The revival of private residential landlordism in Britain through the prism of changing returns

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Unlike many other countries, Britain had a weak private rented sector (PRS) in decline for most of the twentieth century. A revival began from the turn of the millennium. The platform for this rebirth was the removal of regulation and the arrival of buy to let (BTL) mortgages for individuals at competitive interest rates. The dynamic and rapid development of the PRS cannot be understood in isolation to the financial rewards that the sector was offering to its investors. This paper calculates the internal rate of return (IRR) from investing in BTL, since its inception in 1996. It uses a financial model to simulate average BTL purchases in eleven regions, investing in every year over the period from 1996 to 2015. The paper finds strong evidence that the early spectacular growth in the BTL market was stimulated and sustained by very attractive perceived rewards. Over the entire analysis period from 1996 to 2015, investors have attained an average IRR of 12%, compared to 5.8% from the stock market. The paper also finds that recent unfavourable tax changes lower the returns, but that the sector will continue to offer a much higher return than that offered by the equity market.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-76
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Property Research
Issue number1
Early online date18 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2022


  • Changing Taxation
  • Deregulation
  • Investment Returns
  • Private Rented Sector

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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