Does Your Buy to Let Make Enough Money?

Landlords are always looking for great returns on investment, but what’s a reasonable rate for a buy-to-let home and would your cash be better invested in stocks and shares or stuffed in a bank? 

Property investors should know if each home they rent out is making money. Working out rental yield and the rate of return on investment (ROI) are essential calculations before deciding to buy or sell a property. Don’t confuse the definitions for yield and ROI; both are different and reference separate financial outcomes. While yield looks at the income a buy-to-let generates, ROI looks at how the value of the underlying investment is performing.

What is the rate of return on investment?

The rate of return on investment is a formula for comparing the profitability of several property investments. The calculation is not unique to property - the formula works just as well for stocks, shares, or many other assets. ROI is one of the ratios accountants use to monitor the performance of businesses and investments.

Working out ROI for landlords

Working out the rate of return on investments pinpoints which properties contribute most to your investment portfolio's growth in value.

  • Annual rental income
  • Subtract property business expenses
  • Divide by the amount of cash you put into the property, like the deposit or refurbishment cost. Do not include any mortgages.
  • Multiply by 100 to give the ROI as a percentage

Here are some ROI examples for a buy-to-let property bought for £180,000:

ROI for a mortgaged buy to let

This example is based on a £180,000 home purchased with a 75 per cent loan to value mortgage. The figures might look like this:

  • Yearly rent: £9,000
  • Costs: £4,000 (including mortgage repayments)
  • Net profit for the year: £9,000 - £4,000 = £5,000
  • Property purchase price: £180,000
  • Mortgage: £135,000
  • Cash invested: £45,000

From these figures, the ROI is the net profit for the year (£5,000) divided by the cash invested (£45,000) x100 to express as a percentage. In this case, the ROI is:

£5000=1x100=9 %

ROI for a buy-to-let cash purchase

This example takes the same buy-to-let bought for £180,000 as above - but this time, assume the property was a cash purchase or inherited. The figures would change like this:

  • Yearly rent: £9,000
  • Costs: £1,500
  • Net profit for the year: £9,000 - £1,500 = £7,500
  • Property purchase price: £180,000
  • Cash invested: £180,000

From these figures, the ROI is the net profit for the year (£7,500) divided by the cash invested (£180,000) x100 to express as a percentage. In this case, the ROI is:

£7,500=  0.0416x100=4.1%

ROI and property values

Keep an eye on property values - your investment rate will change as the price rises and falls.

Interpreting the ROI

The examples show how much the ROI can vary depending on the level of your investment. But what do the figures mean, and what’s a good ROI? Alarm bells should ring if your ROI is in the red - a negative percentage, which means you are losing money. 

The ROI will identify how an investment performs, but not where the cash is gushing from. So, how does property compare with other investments? Historically, investing in stocks and shares generates a 5.3 per cent annual return, according to fund platform AJ Bell. 

Staking cash in low-risk gilts or bonds is likely to see 2.7 per cent growth each year, and banks are paying around 2 per cent interest for three to five-year fixed terms. If a property offers an ROI of less than 5.3 per cent, you should consider if the investment is worthwhile, as your money can earn the same as the property generates with less hassle elsewhere.

Buy to let return on investment FAQ

Are refurbishment costs part of a cash investment?

If you inject these funds from your pocket, they are included as the investor’s cash input.

Do ROI figures come before tax?

ROI figures should be before tax is deducted.

How do I use the ROI?

ROI benchmarks how a property investment performs against other properties or alternative assets. Landlords can calculate ROI on properties they own or consider adding a home to a rental portfolio, and the same calculation is helpful for holiday lets as well.

Do I have to tell the taxman about my ROI?

No. Your rate of return on investment calculations are private and commercially sensitive.

Where can I find out more about accounting ratios?

Many accounting websites have information about accounting ratios - for a stripped-down guide, try this website.

View Related Handbook Page

Investing in a Property

Investing in a private rented property can be achieved in a variety of ways. Sometimes landlords inherit a property that they then turn over to renting. Sometimes owners of properties become unintentional landlords because they are unable or unwilling to sell a property at the value the market currently dictates.