Skip to main content

buy-to-let Millionaires Judith & Fergus Wilson sell remaining property portfolio for £250 m

Britain’s most controversial buy-to-let landlords, Fergus and Judith Wilson, have sold their remaining property empire of hundreds of homes in Kent to a foreign consortium for more than £250m.

Early in the year, the couple made around £25 million by selling around 100 of their homes to overseas investors, and hoped to be rid of all the houses by the end of next year.

The former maths teachers became the public faces of the buy-to-let revolution, 

What really transformed things was the advent of buy-to-let mortgages in the mid-1990s. These provided cheap leverage for the Wilsons, who were easily able to acquire high loan-to-value, interest-only mortgages.

“In early 2000, the main requirement for gaining a mortgage was the ability to sign your name – occasionally we ran out of ink,” Mr Wilson quipped. “It became a joke that mortgage providers gave you an upmarket pen. We had hundreds of them.”

As their properties started to appreciate in value, the Wilsons remortgaged again and again, drawing out equity and using it to buy more properties, mostly two and three-bed houses rather than flats.

“We used to collect them [houses] like stamp collectors,” Mr Wilson adds.

But in an era of tighter mortgage lending and suppressed yields, as rising capital values outstrip rental growth, would it even be possible for a landlord to build a similar empire today?

In a statement to the Guardian newspapaer , Fergus said: “We reached an agreement today with a consortium of buyers to sell our entire portfolio for a figure exceeding £250m. The consortium is foreign and not of any one specific nationality.”

He said prices for houses on his estates “have been rising due to the shortage of available properties on the market”, but added that he had “taken steps to ensure the property prices in Ashford, Maidstone and Folkestone are not adversely affected” and that the sale would make no difference to existing tenants.

The Wilsons had bought houses along the M20 corridor, in Maidstone, Ashford and Folkestone

The Wilsons began their property empire at the start of the buy-to-let revolution in the mid-1990s. At one point the couple were buying several homes a day.

In January 2014, they sparked a national outcry after it was revealed they were evicting tenants who were on housing benefit. They sent eviction notices to 200 tenants, saying they preferred eastern European migrants who defaulted less frequently than single mothers on welfare.

Generation rent: Evicted for complaining about the heating

Buy-to-let millionaires Fergus and Judith Wilson

The statement issued by Fergus following the sale is likely to be regarded as typically eccentric, as it referred to him in the first and third person. “He is sorry to be giving up but common sense must prevail. He is 67 years old and getting no younger.

“Buy to let became an obsession for Fergus Wilson. He is a self-confessed BTL junkie. Each day I must have my daily fix. I look up prices and say to myself what a lucky man I am.”

The statement added: “Owning BTL became a hobby for Fergus Wilson that simply got out of control. He says BTL is the national hobby and is followed by millions.

“Whether you are a tenant or an owner occupier or indeed a BTL landlord you have an interest in the letting industry for letting industry is what it is.”

The Wilsons are selling out of buy to let at a time when many small investors are questioning its future financial viability. In the summer budget, the chancellor introduced a series of taxes to take effect from 2017, followed in the autumn statement by an increase of 3% on stamp duty for buy-to-let and second homes.This has been echoed by the Bank of England the with startling number of buy to let mortgages. 

Housing charity Shelter said the refusal of private landlords to accept welfare claimants as tenants is forcing some to leave their home towns or accept poor quality housing.

Landlord Fergus Wilson has decided not to rent any of his more than 1,000 properties in Ashford, Maidstone and elsewhere in the county to people receiving housing benefits.

The 65-year-old tycoon said he prefers to rent to eastern European migrants, who he claimed are more likely to pay their rent on time.

He estimated more than 50% of his tenants in Ashford - and around 90% of those in Maidstone - come from eastern Europe.

Mr Wilson said: "This decision is only down to money - it has nothing to do with the personalities involved.

"When it comes to money, over half of people on benefits were defaulting on their rent, and when it comes to people who are working, we've not had one single person default on one single penny.

"You can appreciate why. Rents are going up in line with the price of houses, and housing benefit levels are dropping at the same time.

"Tenants from eastern Europe, places like Poland, have been here a number of years now and have built up a good enough credit rating to rent privately.

"We won't see the impact of more recent migration for years to come, but people on benefits are having to compete with them.

"My message to people is 'get yourself a job, and you will get yourself a house'."

Tycoon Fergus Wilson and wife Judith own hundreds of properties across Kent
Ex-maths teacher Mr Wilson and wife Judith have built up a property portfolio thought to be worth close to £225million.

"My message to people is 'get yourself a job, and you will get yourself a house'..." - buy-to-let tycoon Fergus Wilson
The couple, from Boughton Monchelsea, near Maidstone, made their millions through buy-to-let investments.

Mr Wilson added: "We sent out section 21 notices telling people on housing benefits that they have to leave after six months.

"I look at other landlords, and every one of them has done the same.

"A lot have gone from natural wastage, as they can't afford to stay."

He added: "The problem is that you have a finite number of houses, but more people wanting to rent them than places are available.

"With that pressure, what tends to give is the poorest people at the bottom of the economic pile.

"We are going to be in a position in the next 20 years where it becomes more and more difficult for people to find housing, and no one seems to have an answer.

"You tell people in a place like Ashford that they need more housing and they're likely to lynch you - they are sick of being built on, but it's a fact."

Housing charity Shelter [100,000 children 
will be homeless this Christmas]
this Christmas said the refusal of private landlords to accept welfare claimants as tenants is forcing some to leave their home towns or accept poor quality housing.

Further Reading 

New drive to promote home ownership > Flooding in UK> David Cameron Prime Minister UK 7 December 2015

Economics of the United Kingdom Housing Market / private rented sector is not fit for purpose currently

A turnaround decade for housing Speech given by Greg Clark to the National House Building Council (NHBC) in London.

More buy-to-let landlords searching for mortgages on cheaper properties + housing market shows no sign of slowing down winter months

Home Buyers purchasing a property in the last 12 months Stamp duty move 'brought £4,500 saving'

Steady quarter for new homes boosted by October figures, reports NHBC

UK Property Markets Bank Of England Financial Stability Report December 2015 | Issue No. 38

Almost twice as many brits believe that property makes better use of cash then isa , pensions stock , shares ,premium bonds

Buildings Day Cop 21 Mobilising the building and Construction Sector for Climate Change

London’s housing crisis > Blue and Red debates @ London Mayor Question Time & Boris Johnson in Paris for Climate Change Conference Cop21

Government launches National Infrastructure Commission to get Britain building

The shadow housing minister Rt Hon John Healy MP does an AMA On Reddit

Bank of England warns action may need to be taken in the buy to let property market following a sharp increase in the number of properties acquired by investors with the intention of renting them out

Government encourages online real estate agents A better deal: boosting competition to bring down bills for families and firms

Zac Goldsmith: housing crisis number one priority in London – what needs to be done

Spending Review and Autumn Statement Live 2015 by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's Housing property StampDuty

Hatched By Russell Quirk CEO emoov Online Estate Agency how the online estate agency Industry is playing out

Full year results for the year ended 30 September 2015 Zoopla Property Group Plc

Newly Elected Labour Candidate, for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, outlines his Housing Policies