Which is cheaper – renting or buying? Hamptons reveals change

There has been a change in a host of regional markets…

Which is cheaper – renting or buying? Hamptons reveals change

The average rent in Great Britain rose by 11.5% annually to £1,152 in May, according to the latest Hamptons Lettings Index.

This is equivalent to £119 per calendar month higher than the previous year, and marks the first time that rental growth has hit double digits since Hamptons began recording in 2012. The latest figure surpassed the previous record rate set last month at 9.8%.

Hamptons noted that with rents rising quickly and mortgage rates near historic lows, for the last 11 months it has been cheaper to buy a home in Great Britain than rent.

In May, it was £40 per month cheaper to service a mortgage with a 10% deposit than it was to rent the same home, while in November 2021 it was £160 cheaper to buy than rent. However, if last week’s 0.25% base rate rise is fully passed on to mortgage rates, it will reverse this trend and make renting a home £1 per month cheaper than buying on a monthly basis.

“Rising interest rates are set to swing the scales for would-be first-time buyers. For the last 11 months it’s been cheaper to buy with a 10% deposit than rent due to rental growth running hot and mortgage rates near record lows,” Aneisha Beveridge, head of research at Hamptons, said.

“But the Bank of England base rate hike will change this once again, pushing the cost of buying back above renting – a reversal of pre-pandemic times when the average buyer saved nearly £800 a year by owning rather than renting.”

For someone with a 10% deposit, Hamptons said the rate rise will add a further £41 to their average monthly mortgage repayment, taking it from £1,112 to £1,153.

Read more: Mortgage figures jumping off the page.

“For many buyers though, it isn’t just the challenge of servicing higher monthly mortgage repayments, it’s saving up for a deposit which remains the big barrier,” Beveridge said.

Hamptons noted that this is a marked reversal from the height of the pandemic period of mid-2020 to mid-2021, when lenders raised mortgage rates for buyers with 5% or 10% deposits, meaning it was considerably cheaper to rent than buy.

During that period, the Bank of England base rate remained at an all-time low, but lenders hiked their rates to reduce risk.  These higher mortgage costs meant that for the first time since 2014, renting was cheaper by £65 per month than buying with a 10% deposit.

Any future increase to the base rate of a similar scale will likely add a comparable amount to mortgage repayments. Each 0.25% rise in the base rate will push the cost of buying further above the cost of renting by £41 a month for a typical first-time buyer with a 10% deposit. Despite rents rising by 11.5%, they would need to rise by 12.5% just to keep pace with the rising cost of buying.

Meanwhile, for buyers with a 5% deposit, it has nearly always been cheaper to rent than buy since the monthly mortgage costs are higher. However, the latest base rate rise means it will be £105 per month more to buy than rent, up from £59 in May 2022.

According to Hamptons, there are also regional variations to factor in. For someone with a 10% deposit, it is typically cheaper to rent rather than buy further South, while further North it is generally cheaper to buy than rent.

Across the whole of Great Britain in May, it was £40 per month cheaper to buy than rent, but in the South East (by £1 pcm), South West (by £2 pcm), East of England (by £64 pcm) and East Midlands (by £44 pcm) it is cheaper to rent than buy. Back in January 2022, it was cheaper to buy than rent in every region of the country.

For the first time since November 2019, rents in London grew faster than any other region in the country.  Average rents grew 15.7% over the last 12 months, faster than the 13.4% recorded in the South West over the same period.  The last time London rents were growing quicker than anywhere else was during late 2019 when rents in the capital were up 6.4% over the year compared to 3.9% across Britain.

Read more: What’s driving London’s recent rental growth?

Inner London saw rents jump by over a third (33.6%) over the course of the last year, the fastest growth recorded in any region since the Hamptons Lettings Index began. However, almost all this growth was generated by the recovery from the falls recorded during the pandemic, with Inner London rents up just 3.1% between January 2020 and May 2022.

Beveridge said that over the next year or so, several further small interest rate rises can be expected, with mortgage rates set to peak around the middle of 2023, while rental growth is forecast to slow later in the year as rising living costs squeeze affordability.

“By this point, it will mean that for new buyers with smaller deposits, the monthly cost of purchasing a home will be significantly higher than renting one,” she concluded.