The true story may surprise you?
There are some spectacular homes in Catalonia and there are many properties which are bought for rental as an investment.
Should I buy a property with the Inheritance I have just received?
By Barry Davys
This article is published on: 29th July 2023
The true story may surprise you?
If you are coming from a home owning country such as the UK (63% homeowners in 2020)¹ or Romania (a remarkable 92.9% homeowners in 2021)², it is only natural to think of property as a good idea. We may have experienced significant gains on a property and we probably know others who have done so. Most of these cases will be people who have bought their property as a home. We may have also seen the headlines about the “Buy to Let” boom in the UK. Bear in mind the boom was helped by very, very low interest rates which are most unlikely to be repeated.
Now we are seeing headlines such as ‘Lots of us are very anxious’: why Britain’s buy-to-let landlords are selling³. A reminder that like most investment markets the value of your investment can go down as well as up.
Investing in property can be effective. It should be considered like any other investment and not with the bias in our decision making that can come with having been brought up in a home owning country.
Here we help you to view an investment in property in Catalonia with data.
The first item to understand is that there is a property purchase tax of 10% of the purchase price. Other costs, such as lawyers and notary fees, are typically total 2% of the purchase price. This is an assessment of the impact of costs and taxes and what it can do to your investment return.
¹www.gov.uk – Home ownership
²European Union (Euro Stat) Home or Flat – Owning or renting
³Guardian newspaper 24/02/2023
|The true cost of a house for renting in Spain||Return on investment|
|Purchase tax||10.00||Annual yield Barcelona||5.7|
|Lawyers, notary etc||2.00||Less|
|Property registration fee||1.5||Tax at say 33.8% of 5.7%||1.93|
|IBI (council tax)||0.6|
|Total cost of buying||13.50||Community charge||0.3|
|Furnishings and white goods||0.75||Total ongoing costs||3.33|
|Total Costs||14.25||Annual Net Return||2.37|
|Number of years to recover cost of purchase||Total Costs ➗ Annual Net Return||=||6.01|
In summary, total acquisition costs are typically 14.25% of the purchase price. The buyer has to have this amount of cash in addition to any deposit as the mortgage is based on the value of the property.
The rental property rate of return (yield) is shown for Barcelona. Anywhere outside of Barcelona will likely give you a lower rate of return.
Annual net returns after ongoing taxation of property tax (IBI) and income tax (rental income is added to employment income). The example uses a tax rate of 33.8% income tax on your rental but the top rate of income tax in Catalonia has recently risen to 50%.
This means it will take you just over 6 years to cover your costs from rental income.
Of course, with a bit of luck, the property will increase in value. There is an oft repeated mantra that “Oh but the property will increase in value”. It may well do, especially if you keep the property for many years. However, here are some other points to be aware of before buying a rental property for profit.
- You benefit from the increase in value when you sell the property
- Yet the true benefit is only the increase in value above inflation; not the difference in buying price and selling price but only the bit of profit above the revised value caused by inflation
- Capital gains tax is payable on the increase in buy to let property value, even if you are over 65. Inflation is not taken into account by the tax man so you pay tax on the full difference between buying and selling
- Capital gains tax in Catalonia is between 19% and 26%
- Estate agent fees in Catalonia are typically 5% of the sale price
- A further tax is called Plus Valor. Raised by the local council the tax is based on the increase of the value of the land that the property is built on. This applies to freehold properties too
- The property is part of the assessment for Inheritance Tax in Catalonia even if you return to the UK or your home country
Property investment works best when expectations and reality are matched. Knowing realistic figures, based on data, is very important. We hope that this article provides some insight and helps you with your assessment of whether it is right for you.
Are there alternatives? There are and one or two that are very tax efficient. In some cases a combination of property and other investments can work well.
For more information on these elements of investing in property in Catalonia you can book a call with the author Barry Davys. Please use his online system so you can choose a time that is convenient for you for the call. The call can be a video call or a telephone call.
Is Buy To Let still a good investment?
By Katriona Murray-Platon
This article is published on: 11th April 2018
Given concerns over the effect of Brexit on UK house prices, together with recent changes to the tax treatment of UK rental income and the various tax increases and reforms applicable to French property rentals, now may be the time to reconsider if Buy to Let is a good investment, both in France and the UK.
General arguments against rental investments
Most of us have an opinion on property as a means of generating long term investment returns. For some, a tangible asset such as property represents security, for others it is simply an inflexible and physical tie to a specific location.
Rental properties need regular maintenance and repairs, which can be expensive, and meeting such costs can divert cash from savings and other investments. Private landlords often underestimate the costs of maintaining a rental property, one consequence being that net returns fall short of (sometimes) unrealistic expectations.
It is a basic investment principle that we should not rely exclusively on property (or any single asset) for our future financial security, yet frequently we do, particularly where Buy To Let is involved.
Liquidity, or access to capital, also needs to be considered. Whilst you can usually withdraw funds quickly and easily from an investment portfolio (in France one often uses the Assurance Vie structure), you cannot generally sell part of a house. Re-mortgaging or equity release are possibilities, but for some the only option for capital access is sale of the property and acceptance of the associated expense and possible delays. Furthermore, a forced sale will typically result in lower than market value being achieved.
Both the French and UK governments are under pressure to boost national housing supply so are taxing second homes and rental properties in an effort to bring more residential property to the open market.
By comparison, for French residents (including expatriates), Assurance Vie remains as possibly the single most flexible and tax efficient investment available – a valuable planning opportunity which can be overlooked when property is perceived as a ‘safe bet’.
Keeping your UK property and renting it out
Legislative changes introduced in April 2017 significantly increased tax liabilities for residential landlords. Previously, allowable expenses and mortgage interest payments could be deducted from rental income as part of the tax calculation. However, the phasing out of tax relief on mortgage interest payments means that by 6 April 2020 mortgage costs will no longer be deductible, instead replaced with a 20% tax credit.
For many people, once settled in France, a UK rental property becomes impractical and difficult to maintain. Frequent trips back to the UK, for a variety of reasons, just don’t seem worthwhile. Being a landlord can be stressful and time consuming, especially when you want to be enjoying a more relaxed life in France and/or you are busy running your business here.
If your UK property remains vacant for occasional use during trips back to the UK, you could be affected by measures introduced in November 2017 which allow councils to charge a 100% Council Tax premium on homes that have been left empty for two years or more.
Additionally, since April 2015, non-residents are liable for capital gains tax (at either 18% or 28%) on the increase in property value since 2015. And from April 2019, the UK government plans to introduce capital gains tax for non-resident landlords of commercial properties.
Whilst house prices in some parts of the UK have increased substantially over recent years, there are wide regional variations and prices can of course go down as well as up. Flooding from adverse weather conditions has negatively impacted prices in many parts of the country. Brexit brings its own uncertainty for the housing market and there is also exchange rate risk to consider, with GBP/EUR volatility likely to continue in the short term at least. Finally, even with carefully managed quantitative tightening by central banks, interest rates appear to be going in only one direction from here.
Things to be aware of when renting property in France
Whilst the Finance Law of 2018 has increased the micro threshold from €33,200 to €70,000 (with a 50% abatement for costs), and from €82,800 to €170,000 for seasonal “classement” rentals (with a 71% abatement), it has also made furnished rentals more complicated for landlords, particularly for those offering short term lets.
To receive the higher abatement for furnished rentals, there is the challenge of arranging an official visit to obtain a recommended star rating. Since 1st December 2017, Paris requires property owners renting for short seasonal lets to register this activity and to display registration numbers on rental advertisements. Lyon did the same in February 2018, Bordeaux in March 2018 and Lille is in the decision process. Only 12,000 properties have been registered whereas 100,000 or more appear on rental websites. On 11th December 2017, Paris officially notified the largest rental sites (Airbnb, HomeAway, Paris Attitiude, Sejourning and Windu) that advertisements for unregistered properties were in breach of regulations.
Recent Finance law also approved a proposal to increase the taxe de sejour which today represents between 20 and 75 centimes per person, per night – it could increase by 1% to 5% if local authorities so decide.
The French government recognises that rental income made via websites such as Airbnb or HomeAway has often not been declared. Since 1st July 2016 these websites must inform members of their tax obligations and in January each year must send a document showing gross income received through reservations made via their site in the previous tax year.
There is also the risk that between November and March tenants will stop paying rent, with landlords powerless to evict until the winter period is over.
2018 changes to Wealth Tax have been particularly unfavourable for property holdings. Note too that social charges, which don’t apply to UK rental income but are chargeable on French furnished rentals, have risen to 17.8%. And that tax offices sometimes mistakenly apply social charges to UK rental income, which is then time-consuming to recover. However, since the Finance Law of 2018, social charges on investments are included in the flat tax of 30% thus reducing the income tax liability to only 12.2%.
Whether to sell or retain a rental property can be a difficult decision, for both financial and emotional reasons. For practical guidance on this complex matter, please contact me to arrange an initial discussion or meeting, free of charge and without obligation.