Landlords spend £12,000 per refurbishment, new study shows

Landlords are typically spending £12,000 refurbishing and this level of investment is improving the quality of homes in the private rented sector, new research has found.

It means that the proportion of non-decent homes has fallen from 44% to 24.5% in the last decade with 70% of landlords who have refurbished property doing so to improve the quality of the property, with 45% doing so to boost financial returns.

The study from InterBay Commercial, part of specialist lending group OneSavings Bank, also shows that landlords are more likely to undertake small refurbishments to secure rental demand and improve the appeal of the property while bigger pieces of work adds more value to property.

Overall, refurbishment does prove to be profitable, buoying average rents by 8% and the average value of a property by £13,000. Less frequent large scale refurbishments adds an average of £96,000 to property’s value from a £40,000 outlay.

In spite of the private rented sector growing by 45% over the period, adding 1.5 million homes, the number of non-decent homes has fallen in absolute terms by 275,000. While there is clearly more work to do, the report says, the improvement is significant and sustained.

Indeed, as a result, the latest English Housing Survey shows that the vast majority, some 84%, of private renters were satisfied with their current accommodation.

Landlords’ commitment to refurbishing to improve properties has been a key factor in this improvement. A survey of more than 700 property investors, conducted for InterBay by research house Savanta, shows 70% of landlords who recently undertook a refurbishment did so to improve the property, be it its presentation or the quality of the accommodation for tenants. Meanwhile, 45% of landlords cited increasing a property’s capital or yield as their reasons to refurbish.

Many landlords take a little and often approach to refurbishments, seeking to ensure they maintain rental income and the quality of the property, while a minority seek more significant and costly works to add value or convert a property.

Indeed, just 18% of those who had recently refurbished a property had undertaken a heavy refurbishment, and of these, nearly two thirds undertook the works to add value to the property. Overall, 28% of landlords spent less than £5,000 on their last refurbishment, and 43% spent less than £10,000. At the other end of the scale, just 13% spent more than £100,000.

As well as ensuring a property is in a good enough condition to rent, refurbishment typically boosts a rental property’s value and income potential. Some 74% of those who undertook a refurbishment said it enhanced the property’s value, and 82% saw monthly rents rise. The average rent for a refurbished property rose by £81 per month, up by 8%.

Even after accounting for those who did not see the value of their property rise, the typical refurbishment added £13,000 to a house’s value, meaning landlords more than make their money back on the capital gains alone. For those that saw the value of their home rise, often those undertaking larger scale development, the increase was substantial. These landlords estimated refurbishment boosted the value of their property by 9%, adding around £20,000.

The larger the renovation, the larger the average increase in value too. While a light refurbishment typically adds around £9,000 in value, compared to an outlay of £7,000, a heavy refurbishment, involving a £40,000 spend on average, adds £96,000 to a property’s value.

‘The private rented sector has been a success story since the financial crisis, catering for a growing proportion of the population that either cannot or chooses not to purchase a home. As the PRS has grown, it has also professionalised. As it has done so, the standard of accommodation for tenants has improved drastically too,’ said Darrell Walker, head of sales at InterBay Commercial.

‘Refurbishment has been central to this improvement. It is a win-win for tenants and landlords. Tenants see better quality accommodation, while landlords improve the rent they receive and maximise the value of the property. And with interest rates still bumping along the bottom, those borrowing to support refurbishment can access historically cheap funding to enable improvement works,’ he pointed out.

‘Nonetheless, continued investment in the sector is not a foregone conclusion, and it must be supported rather than undermined. Landlords have been buffeted by the headwinds of policy change since 2015, and costs have risen for investors. Should this rate of change continue, it will weigh on landlords’ decisions to spend more on their portfolios, and risks undermining a decade of progress,’ he added.