Robbie FowlerRobbie Fowler, the former Liverpool and England international striker, has made a fortune from property. Investing in buy-to-let over the past decade, Fowler is now said to be worth £28 million.

And he's offering to teach the next generation of property investors the tricks of the trade, in the form of the Robbie Fowler Property Academy, which is running a series of free two-hour workshops in London this month.


Of course, Robbie himself won't be there. But his 'lead trainer' will, and they will talk you through everything from how to improve your credit rating (read Ten simple steps to improve your credit record right now instead!) to "setting optimistic yet achievable goals".

You probably won't be surprised to hear that, while there's no obligation to buy anything at the workshops, there will be "additional education products and services" available should you want them.

Getting your hands dirty

I'm not sure how useful a two-hour seminar, covering all sorts of vague self-improvement rubbish like "generating the motivation and confidence to succeed", will be in helping anyone to kick off a buy-to-let portfolio.

The fundamentals of investing in property are fairly simple.

You need to buy a home that will be consistently desirable to tenants.

But that's a lot easier said than done...

Who can invest?

First, let's look at who can invest in property and become a buy-to-let landlord. A couple of years ago everyone and their dog had bought a buy-to-let property, and at that time it made sense. Demand was good, there were plenty of lenders, and even if your property wasn't knocking tenants dead, chances are you'd make a few quid from its value jumping.

Things are rather different now, and buy-to-let should only be viewed as a long-term investment. You simply can't rely on capital appreciation anymore; the important thing is a property that will never (or almost never) be empty.

The lending environment has changed too. Lenders are stricter about who they will lend to, more insistent about how the rent needs to be more than your monthly repayments. Being a landlord is not a hobby, not a punt to take with a spare £40,000 that you have sitting in your savings. It's a serious, expensive and potentially time-consuming venture, and should be treated as such.

Finding a property

The most important aspect of all is finding your investment property.

The first thing to think about is the type of tenant you want to attract. Are you going for students, city professionals, families? Working out who you want to appeal to will help you work out the type of property you want.

Next comes location. You need to buy in a place that will appeal to that desired tenant. So if it's a commuter, you need to be near to public transport, if it's a family you want to have good schools and amenities nearby.

It's really important to not let emotion get the better of you here. You need to pick a property as an investment, not because deep down you quite fancy living there.

Finally, do some homework. Speak to letting agents in the area, check out letting listings in the local papers or online and work out exactly what the demand – and typical rent – is likely to be in the area. You need to make sure the numbers add up before you sign on the dotted line.

The table below breaks down the average rental yields in the final quarter of last year, based on research by buy-to-let lender Paragon.

Region

Average yield

East Midlands

7.5%

London (central)

7%

North West

6.8%

North East

6.7%

East of England

6.5%

South West

6.3%

West Midlands

6.2%

London (outer)

6.1%

Wales

5.6%

Yorkshire & Humber

5%


Getting a mortgage

It's one thing to be confident enough to sort out the mortgage on your own home yourself. Sorting out a buy-to-let mortgage on your own is a different task entirely.

That's because many mortgage lenders will only lend through mortgage brokers. These lenders – the likes of Paragon, Kensington and The Mortgage Works – aren't names you see on the high street. The only way to get them to lend to you is by getting independent advice.

But that's not the only reason to use a broker. The lending criteria on buy-to-let mortgages can be very complex, and a good broker will know which lenders will be most likely to deal with you in your circumstances. They'll also be able to help you to ensure the sums add up!

Managing your property

OK, so you've found the right property and you've got the finance sorted. Now you need to work out who will be responsible for managing the property on a daily basis.

If you live nearby and want to keep your costs to a minimum, you might elect to do it yourself. So you'll be in charge of advertising it, choosing the tenants, negotiating and collecting rent. It will also be you that gets the call at one in the morning to let you know the boiler's broken down.

The alternative is to get a letting agent to manage the property. This is a sensible move if you live miles away from the property, but it doesn't come cheap. For full management of the property you may end up handing over up to 15% of your rental income. Letting agents also tend to attract a lot of complaints, as we examined in New letting agents laws needed.

Is it worth the hassle?

With rents rising hugely over the past couple of years, coupled with significant demand from tenants who simply can't afford to buy their own home, becoming a buy-to-let landlord might seem something of a no-brainer.

But, as Emma Lunn explains in Buy-to-let doesn't add up, in practice being a landlord can be a vastly different experience.

If you do decide to invest in property, it needs to be a decision that you make with your eyes wide open, aware of everything that can possibly go wrong. It shouldn't be done on a whim, simply because a former footballer has made a go of it.