The great buy to let boom may be over as measures to cool the market begin to bite.
The government and Bank of England have set tax and mortgage changes going that have seen landlord borrowing slump by 20% in 12 months.
This follows the phasing out of buy to let finance relief for higher rate taxpayers and tighter controls on lending.
Banks and building societies gave landlords £21.4 billion in March – down from £25.1 billion a year earlier.
This is against a backdrop of nearly 30 years of exponential growth in buy to let.
In 1988, around 2.5 million homes were privately rented. By 2014, this had swelled to 5.35 million.
Trade body The Council of Mortgage Lenders said behind the figures, most landlord lending was refinancing existing borrowing or to first time home buyers.
CML economist Mohammad Jamei said:
“Mortgage lending is in neutral. Our gross estimate for March is broadly in line with average monthly lending over the past year. Within this aggregate level, there has been a shift towards first-time buyer and remortgage customers, away from home movers and buy-to-let landlords.
“We expect this profile to continue over the short-term, as low mortgage rates encourage existing borrowers to remortgage and government schemes help first-time buyers. We do not expect any marked effect from the General Election.”
“Our view is that there will be slower or limited growth in landlord portfolios, but, as with most policy and regulatory changes, we will need to wait until they are in place to get a better understanding of the cumulative impact on the sector,” said Jamei.
“It is possible some landlords will only become aware of the changes in in a year or so, when they come to submit their tax returns for the current financial year.”