The best place for buy-to-let investors? Birmingham

Buy-to-let is a risky investment to make right now. But if you really must buy a property to rent, you should be looking at Birmingham, says Merryn Somerset Webb.


If you really must buy a property to rent out, do it in Birmingham

"Brummie bounce brings a bonanza" That was one of the headlines in the Sunday Times this week. I wrote here a few months ago about the economic renaissance in Birmingham.

New Street Station has just reopened after a £750m refurbishment. There is a new John Lewis, and a newly done-up Harvey Nicks is about to open. Huge firms such as Deutsche Bank and HSBC are relocating staff to the city, and it is the epicentre of the Midlands' industrial revival (the so called "march of the makers").

Finally, of course, the Chinese like it because it is so close to London (for a Chinese commuter, anywhere an hour on the train from the capital is a very close suburb) but also has direct flights home.

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Not everyone was convinced by my original piece (including some of my Midlands-born colleagues). But Birmingham is, says the boss of one of the big property firms in the area in the Sunday Times, "on a roll."

I mention this again simply because we get a lot of questions about the best place to make buy-to-let investments. Right now, we are super nervous about doing that at all see the posts below!

There are tax problems aplenty analysis of the new rules suggests that huge numbers of investors will be hit. The Bank of England has said that it considers the buy-to-let market (up 40% since 2008 and accounting for 16% of mortgages outstanding in the UK) to be a "concern". And the Financial Conduct Authority has been muttering about giving the Bank powers to intervene in the buy-to-let market as it does in the residential market that wouldn't be good news for those in the market already.

So I'm not sure I'd be getting in to buy-to-let just now. But if I was and I wanted to make sure I had the best possible chance of making capital gains (net income is going to be a big ask as the tax rules bite) I'd be heading for Birmingham.

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.