK.

At the end of the day, the 2014 Budget marks a significant change in the British pension system but we think it is highly unlikely that it will result in the feared buy-to-let bubble – the majority of the British public won’t be able to think of anything worse than spending their golden years finding tenants and clearing up after them.

However, if handled properly then the Budget will drive people to explore the market and be more financially responsible. This can only be a good thing, both for their bank balances and the strength of the wider market.

Giles Beswick is a director at property investment specialist Select Property

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