Fergus and Judith Wilson, a British couple from Maidstone, started their Buy to Let property empire back in 1986. Originally teachers, they gave up their educating careers and began buying new builds and remortgaging them when prices increased. Wilson told The Telegraph that it was ‘remarkably easy because no-one knew what they were doing’. When house prices were lower, the pair began their journey to become one of the UK’s largest buy to let investors. By 2013 they owned an impressive 1000+ two and three-bed properties around Ashford and Maidstone in Kent. This achievement earned them position number 453 on The Sunday Time’s ‘rich list’.
Selling their buy to let empire
In July 2014, Wilson revealed his shock decision to sell their entire buy to let portfolio to foreign investors. During the summer of 2015, the couple sold around 100 two and three-bedroom houses to Chinese and Indian investors. The sale started the decline of the couples portfolio, but sold for £25million. By December 2015, the entire empire was sold to a variety of overseas investors. Mainly from China and India, Wilson explains how lots of wealthy people abroad want to own property in London and the surrounding areas. Also confirming English investors had looked into the properties, none of them had made a purchase. The total sale came to a massive £250million netting the Wilson’s a large fortune. Instead the couple planned on buying a farm or two in Norfolk and Suffolk. You can find out what some think of this here.
Why they decided to sell
With Mr Wilson in his late sixties, he wanted to sell all his properties and officially retire. Wilson previously stated he wished he could take his properties ‘to the grave’. However, ultimately the idea of leaving his wife with the stress of managing all the properties with ever chaging landlord legislation as well as tenants led to the sale. After his Capital Gains Tax bill he is still expected to have a sum of £100million – hardly pocket change! When asked what they would do with their fortune, Mr Wilson assured they wouldn’t be buying horses and cars. Instead the couple planned on buying a farm or two in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Could you have the same success in buy to let today?
According to Wilson, the investors of the future will never be able to reach the same dizzy levels of success. With larger deposits, harsher lending criteria and higher rental income requirements, the market doesn’t look as strong as before. Wilson stated ‘the days of the small buy to let landlord are numbered’. Defending Wilson’s prediction, chief executive of Haart, Paul Smith, says we face a ‘war on landlords’. In 2016, the number of buy to let transactions decreased by a significant 63%. Research in August 2016 found that 40% of landlords would decrease their portfolios over five years due to impending tax changes. Although the success the Wilson’s had is tempting, the likelihood of investors following in their path is slim. However it’s doubtful that the landlords will be the ones who have to suffer. New tax costs will be passed onto tenants, and ‘it isn’t even a matter for debate’ insists Stuart Law, founder of Assetz. So if you’re a landlord looking to achieve success, there’s still ample opportunities to do so.
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