25 November, 2014
Lower house prices, rising rents and better mortgage deals have combined in recent years to make buy-to-let an extremely popular investment option. The sector is booming, with experienced and first-time landlords across the country making the most of the opportunity to earn a living, boost existing income or simply secure a more comfortable future.
There are two ways to make money from buying a property to let: rental yield, which is the amount of money your tenants pay minus all running costs, and capital growth - the difference between the amount you pay for the property and its eventual sale price. To maximise these profits, however, a number of factors must be taken into account - location being an obvious example.
The perfect locations
One of the biggest considerations has to be location, as some areas are simply more profitable than others. Simply put, the more desirable a place is, the higher the rent and sale price will be. In this respect, Wokingham and Crowthorne are among the best options in south-east England.
It's no secret that Wokingham is a desirable place to live. The market town's top schools, convenient transport links and low crime rates make it an ever-present contender when it comes to 'best family-friendly location' lists. This is partly the reason why so much has been invested in expansion projects recently.
While its desirability hasn't been publicised quite as much, nearby Crowthorne is also a popular area with plenty to offer investors and tenants. Much like its busier and larger neighbour, this affluent village has everything a family could need within easy reach.
As mentioned above, Wokingham has come a long way in the last decade or so. With the town's popularity growing steadily, much has been done to ensure the necessary supporting infrastructure is in place. Fortunately, this has been done successfully without any of the famous charm being compromised. Despite the most recent Census reports showing that the population grew by 2.7 per cent between 2001 and 2011 - reaching just over 154,000 - the area still has plenty of room.
The data shows that, with 8.6 people for each hectare of land, Wokingham's population density is less than a quarter of nearby Reading's, and only slightly higher than Berkshire as a whole county.
Those looking for somewhere with even more space can turn to Crowthorne, which has a density of just 4.4 people per hectare - equating to just 5,250 people overall, according to the 2011 Census.
Schools will always be high on the priority list of a family looking for somewhere new to live, and proximity to the right establishments can push the rent and price (not to mention profitability) of a property up considerably. Wokingham ticks all of the boxes here, with a varied selection of colleges, primary and secondary schools. As well as four state secondary schools, the town has a number of prestigious private schools to choose from. One of the University of Reading's main campuses can also be found just six miles away.
Crowthorne, while much smaller, also meets most educational needs. The main secondary establishment - Edgbarrow School - is complemented by four primary schools. More than this, it is home to the famous Wellington College, a co-educational boarding school which was built as a national monument to the Duke of Wellington. Established in 1859, it now has more than 1,000 pupils aged between 13 and 18. The college's reputation is supported by a number of industry experts, with the Good Schools Guide describing it as "a serious player in the field of education".
Many people move to this part of Berkshire because it's quieter than the cities nearby, like London and Reading. Being about 33 miles away from the capital and just seven miles from Reading, Wokingham in particular is a popular commuter town. This status has been helped massively by the fact that it has such great transport options. As well as direct rail links to Reading, London Waterloo and Gatwick Airport, a number of First Bus services are on hand to help people make their way around Wokingham itself.
As for those moving to Crowthorne, a number of trains run from the village's station to nearby Wokingham (5 minutes) and Reading (14 minutes). Passengers can also carry on to reach towns such as Farnborough (11 minutes) and Guildford (29 minutes).
The future's bright
Both Wokingham and Crowthorne are in great positions right now - to say they're thriving would be an understatement. The former in particular appears to have a very bright future, with further investment and development on the cards. The promise is highlighted by the recent UK Vitality Index, a list of towns and cities which have economies best placed to support the growth of small businesses. In the rankings, Wokingham came out on top for productivity, entrepreneurship and start-up environment, beating both Reading and Bracknell.
All of the above points to great potential for buy-to-let profitability. Not only are tenants willing to pay big money to live here, the positive-looking future could well mean that house prices rise as the areas continue to grow. Landlords will no doubt be scrambling to capitalise on this immensely promising opportunity.