Return on Investment (ROI) for a Buy-to-Let Property in the UK?

The answer is, it depends how much of your own cash you use to purchase the property. And the more cash you use, the worse your return will be.

Working out your return on investment (ROI) for a rental property is essential to making financial decisions. This calculation tells investors if buying, letting and selling a prospective property is a better investment than, for example, stocks.

Your return on investment should not be confused with your rental yield. Think of the ROI in the same terms as any other investment you might have – the total return you get from the money you put in.

Formula for a Rental Property ROI Calculator

Here’s how to calculate ROI for a rental property. 

First, calculate your annual rental income. Then subtract your expenses, including any mortgage payments, management fees, repairs and Gas Safety Certificates, periods without a tenant, and so on. You must then divide this net figure by the amount of cash you invested into the property, then multiply by 100 to get the final percentage ROI figure.

Note the cash that you invested into the property is hard cash and will not include a mortgage. Let’s say you purchase a house for £150,000 using a buy-to-let mortgage of £100,000 and £50,000 cash. Your cash investment for ROI purposes is, therefore, £50,000.

ROI example with a mortgage

Using the above £150,000 property, we can work out your ROI had you purchased outright or taken the mortgage route. With the £100,000 mortgage, the figures might look like this:

Annual rent: £8,400

Annual costs, including mortgage repayments: £4,000

Net annual profit = £4,400

Purchase price: £150,000

Mortgage used: £100,000

Cash invested: £50,000

ROI is the net annual profit of (£4,400) divided by your cash invested (£50,000) x 100 = 8.8%

ROI example without the mortgage

This time we use the same property but assume it was a cash purchase. The calculation is now as follows:

Annual rent: £8,400

Annual costs without a mortgage: £1,500

Net annual profit = £6,900

Purchase price: £150,000

Mortgage used: £0

Cash invested: £150,000

ROI is now net annual profit of (£6,900) divided by your cash invested (£150,000) x 100 = 4.6%You can see that your ROI is much lower in the second example without a mortgage (4.6%) compared with the first example where you invested less with a mortgage (8.8%).

What ROI Can Landlords Expect?

As we learned from our £150,000 property above, the ROI can change drastically depending on your investment. But what is a good ROI for a rental property, given that the two ROIs in our example are so different?

The most crucial point is that your ROI needs to be positive. It means you are making money, and that must be a good thing. Whether you consider your positive ROI to be good rather depends on what you are trying to achieve.

For those of you looking at a long-term investment, maybe hoping a rental will contribute towards a future pension, you will be okay with a lower ROI in the short-term. Perhaps you have a repayment buy-to-let mortgage which will be paid off within 15 years when you hope to retire. When you come to work out your ROI then, it will be considerably improved. When we look at your new ROI calculation, the figures change because mortgage costs are no longer a factor. Like this:

Annual rent: £8,400

Annual costs, now without the mortgage repayments: £1,500

Net annual profit = £6,900

Purchase price: £150,000

Mortgage used: £100,000

Cash invested: £50,000

ROI is now net annual profit of (£6,900) divided by your initial cash invested (£50,000) x 100 = 13.8%

By any stretch of the imagination, that’s a decent ROI. In reality, of course, you would be far better off in this example, because you have now built up all the extra capital in the property (the extra £100,000 now the mortgage is paid off). Plus, you enjoy any upward price movement should you come to sell – although you would be subject to capital gains tax.

Buy to Let Compared to Other Types of Investment

Our examples paint a rosy picture – investing in buy to lets will generally give you a healthy return, depending on how much actual cash you invest and what your annual costs are. But even our lowest ROI, the figure of 4.6% for the landlord who was a £150,000 cash purchaser, can be considered healthy.

How, then, do these figures compare to other investments you might consider making instead? Here are some of the alternatives:

Cash in the bank

There was once a time when if you had a nest egg, you could leave it in a bank savings account and make a nice return on your investment. In the 1980s you might get on average 8% interest a year, a tidy sum and you didn’t have to worry about finding tenants and the upkeep of a rental property.

In 1990 the figure went as high as 13.56% – a boon to those with cash to put in the bank. However, since then, we know the interest rate has fallen ever since, and you will be lucky to get much over 1.5% now. Buy to let is by far a better choice in this case.

Investing in shares and managed funds

We would need a crystal ball with this investment choice. It’s entirely possible your shares and investment funds could make an ROI of 10% or higher. But equally, if the market takes a turn for the worse, it could be much lower, or even into negative. You must also consider the management fees – they can be punitive and must be paid before you work out any real ROI.


Putting your funds into a pension might well have been prudent generations ago, but it’s not so clear now. There’s a double tax whammy to consider – tax breaks for building your pension pot are under pressure, and who knows what the tax regime has in store for you when you try to take your pension in years to come?

Diversity of investments

Decisions, decisions. But perhaps the sensible route is to diversify, to minimise being exposed to one negative set of circumstances. Suppose you can build a property portfolio, which will bring a positive ROI for years to come, and balance it with a traditional pension and maybe some side investments. In that case, you should be comfortable and not be hit by any sudden turn of events.

Income tax consequences

The above examples show your ROI before any tax is deducted. Income tax must be taken into account when assessing an investment. Your rental profit will be subject to your marginal rate of tax. 

If you’re already a higher-rate tax payer, or your rental profit will push you into that bracket, you may find yourself paying 40% or 45% on your profit. If, however, you have no other income, you may be able to accommodate all your rental profit within your personal allowance.

Income from rental properties is taxed in a very similar way to earned income. For stock and shares, however, it is quite different. You don’t pay income tax – you pay Capital Gains Tax (CGT) and can expect to pay nothing if your gain is less than £12,300 and just 10% (basic-rate payer) or 20% (higher or additional-rate payer) on anything above that.

Capital Growth and Selling Your Property

If you have built up a portfolio of property investments, you might wish to sell one or more of them to reinvest the cash elsewhere – perhaps to top up your pension or to put into low-risk funds as you approach retirement.

Make sure you consider the cost of any capital gains tax you must pay when you sell. If you have had the property for some years, you will be very unlucky to see negative growth (i.e. the house price has fallen). Chances are, you will get back much more than you paid for it. Capital gains tax for properties is currently charged at 18% for basic rate tax payers and 28% for higher and additional payers. 

Value of Investing in Property

Calculating ROI will show you what a good investment property is. The returns are stable and positive in just about every circumstance, plus you get to sell the property – perhaps for a large profit – at the end.