Build to Let Mortgages

Looking to build a property specifically for long-term rental? Here’s how you can invest and finance a project like this in the best way possible.

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Pete Mugleston

Author: Pete Mugleston - Mortgage Advisor, MD

Updated: December 3, 2023

If you’re planning to build an investment property with the end goal of renting out, you might be at the stage of researching development finance options. One solution could be a build to rent mortgage, but there are some important things to understand about these loans.

This guide covers everything that both experienced landlords and first-time investors need to know. We’ll explain the build to let mortgage process, how to invest, and where to get expert support for your rental property goals.

Keep reading for all the details or click on a link below to jump straight to a section…

What is build to rent finance?

This isn’t a specific type of loan or mortgage product. It refers to a form of short-term, interest-only financing available to investors and developers looking to build a buy-to-let (BTL) property, purpose-built as a private long-term rental. Sometimes this will also be referred to as ‘build to let’, but both terms mean the same thing.

Most build-to-rent schemes are set up as long-term investments by property development firms or organisations like pension and insurance companies. As a result, build to let finance (not technically a specific mortgage type) will be aimed at experienced developers. But, there can still be ways to invest without direct experience.

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How does it work?

Build to rent (BTR) is a type of financing that’s similar in many ways to a self-build buy-to-let (BTL) mortgage. The loan would be set up with a structure so that you can access funds whilst developing and building the rental property, and then once it’s finished you’d move onto a standard BTL mortgage.

Build to rent loans tend to only have term lengths of up to around 24 months. It’s mostly used as a tool for developers to create and build projects that are designed to house long-term renters. This includes apartment buildings that have communal facilities and sometimes shared areas or outdoor spaces for tenants.

These features can make this type of property a solid investment that attracts higher rental prices than other accommodations. Depending on the size of your particular project, you may be able to build a multi-freehold property with a single buy-to-let mortgage from a lender to cover the whole building.

For larger projects with more than 10 units or additional on-site amenities (like a gym, shop, or security), you may need to approach a commercial buy-to-let lender to finance your build to rent investment.

How to invest in build to rent

Securing build to rent investment in the form of a mortgage or loan will always be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. But, there are some steps you can take to give you the best chance of securing the finance you need to make your property development investment goals a reality:

1. Gather your documents and plans

Your first step is to get hold of all your standard documents like photo ID, proof of address, and any relevant financial documents relating to you or your business. It’s also worth having to hand your initial property development plans, site locations, cost estimates, along with any evidence of successful past projects.

2. Speak with a broker experienced in build-to-rent finance

Get matched with an experienced mortgage broker who will be able to help secure finance will review your specific circumstances and goals, and then direct you on the next steps to securing investment.

3. Apply and access funds

After helping you prepare your application, your broker will introduce you to a suitable lender so that you can start accessing funds and get your rental development project underway as soon as possible.

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Eligibility criteria and deposits

As mentioned, build to rent finance is normally aimed at larger developers and organisations, but not always. If you want to explore build to let as a potential investment, here are some important factors relating to mortgage eligibility and deposits.

Deposit: putting down a larger deposit to lower your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio and reduce the perceived risk for some lenders. So, a bigger deposit could increase your chances of acceptance, or lead to more favourable rates and terms. But there are development finance lenders out there who will fund 100% of construction costs, or even complete 100% LTV financing if you have other assets to use as security for the loan.

Previous experience: lenders are more likely to offer this type of finance to developers or landlords with a proven track record of similar successful past projects. In their eyes, financing your build to rent apartments is a better potential investment. But, if you’re a first-time developer, there can still be creative ways to secure investment and loans.

Exit strategy: to qualify for a short-term build to rent loan, you’ll need a suitable exit strategy. This is your plan to pay off the remaining debt at the end of the term. The most common strategy is to refinance once the property development is complete and move onto a buy-to-let mortgage. But, the strength of your rental property will be key.

Rental property plans: if you approach lenders with a hastily prepared plan for your property development, this will reduce your chances of securing build to rent finance. If you take the time to create a thorough and detailed proposal with the guidance of industry experts, you’ll improve your likelihood of success. Details of rental projections, occupancy forecasts, and a strong business model will show lenders you’re serious.

Planning permission: you’ll often need planning permission in place before lenders will discuss investment and financing for the build to rent project.

Your credit: with property investments like this, your credit score won’t play as much of a role as it would with other types of mortgages and finance. However, it’s still worth downloading all your credit reports ahead of time to correct any mistakes. Lenders often consider bad credit applicants if your adverse credit doesn’t impact the exit strategy.

Pros and cons of build-to-rent

Using this type of loan to finance your build to rent project does come with some potential benefits and drawbacks to keep in mind.

Advantages

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The rental market has proven to be a solid form of investment and future forecasts remain positive.

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Purpose-building apartments for long-term renting can provide a more stable and consistent form of income.

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It can be possible to access government build-to-rent schemes like the housing guarantee scheme to support your investment.

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If you deal with the right development finance lenders, they’ll fund the majority of your build to rent investment with a small amount of upfront capital from you.

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Build to rent apartments and facilities can have a positive impact on the local community and even drive up property prices.

Disadvantages

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A large, purpose-built rental can be difficult to sell in future.

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Accessing the initial capital can be challenging if you don’t know where to look and many short-term borrowing solutions come with high interest rates.

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Build to rent is typically a long-term investment where you may not see positive returns for some time.

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Creating a plan and securing finance can be difficult to achieve without expert advice and guidance.

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Most traditional lenders and high street banks won’t offer build to let finance. Or, it can take an extremely long time, causing building delays and driving up your budget.

Build to rent lenders

Finding a suitable lender to finance your build to let development can be challenging because each deal will be discussed on a case-by-case basis with no universal way to secure investment. To give you an idea of some options, here are a few lenders who are known to be open to discussing build to rent finance:

  • Checkbox PurpleUnited Trust Bank - Development loans up to 60% of GDV (Gross Development Value).
  • Checkbox PurplePluto Finance - Loans of between £7 million and £70 million, but only in England and Wales with a 60% maximum LTV.
  • Checkbox PurpleBLG - Lending up to 70% LTV on build to let loans between £1 million and £10 million for three or more units that have planning permission secured.

Not many lenders who offer build to rent finance will advertise options publicly. And, you often need an introduction from a trusted broker to discuss investments of this scale. Speaking to a specialist development finance broker is your best course of action if you want to find the right lender that suits your property investment goals.

Speak with a build to rent financing specialist

Discussing your individual situation and plans with an experienced mortgage broker is the best way to find a bespoke financing solution for your build to let property development.

We offer a free, broker-matching service. This means we’ll quickly assess your needs and then introduce you to a specialist broker who can help you secure a loan or finance for your build to rent investment.

Just call 0808 189 2301 or make an enquiry. We’ll set up a free, no obligation chat between you and a specialist development finance broker today.

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FAQs

It can be possible, but some lenders will have restrictions around the locations they’re willing to work with. Some locations will be better than others from an investment perspective so this may also be a factor.

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About the author

Pete, an expert in all things mortgages, cut his teeth right in the middle of the credit crunch. With plenty of people needing help and few mortgage providers lending, Pete found great success in going the extra mile to find mortgages for people whom many others considered lost causes. The experience he gained, coupled with his love of helping people reach their goals, led him to establish Online Mortgage Advisor, with one clear vision – to help as many customers as possible get the right advice, regardless of need or background.

Pete’s presence in the industry as the ‘go-to’ for specialist finance continues to grow, and he is regularly cited in and writes for both local and national press, as well as trade publications, with a regular column in Mortgage Introducer and being the exclusive mortgage expert for LOVEMoney. Pete also writes for Online Mortgage Advisor of course!

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Pete Mugleston

Mortgage Advisor, MD

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