Tag Archives: gearing

Get into High Gear with Gearing Guest Columns, Property Investment Strategies

Using Finance to Increase your Returns

After recently attending local property networking events it still amazes me that investors think it’s a good idea to buy properties for cash. Firstly, the financial returns are less when a property is purchased for cash. Secondly, it means a large amount of cash is tied up for six months as no remortgaging can take place until a period of six months has elapsed. This means if a bargain property opportunity comes along within that six month period you will miss out, unless you have more cash to hand. So start as you mean to go on i.e. gear the property on purchase with a mortgage, ideally 75% to 80% loan to value mortgage. Continue reading Get into High Gear with Gearing

Property Values vs Interest Rates Buy to Let News, Cautionary Tales, Fun Stuff, Latest Articles, Property118 News, Question of the Week, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

A question that came up in conversation this evening whilst in the car on the way back from my fiancée’s offices was “which will rise first, interest rates or property values?” Have you ever asked yourself this question?

I know what you are probably thinking, “haven’t you got anything better to talk to your fiancée about”, right? Well I guess that’s what happens when you mix an accountant with a Masters Degree in international business finance and economics with a landlord, economist and former finance broker LOL !!! Seriously though, give it a go at the pub or over dinner, ask the question, it’s an interesting debate for anybody with any interest in property, whether they are landlords or not. Continue reading Property Values vs Interest Rates

The Most Powerful Property an Investor Can Own Is… Guest Columns

… an unencumbered one.

Should finances allow, I commonly suggest that investors obtain or keep an unencumbered property (no loan of mortgage secured on it) as quickly as possible as it’s an incredibly powerful tool to have at your disposal and here’s why.

Firstly it’s always there to fall back on; no matter how low lenders reduce LTVs you’ll nearly always be able to raise cash on it in an emergency. You never know when you may need some quick cash and if your portfolio is geared up and lenders move the goal posts you may find yourself unable to lay your hands on some urgently needed cash. This may be for the deal of a lifetime, it may be to help a friend or relative or it may be for an unexpected bill! Continue reading The Most Powerful Property an Investor Can Own Is…

Why Do People Hate Landlords? Cautionary Tales, Latest Articles

I decided to write this article as a companion piece to Mary Latham’s recent article “I will not say sorry for being a good landlord”.

I originally conceived it as simply a reply but I thought I had too much to say on the matter.

Mary’s concern is a common one that I hear. “What have I ever done to them?”. And it is one that I completely understand. I think I have an insight on it, an insight born through having once been a landlord, currently being a tenant and being a person whose job means I get stuck between landlords and tenants in disputes and allegations, I think this gives me a uniquely rounded perspective. Continue reading Why Do People Hate Landlords?

Money Men Predict Surge in Buy to Let Buy to Let News, Latest Articles, Property Market News

Row of buy to let signs

"Buy to let is a changed market"

The case for investing in buy to let is moving into sharper perspective as financial firms with a vested interest in selling to landlords disclose their business insights into the sectors.

For landlords thinking about the future of the rental businesses and the prospects of expanding, it looks rosy.

The latest private rented sector statistics from the Communities and Local Government Department and estimates for the number of new homes needed to meet the demand of a growing population provide the hooks for everyone to hang their prediction hats on.

The CLG figures reveal 17.4% of homes are buy to lets, up from 16.4% in 2009. Around 3.1 million homes are rental properties – an increase of 229,000 since 2009. Continue reading Money Men Predict Surge in Buy to Let

My 1,000th post on my favourite Property Forum Cautionary Tales, Latest Articles, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

The following is an extract from my 1,000th discussion on Property Tribes (my favourite property forum).

I asked the members 5 questions about their property investment strategies and then went on to answer the same questions myself, after reading what others do. Continue reading My 1,000th post on my favourite Property Forum

The roots of my Property Investment Strategy Favourite Articles, Financial Advice, Latest Articles, My buy to let strategy, Property Investment Strategies, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords


Mark Alexander“I measure my business related success by how much I improve my cashflow and my bank balance every year.”

The beginning of my career was spent working in financial rescue.  It was the early 1990’s, property values had plummeted and interest rates had soared to 15%.

Property investors who faced financial ruin all had one thing in common and it wasn’t what you might think.  It wasn’t high gearing; it was a shortage of cash.  Investors with high gearing and high liquidity (cash in the bank) fared well.  This taught me that “Cash is King” and that equity left in property is subject to high risk.

Cash is King: Why I build a rainy day fund

Whether I’m  in the market to buy or whether I’m dealing with the unexpected I believe it is always better to have cash in the bank.  If I don’t there is always the risk that I will not be able to borrow, and where might that leave me?

A strategy of high gearing is all well and good but only when combined with a risk reduction strategy of high liquidity, i.e. money in the bank.  I’ve seen far too many investors get greedy and over accelerate the growth of their portfolio by investing all monies raised as a result of high gearing into further purchases.  My personal strategy is to retain a substantial level of monies raised from remortgaging.

I use part of my rainy day fund to buy properties that I can add substantial value to.  The aim is to get the figures to stack up so that when I’ve optimised the value of a property I can refinance all of my investment back out of it.  I measure my success by how much I improve my cashflow and my bank balance.

Why I believe property investment makes so much sense

Vast quantities of people choose not to own their own home for a variety of reasons and prefer to pay rent for the privilege of occupying property.  In fact, in the early 1900’s over 90% of people in the UK lived in rented accommodation.  This fell to a low point in 1973 to just 7% of the population but has grown steadily since then to around 12%.

The basics

I use rental income to service mortgages and the management, maintenance and insurance expenses associated with property ownership.  Over time, inflation and other factors increase the value of my properties and the rent.  However, my mortgage balances remain constant, assuming of course that only interest is paid.  Therefore, as the years roll on the gap widens between the rents received and the total outgoings thus creating an improved cash flow position.  Rising property values also increase my net worth.  A strategy of borrowing ‘cheap money’ to purchase property is, therefore, an effective method of accelerating my wealth by using other peoples’ money.

Long Term Strategy

My Property Investment Strategy is a long term strategy, i.e. at least one property market cycle.  I consider shorter term strategies are not property investment at all, that’s property speculation.

Why I release equity whenever a realistic opportunity to do so presents itself

This has always been a fundamental component of my property investment strategy.  It’s all about transfer of risk.  If equity is left in the property and the property reduces in value the equity may no longer be accessible and I am taking all the risk.  However, once the property is refinanced, I control the liquidity and the risk is transferred to my lenders for which they earn premium interest returns.

The following simple example might explain this better.

Let’s assume I own an investment property worth £100,000 with no mortgage.

One morning I wake up, turn on the TV and watch the news which announces that property values have fallen by 50%.

My property is now worth £50,000.

Prior to this happening I could have raised a mortgage of £75,000 and kept the money in the bank.  I would then have a property worth £50,000 and a mortgage of £75,000.  Therefore I would have £25,000 of negative equity!

Would I be at risk though? Remember, I would still have £75,000 in the bank.

So what are my choices?

I could feel sorry for the bank.  After all, the bank are now carrying the risk.  If this is the case I could repay the mortgage, or,

I could simply keep the money in the bank, or

I could use part of the money to buy more cheap properties and keep some on one side for a rainy day.

If I had not refinanced I would find it difficult to raise money as the banks would be nervous about lending at this point.  If I then decided to get funding I would probably pay more for it.  Additionally, if I could then borrow 75% of the value of my property, I would only manage to raise £37,500.

If the market goes the other way and property values increase then another window of opportunity may well open to release even more equity.

Rental demand

Whilst the general trend over the long term is for rental values to track inflation, I accept rental demand will fall from time to time, usually depending upon the availability of property to rent.  This is another reason I build a ‘rainy day fund’. 

Interest only

Like many investors, I have become a cashflow beneficiary of the ‘Credit Crunch’ due to the lowest interest rates in history.  A question I am often asked is, “Should I use the extra cashflow to reduce my mortgage balances?”  I appreciate that one day interest rates will go back up again and the base logic for the incorrect decision to repay debt now is to reduce payments in the future.  However, as property values fall it gets harder to borrow.  When dealing with a crisis position, e.g. a desperate need for cash or unaffordable mortgage payments, my preference is to have extra cash in the bank then a slightly smaller mortgage.

Accordingly, as my Property Investment Strategy involves taking money out of properties by refinancing whenever an opportunity to do so exists,  I believe there is no sensible argument for making capital repayments on the mortgage, especially if it’s cheap money in comparison to the returns I can make on it elsewhere.

What about negative equity?

My strategy is never to sell, therefore, the only damage that negative equity can cause me is that it prevents me refinancing and may make it difficult for me to sell a property if I need to.  Therefore, my liquidity reserve strategy is also beneficial to reduce negative equity if an unexpected need to sell a property occurs.

Why I believe there is never a bad time to buy

When the property market is booming this is usually coupled with widespread availability of competitive mortgage products.  This market is, however, ‘counter-cyclical’, which means that when property values are stagnant or in decline, the availability of mortgages is also much tighter.  The impact of such ‘supply and demand’ makes borrowing more expensive in recessions and less expensive in boom times.  Therefore, I use buoyant property markets to accelerate the growth of my portfolio using a high gearing and high liquidity strategy in conjunction with easily accessible and highly competitively priced funding. I also know that when funding is more expensive and credit controls are tougher I am in a position to acquire property at ‘bargain basement’ prices.  When the markets become stronger again I will refinance yet again. 

If I had known then what I know now ………..

With hindsight would I have purchased properties in 2006 to 2008?  Many of these are now worth less than what I paid for them.  Although some of the properties I purchased were overpriced, compared to today’s values, the mortgages were under priced and far more competitive in every way.  If it wasn’t for properties being over valued I wouldn’t have been able to refinance to replenish my liquidity reserves and to fund the deposits to expand my portfolio in the first place.

To learn more about my property investment strategy please read the following posts in this order:

  1. (You are Here) |  The Roots of my Property Investment Strategy
  2. What you shouldn’t do with your buy to let mortgage
  3. How I maximise the returns on my liquidity fund (cash in the bank)
  4. Sell or hold after completing a refurbishment?
  5. Buy to let strategy – in this article Mark Alexander explains the 20% liquidity reserve rule of thumb
  6. What’s more important, cashflow or liquidity? Mark Alexander reports
  7. Is your property portfolio ownership structure optimised to enable you to pay the minimum amount of CGT, income tax and IHT?
  8. The history of No Money Down and Instant Remortgages since 1992
  9. How I minimise rental voids
  10. How I choose my tenants
  11. How I minimise property management issues
  12. Are YOUR tenants YOUR best ambassadors
  13. Due Diligence
  14. My 1000th post on my favourite property forum
  15. Property management advice
  16. Property investment advice

Buy to let strategy – the 20% liquidity reserve rule of thumb Latest Articles, Property Investment Strategies, UK Property Forum for Buy to Let Landlords

Mark AlexanderThis rule of thumb is very simple.  If you have £100,000 of buy to let mortgages you should have £20,000 in the bank.

This article was written to show you a safe strategy that you may never have considered before.  If you don’t have the right level of liquidity reserve, don’t panic.  There are ways to correct the situation, either by restructuring, or if that isn’t possible, by looking for ways to reduce your costs and increase your cashflow. Continue reading Buy to let strategy – the 20% liquidity reserve rule of thumb

The history of No Money Down and Instant Remortgages since 1992 Favourite Articles, Latest Articles, Property Investment Strategies

Mark AlexanderIt was 1992, we were at the tail of the property crash of the late 80’s and early 90’s. I was still cutting my teeth in the market of providing commercial finance broking facilities to property investors. The phrase buy to let would not be invented for another four years and the internet was in its infancy. Property prices had fallen by 30% and interest rates had soared to 15%.

Continue reading The history of No Money Down and Instant Remortgages since 1992

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