Property for Rent – Investing in the UK, Mary Latham

Property Tribes: Book of the Month August 2013

Your Property Network: Book Review August 2013

Property For Rent - Investing in the UK: Will You Survive the Mayhem?: 1Will You Survive the Mayhem?Property Tribes Book of the Month, August 2013

A confession right up front this month: I decided to review this book before even reading it. Usually, that is a major no-no as not all books make it on to the review pages. But having seen Mary’s contributions on more than one online forum over the past couple of years, I knew that she would have something worthwhile to say. I even set it aside for a short while, savouring the anticipation of getting stuck in.

In my own mind I got into the habit of referring to the book just with the second part of the title ‘Will You Survive the Mayhem?’ I hope Mary will forgive me for using that here. It pretty much sums up the message.

Intelligent Words from an Influential Landlord

Though not a particularly easy read – there is quite a lot to take in – it is intelligent, considered and backed up by facts, research and by Mary’s considerable experience as an influential landlord in the UK residential lettings market. There is a biography of her background in property at the beginning, which left me somewhat awestruck. Though, as mentioned above, I have interacted with Mary online for some time and am aware of her current position, I had no idea of the extent of her past influence. Tempting though it is to go on to cover this in detail, the purpose here is to review the book.

Reading it reminded me of an article in YPN around a year ago entitled ‘Property Investor or Landlord, Which are You?’ On the face of it, the focus of ‘Will You Survive the Mayhem?’ is very much on the landlord and changing market factors that are going to impact upon that role. Underlying that though is the investor factor – if the property world is changing, how will that affect our investments? Should we change our strategies? Stop altogether and invest in another asset class? There is probably no need to go that far, but the points in the book do give us something to think about.

There are no easy answers, and ultimately we have to make up our own minds. What this book does, I think, is to give us a ‘State of the Market’ report. It is part statement of fact, part opinion, allowing us the space to draw our own conclusions. Some of these conclusions will apply to the location of our properties. The chapters covering Houses in Multiple Occupation and letting to students (Chapters 1 and 4) will be relevant for major cities and university towns, while the chapters on licensing, high street lettings agents and changes in council practice (Chapters 5 and 9) could apply, if not to all of us, then to a significant proportion as we cannot predict where changes might occur geographically. There are also interesting chapters on risks associated with buying below market value, the buy-to-let lending landscape and, the current bugbear for those of us who let to tenants on housing benefit, Universal Credit.

You may not necessarily agree with everything in the book, but it will make you think and prompt you to form your own opinion of the situation.

Who Is It For?

The contents of this book are relevant to everyone involved in property, from those who are new to investing, to portfolio landlords, professionals in the field, brokers and lenders. For professionals such as surveyors, estate agents, brokers and lenders who do not hold any investment property of their own, it might provide an interesting window into the challenges that landlords are facing today.

For this is a book of the moment. References are made to recent changes in legislation, together with changes and market forces, some of which will have an impact this year. The majority of the information in the book is already in the public domain, but individually it would take us an awfully long time to dig through it all. The value that Mary brings is in pulling it all together, adding her perspective as a long-term property investor and landlord in the UK. I fear that she may not welcome this comment, but I for one think that this has the potential to become an annual publication. Much like the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook or annually produced travel guides, we could look forward to Latham’s Landlord and Property Review.

I bought the Kindle version of this book and that may not be the easiest reading format as there were one or two layout issues. I have not seen the print version, but it may be a better format for this title. But for the price of a cuppa or at the very most a posh coffee (from £1.36 for the Kindle edition to a current maximum of £4.64 for the paperback), it is well worth a read.

PS: Mary has updated and issued a second version of the book since I wrote the review, so comments about layout may no longer be relevant.


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