That is the finding of a report by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, described as the largest-ever survey of private rental sector landlords in the UK.
A similar proportion – one third – use a lettings agent to manage all their properties fully, while the remainder either use an agent to do some tasks, or only use an agent for some of their properties.
The research, conducted for the CML by Kath Scanlon and Christine Whitehead of the London School of Economics, broadly finds that landlords are generally taking a stable view of the rental sector and their long-term involvement in it, despite recent tax and regulation changes.
According to the survey of 2,500 landlords, some 49 per cent owned all their property outright, with no mortgage debt at all. This was an unexpectedly high figure given that the government 2010 Private Landlords Survey reported that 77 per cent of landlords used a buy-to-let mortgage to acquire their rented property.
Among BTL landlords, over half had loan-to-value ratios on their total portfolio of below 60 per cent, with only five in every 100 landlords reporting loan-to-value ratios of over 90 per cent.
Almost two thirds of landlords own only a single rented property, but just like home-owners, landlords as a group are an ageing demographic. Back in 2004, only 24 per cent of landlords were aged 55 or over, compared with 61 per cent today.
The compilers of the report say one reason for this is that the rate of new investors coming into the sector has slowed down. In 2004, 18 per cent of buy-to-let landlords had bought their first property within the last two years, compared to around seven per cent today.
In terms of profile, the typical landlord owns property close to their home, is just as likely to manage their property themselves as to use a managing agent, and was originally motivated to become a landlord as a contribution to their pension provision, as an investment for capital growth and income, in preference to other investments, or to supplement earnings.
Two thirds of landlords gain less than 25 per cent of their household income from rent. Around one in 20 said they made a profitable full-time living from being a landlord.
Nearly a quarter of landlords ended up renting out property accidentally due to circumstances, while around 14 per cent entered the market originally to provide a home for a relative or friend.
Landlords appear to take a long-term view of their property holdings, and many landlords who entered the market decades ago remain active. There is only a modest aspiration on the part of landlords to either increase or decrease their property holdings over the next five years.
More landlords expect to reduce their property portfolios than to increase them. Over the next 12 months a net six per cent of landlords expect to reduce their portfolios, while over the next five years a net 14 per cent expect to do so.
Generally, the reasons given by landlords for looking to reduce their property holdings were as part of a planned exit. Only 21 per cent of landlords overall cited any element of tax changes as part of their reason to sell.
More than a third of landlords said they were prepared to offer leases longer than 12 months on at least some of their units.