I have been a member of the National Landlords Association for some time and I was pleased to have been able to get my hands on a press pass to the National Federation of Residential Landlords Annual Conference. I was allowed in as an imposter and a spy to see what they got up to. A bit like James Bond, but without the guns and beautiful women. However, they imposed the strict rule that I wasn’t allowed to eat any of their precious food during my visit.

The conference was held in a hotel, in Daventry of all places, conveniently located in the middle of nowhere. This appears to be impossible to get to apart from by car. Fortunately, I live very nearby in the desolate wasteland that is the south midlands, so it was only about half an hour from my house and so I’m not complaining. Personally, I don’t like to think of my house as being in this region. I prefer ‘greater greater London’. I, in common with all right thinking individuals, view Watford Gap services as the border checkpoint to civilization – beyond which only Radio 4 keeps you in touch with the rest of the Empire. Daventry is in the Demilitarised zone, as which side of the services it lies depends on which direction you’re driving in.

The conference was a 2½-day event and I arrived on the Friday evening to have a quick snout around and see who turned up. The clientele of the event was very similar to the National Landlords Association and that is, perhaps, the most notable feature of these Associations. In contrast, the patronage of the London Networking events run by Elite, propertynetworkingclub.com and Global is generally younger, with a wide range of ages and very mixed in terms of race and culture. The National Federation of Residential Landlords reflects their old school image in their membership. Almost everybody who goes there is over 40 and they are almost exclusively white and speak English as their first language.

I guess the London Networking events tend to share databases so despite their different flavours, they do tend to have a very large cohort of members who crossover between the events. This new, internationally focused, and highly entrepreneurial approach to property doesn’t sit well with the old school, cash flow-focused landlords of yesteryear. That’s not to say that the approach that these people have is outdated or that it doesn’t work. Nor is it meant to allege that they don’t run their businesses in a sensible way. However, there is a very distinct difference in culture of investing, the style of event and in the membership.

I was speaking to another property journalist about this. He gave me the impression that he’s getting frustrated with the London scene, as it was full of wannabes. I can see his point as the rather dry approach of the Landlords’ Associations contrasts noticeably with the more entrepreneurial style of the new breed of property investors.

I think it is interesting to have the opportunity to go to both type of events and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. The majority of people at the NFRL appeared to have a more established property investment base than the equivalent members at the London clubs. Personally, I think I fit somewhere between the two camps. I appreciate the dynamic spirit of the new school, but I also value the practical advice, lobbying of government and the experienced clientele that one gets from an NFRL event.

The conference was run over two days, oddly though, a Friday and Saturday rather than a Saturday and Sunday. This perhaps reflects the more traditional professional background of the organisation. A lot of the attending delegates doubtless work full time in their property business, and are hence more willing to take Friday off for a conference than Sunday.

The weekend, if I may call it that, was split up into two sections with different styles. The first day was a plenary session with all of the delegates in the main hall for a day of whole group sessions. There was also a social and barbeque. Sadly, my ability to get into the swing of things was rather limited by the fact their press facilities didn’t even extend to a bowl of gruel.

The second day was split up into a series of optional workshops covering techniques such as energy efficiency; trusts and tax planning; evicting tenants and other similarly detailed matters. There was a very limited consideration of new-style investment work with only one speaker from overseas property interests: Suzy Dior, who many networkers and readers might be familiar with.

The purpose of the workshops on the Saturday was to expand on the plenary sessions from the Friday, giving more detailed and specific advice around the – plus some new material. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Friday as I received two call-outs to buy properties that day.

The quality of material on the Saturday in the workshops I attended on evictions and tax planning was very, very high. There is absolutely no ‘Rah!’ at all. This is solid learning for serious professionals, very much the character of the NFRL. I think there’s a place for getting all inspired and motivated with a bit of ‘Rah!’, but many such events end up being all style and no substance.

I picked up quite a lot of practical information that was relevant directly to me at this particular time – stuff on tax efficient structures, correct use of eviction forms etc. As such I can’t knock what I received – it was very useful. I will certainly be acting on the information that was given.

The NFRL is made up of various different regional landlords associations, organised into one overarching national body.  There’s a southern branch which encompasses London and southern counties, plus regions like East Midlands, Portsmouth etc, etc, etc. This gives people the opportunity to join an organisation which works in their area. Personally, I think the more networking the better, and it’s great to have something that contrasts so clearly with the approach taken by the newer London-based clubs.

Although unfortunately I didn’t have much time to build contacts this weekend, I do intend to join up and go out to some of the branch meetings.

The organisation seems, in many ways, quite similar to the NLA, although, I am sure there are plenty of differences. What they do have in common is their similar culture which, as I had said before, is so markedly different from the other networking events.

NFRL events are well worth attending if you are a serious landlord, although some newer investors might find that the information given is a little too dry and detailed to interest them. But if you are serious about making a business out of your property investments, it is very useful part of your training and networking schedule.

I would certainly recommend joining a landlord’s association. Personally, I am not going to be turning in my NLA badge any time soon but I may consider joining the NFRL as well.