Here are the key paragraphs:
"Want to climb on to the buy-to-let bandwagon and become a property millionaire? The secret, according to property investment clubs, is to obtain discounts on new-build apartments so you can start building a portfolio with virtually no upfront payments.
The trick is to find a property where the developer is willing to offer "off-plan" buyers a discount of at least 15% off the brochure price. This means a buyer can apply to a lender for a buy-to-let loan equal to 85% of the "value" of the apartment - even though this amounts to 100% of the cash needed to buy the property.
In a rising property market, the trick works. But once property prices fall, tenants fail to pay expected rent levels, or lenders are unwilling to accept that discounts are real, and the model fails.
Surveyors are now taking a more conservative approach to valuations, which means that buy-to-let borrowers are finding it tougher to raise the cash. And lenders have also clamped down on "day one" remortgaging to extract equity, preventing buyers from rapidly building themselves a portfolio"
I will freely admit to being quite naive about buy-to-let. For a long time I quietly ignored it. The flyers advertizing Inside Track seminars came through the post box and went straight into the bin. Even with a quick glance, it seemed obvious that one could not become a "property millionaire" without massive leveraging. This, of course, carried the risk of being completely wiped out financially if property prices fell.
If, as I now suspect, many buy-to-let investments were done with this kind of arrangement, then UK banks have a serious collateral problem on their hands. Property developers and borrowers have inflated valuations, and as a consequence, they are holding little or no equity in their investments. If prices fall, investors have no capacity to absorb the financial loss. Bankruptcy will follow and the losses are immediately transferred to the balance sheets of original lender.
The "off-plan discount financing scam" is a template for a banking crisis. Banks depend on limiting loan-to-value ratios to ensure that borrowers and not banks take the hit if asset values fall. Banks are also highly leveraged institutions, with only a limited capital buffer. As such, banks can not absorb huge losses easily.
However, there are some deeply, more troubling questions. Here are just a few:
So, when the BTL scam finally collapses, there will be plenty of blame to go around.