When the Wilsons first began amassing the 900-strong property empire that would see them become Britain's biggest private landlords in the 1990s, it was amidst the buy-to-let boom, when mortgage credit rolled easily out of lenders.
But Fergus and Judith Wilson, who were maths teachers before becoming property investors, are selling around 400 of the homes in their £250m portfolio, which is primarily in Kent. And they have a warning to aspiring landlords — the good times are over.
"The day of the amateur landlord is over," Mr Wilson told the Financial Times, citing much tighter credit conditions attached to buy-to-let mortgages. He said that "as long as you could spell your name, you would get a mortgage" in the early days of buy-to-let, but now checks by lenders are much stricter and loan-to-value ratios lower.
Since the financial crisis, rules governing the mortgage market have been beefed up. The Bank of England put a cap on mortgage lending by banks over fears that a mix of high house prices and ultra-low interest rates would see borrowers take on larger debt than they could handle if rates were to rise.
Stung by the crisis and restricted by regulators, banks are less willing to offer mortgages, in particular buy-to-let, than in the past. Moreover, the Treasury has targeted landlords with a number of tax rises to cool demand amid concern they were crowding out first-time buyers from the market. The government has been trying to increase home ownership.
Buyers of additional properties are now subject to a 3% surcharge on the basic rates of stamp duty. Tax reliefs for landlords, such as for mortgage interest and maintenance costs, have also been cut back.