Thursday 29 June 2017

Queen Mary researchers evaluate impact of new regulations on the Buy-To-Let property market using novel AI methods

In 2015 the British government announced major tax reforms for individual landlords that will be in full effect in tax year 2020/21, being introduced gradually after April 2017. The new reforms and regulations have received much media attention as there has been widespread belief that they were sufficiently skewed against landlords that they could signal the end of the Buy-To-Let (BTL) investment era in the UK.

Research by Anthony Constantinou and Norman Fenton of Queen Mary University of London, has now been published that provides the first comprehensive evaluation of the impact of the reforms on the London BTL property market. The results use a novel model (based on revolutionary new work in an AI method called Bayesian networks) that captures multiple uncertainties and allows investors to assess the impact of various factors of interest on their BTL investment, such as changes in interest rates, capital and rental growth. Additionally, the model allows for portfolio risk management through intervention between time steps, such as the effects of different scenarios of re-mortgaging.

The results show that, over a 10-year period, the overall return-on-investment (ROI) will be reduced under the new tax measures, but that the ROI remains good assuming a common BTL London profile. However, there are major differences depending on the investor strategy. For example, for risk-averse investors who choose not to expand their portfolio, the reforms are expected to have only a marginal negative impact, with the overall ROI reducing from 301% under the old regulations to 290% under the new (-3.7%), and this loss comes exclusively from a decrease in net profits from rental income (-32.2%). However, the impact on risk-seeking investors who aim to expand their property portfolio through leveraging is much more significant, since the new tax reforms are projected to decrease ROI from 941% to 590% (-37.3%), over the same 10-year period.

The impact on net profits also poses substantial risks for loss-making returns excluding capital gains, especially in the case of rising interest rates. While this makes it less desirable or even non-viable for some to continue being a landlord, based on the current status of all factors taken into consideration for simulation, investment prospects are still likely to remain good within a reasonable range of interest rate and capital growth rate variations. Further, the results also indicate that the recent trend of property prices in London increasing faster than rents will not continue for much longer; either capital growth rates will have to decrease, rental growth rates will have to increase, or we shall observe a combination of the two events.

The full paper (with open access link):

Constantinou, A. C., & Fenton, N. (2017). The future of the London Buy-To-Let property market: Simulation with temporal Bayesian Networks. PLoS ONE, 12(6): e0179297, 

The research was supported in part by the European Research Council (ERC) through the research project, ERC-2013-AdG339182-BAYES_KNOWLEDGE, while Agena Ltd provided software support.