UK housing rents
Buy-to-let market is growing in the UK as soaring property prices make it harder for new-home buyers.Reuters

Fergus Wilson, a former maths teacher in Kent, is an icon of the UK's high-growth buy-to-let market, with a portfolio of about 1,000 properties.

Being a buy-to-let investor, Wilson with his wife Judith, is one of Britain's most renowned landlords, according to the Financial Times. He believes the value of the properties he bought in 1995 has gone up by about 350%.

"Nobody will ever make money like we did from 1995 to 2014," he told the newspaper. "If you went back to 2000, it was like the wild west, you only had to sign your name and they gave you a mortgage."

"I could get a 90 per cent loan to value mortgage back then; now, it's more like 60-70 per cent. Putting in 30 per cent means building your portfolio at a third of the speed I did."

Wilson, who did not have a particular interest in the business, "got a taste for buy-to-let" when he moved to Kent and let out a property to students, the FT writes.

Slowly and steadily, his portfolio started to take off. He expanded his portfolio by remortgaging properties every few years, taking advantage of the rising property prices.

However, he faced troubles when property prices crashed in Britain during the financial crisis. At that time, he owed about £350,000 ($588,000, €425,000) per month in mortgage payments, but he stayed in the business helped by a decline in interest rates.

He had also faced problems with tenants, as an "unprecedented" 39% of tenants could not pay rents in October 2008.

Sparking a controversy, he recently issued eviction notices to 200 tenants on housing benefit. He said he was out of pocket by £800,000 because housing benefit claimants had failed to pay the rent.

"I feel sorry for battered wives who have come to us because we are very much consigning them to go back to their husbands to be beaten up again – but the situation is it cannot go on," he told Channel 4 News.

Given the supply shortage and soaring prices in the UK housing market, Wilson sees further potential in the buy-to-let market with youngsters finding it really hard to own a house but rent.

"We're still short of millions of houses. If you are a young person trying to get a mortgage, be realistic: you're going to be renting for your entire life," he said.

"There is such a shortage due to foreign people coming over, there really is a housing crisis; and people are living longer."