Buy to let shows, courses and seminars: Are they worth the time and money?
Property events, such as the London-based Property Investor Show, are a perfect way for landlords to gain free advice, without falling victim to costly catches…
The footballer Robbie Fowler, who owns at least 80 rental properties worth an estimated £28 million, has just launched his buy-to-let academy offering free workshops for landlords. He promises to teach property skills “to change your life and secure your financial future”.
Fowler’s seminars, run by Tigrent, are free and don’t flog property at the end. Other such courses charge hundreds, even thousands, of pounds and introduce investors to advisers who charge similarly exorbitant rates and attempt to offer below market value “deals”they can’t refuse.
“They go for a hard-sell that leaves the investor so terrified of making a mistake, they don’t buy anything,” says Robin Campbell from Midas Estates, which offers free property schools, with all presentations posted online.
However, even supposedly free seminars can sometimes have a sting in the tail, warns Leon Fear, director of the Bristol-based Fear Group’s property portfolio. “They often try to ‘close’ you afterwards, to buy a course or a future seminar, often at hundreds of pounds more. Only the really thick-skinned can go along and leave with free knowledge, however good or bad.”
So is it ever worth spending money on a buy-to-let course?
Property expert Kate Faulkner, director of Designs on Property, thinks such courses are, in the main, a waste of time. “It’s a lot cheaper and more informative to go to shows, such as the Property Investor Show, where you can get free advice, or join your local authority landlord accreditation scheme. You’re often better off taking a couple of weeks off work to do your research and legwork and find a good team to work with rather with than spend thousands of pounds on courses.”
Faulkner also warns of buy-to-let companies that don’t belong to the property ombudsman, “which they should do as they are acting as estate agents”. And beware handing over significant sums for them to invest for you, as the money is rarely kept in a client account and losses won’t be insured if they go bust.
Besides companies offering to teach you all you need to know about buy-to-let in a weekend, there are buying agents who will buy and furnish investment property for you. “The standard of performance and value for money of many of these players is variable — and some are little better than cowboys,” says David Lawrenson, the private-rented sector expert at LettingFocus.com and author of Successful Property Letting — How to Make Money in Buy-to-Let.
“As returns from banked cash have dwindled relative to inflation, there has been an increase in people advising others how to make money from residential property investment. Most of what they offer is unregulated,” Lawrenson adds.
Do thorough research on anyone who is offering buy-to-let advice to discover what they own, what their true rental yields are and which companies they work with. Don’t be tempted by off-beat financing schemes — they invariably involve bridging loans that are in some way connected to the adviser (a chance for more kickbacks).
And beware of promises of “financial freedom”, “no money down” and “passive income”, says Lawrenson. “Being a landlord involves you doing some real work, putting some of your cash in and not expecting to find financial freedom in a short time frame.”
Of course you can join a landlords’ organisation such as The Landlord Association. It provides free support and resources to landlords.
Some estate agents, including Essex-based Beresfords, host free sessions designed to explain the principles of buy-to-let, including how to find and fund investment properties and the tax implications.
“The key is to ask the experts as many questions as possible,” says Beresfords’ managing director, Steven Bond. Mortgage brokers and lettings agents will also give valuable free advice.
“Between a sales manager and a lettings manager, there should be no information they can’t provide as it’s their job to advise clients on what properties will make a good investment and prove desirable in the lettings market,” says Nicola Merry, lettings manager at Londonbased agency Kay & Co.
Ultimately, says Russell Quirk, founder of low-cost online estate agency eMoov.co.uk, the basics of buy-to-let — “does the property value stack up as far as the rental values are concerned and is the resulting yield acceptable?” — boil down to common sense rather that something that needs to be taught.
“While I applaud any move to encourage buy-to-let as a means of bolstering a beleaguered market,”he says, “buy-to-let courses sound like a money-making scheme.”
Article courtesy of Landlord Expert