Buy To Let or Buy To Sell: Pro’s & Con’s

In it’s most simple form, there are two main strategies to property investment – Buy to Let or Buy To Sell.

Getting a return on your investment is done in one of those two ways, you either sell the property, or let it out. That’s not to say there’s not different ways of doing each, such as serviced accommodation or re-financing. But ultimately, you’re still going to have to sell or let your property to make a return.

Buy To Let Or Buy To Sell

So, which is the best strategy to use?

Well, that’s a great question to ask. The answer (as is the case with most property related questions) is…..

It depends!

It depends on what your goals are, how active / passive you want to be, your attitude to risk and a whole host of other conditions.

To help you make the right decision for your own circumstances, let me break down the pro’s and con’s of both approaches.

Buy To Let:

Pros:

  • Generally speaking, buying to let is a passive income strategy. There are some exceptions to this – depending on whether you plan on refurbishing the property or not. But your bog standard buy to let investment is mostly passive.
  • Buying to let, providing you are able to find tenants without problems will give you monthly cash flow. I.e. Money coming in each month straight to your bank account.
  • Compared to the buy to sell approach, it is generally a lower risk alternative.
  • You get to keep hold of the the asset that may have profitable re-sale value in the future. Not only do you get monthly cash flow from your investment, but you also get to keep hold of an asset that will be worth (hopefully more) money in the future when you do decide to sell.
  • Access to mortgage finance. Buying a property to let is a long term investment, as a result – it allows you the opportunity to apply for Buy To Let Mortgages. These are cheaper than short term finance options such as briding loans. This allows you to spread your cash further.

Cons:

  • Building capital is generally slower than the buy to sell alternative (at least in the short term). If you’re an early investor who’s strapped for cash your standard buy to let will take quite a while to build up your reserves.
  • You have to deal with tenants (or pay someone to do this for you!) This includes finding tenants and managing them for the duration of the contract. Sometimes this can go wrong, tenants can stop paying or cause damage to your property. There’s things you can do to minimise this risk, but the risk will always remain.
  • Long term maintenance. The longer you keep hold of your property, the more likely you’ll have to deal with long term maintenance issues. These include (but not limited to): Boiler replacement/maintenance, potential for dampness, electrics, roofing etc.
  • It ties up a certain amount of cash. There are ways to try and reduce the impact of this – such as the Buy, Renovate, Re-Finance model (BRR). But some of your cash will be tied up in the property (it’s inevitable). The typical finance rate is 75% LTV.

Buy To Sell:

Pros:

  • Buying to Sell is (generally speaking) a quicker way to build short term capital. So if you’re looking to build your pot of money relatively quickly. Selling is generally one of the better ways to do it.
  • You don’t have to worry about the property long term. Once you’ve sold it, your involvement with the property is done. Make your money and move on to the next thing.

Cons:

  • Unless you’re a cash investor, you’ll have to make use of short term finance agreements in order to purchase the property. These are typically more expensive than mortgages. Look up bridging loans for more details.
  • Typically speaking, it is a higher risk strategy than buying to let. You’re very much dependant on the sales market and your ability to find a buyer at the price you want. If you’re not careful, you can end up sitting on a vacant property for quite a while before you are able to sell it.
  • Refurbishment costs (and any unexpected problems). It is very difficult to buy cheap and sell higher in a short space of time without having to do any work for it. That means you’ll have to add value in some way. If you’re not doing it yourself – this can be expensive and eat into margins. Not to mention any hidden problems you might uncover. If you’re able to do the work yourself, that eases this burden, but you still need to budget appropriately.
  • In a similar note, it’s a more active investment strategy. You’ll have to put more time and effort (generally speaking) into your buy to sell property.
  • There’s no asset at the end of it and no consistent income to rely on. If buy to sell is your only strategy – your returns can end up being clumsily spread out in big lump chunks.

So Which Strategy Should You Use?

Well, just like I said at the beginning of this article – it depends.

I love talking shop with other property minded-folks. So if you want to explore this topic further, please reach out via my contact page, or find me on twitter.

What will I be doing? The honest answer to that is I’m still deciding. Ironically, it depends. It depends how much capital I have left over after I sell my house and buy my next. What I am most likely to do, is a diversified approach of both buying to let and sell. I am particularly interested in the BRR model, so watch this space as I continue my research.

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