ExCeL at Docklands is one of my favorite places in the whole world.  I love the way the sun catches the watch at the dock and the wind slaps the strings from the flagpoles against the metal posts. I relish walking under the cranes, seeing the shadows they cast. The dock is about half a mile long and I love the abstract shapes that are created as you look into the distance along the docks through the cranes, the flagpoles and all the flats, to the ExCeL building in the distance. I think it’s a beautiful place.

The Property Investor Show has always been held at ExCeL in the south of England and I think this venue is much better than G-MEX in Manchester.  It’s bigger, so you get more exhibitors, and the overall atmosphere in the venue seems to be more energised. G-MEX just seems tiny by comparison to ExCeL.

I first went on Friday and I was surprised to find that it was very busy by 10.30am. The show at G-MEX has been significantly smaller than I was expecting and I was wondering whether the steam had gone out of the show.  However, I was surprised to find that it was well attended, and there were a wide range of stalls.  Previously in the Investor Shows there have been far too many sun properties and not enough properties for the true investor market. – but this show seemed to have a fair spread of everything from financial advice, currency exchange, sun property, UK property, and overseas buy to let.

It is interesting to look at the sectors that are being marketed heavily and to see how investment trends are changing. The UK investment sector remains a relatively small part of the show.  There are some developments, but this is not a massive part of the show.  As usual, much of it is new-build, but more prominent now in the UK section are things like legal advice and portfolio building.  This seems to have taken over from developers selling individual developments.  However, if people went down to buy UK stock, they would not be disappointed.  There were a selection of developers offering a range of overpriced luxury flats. Personally, I do not think these represent much of an investment and from the attendance at the stands and the reduced number of these stands in the show this year, I think most investors are agreeing with me.

I had the pleasure of discussing one of my properties with the staff on the Watkin Jones stand.  I am still struggling to get a mortgage for one of their overpriced buy‑to-let flats in Manchester – bought when I was young and foolish.  I went to the stand to explain to them that they would not be getting my completion if they did not manage to find a valuer who could support their pie-in-the-sky price.  Still no joy on that one, and it looks like I’m going to lose my deposit.  I won’t go down without a fight, though, as I’m convinced they’ve been trying to pull the wool over the valuer’s eyes by making out the flat has parking when actually it hasn’t.

Some of the older destinations in Europe that have previously been popular are now fading away – we’re seeing much less of the traditional southern Spain fare and even the Florida developments are less in evidence.  For ages now I’ve been saying Spain is overdone and Florida is based on a really weak US economy, and neither are particularly attractive investment locations.  It seems that this year there is more of a healthy balance between different locations: there are many more exotic places, like the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Thailand. Bulgaria features highly, which is notable, but again we have seen more of the properties that are part of the tourist belt boom.  It would be interesting to see more capital city property, but unfortunately this is still, under-represented compared to the plethora of sun/ski property on offer.

Hungary flats are becoming much more popular.  When I first started watching the Hungarian markets, these properties were virtually unheard of at the property investor shows but there has been a big build up in recent years with the number of companies offering a mixture of classic and new build flats in Hungary, including Casaro, Budapest Invest etc.  Along with the decline in Spain and UK new build, I really feel the investor market has been following my predictions, which gives me a great deal of confidence.

Of course, the show isn’t just about stands.  There was a full and interesting program of speakers on every topic from buying undervalued properties in the UK to setting an international strategy. I think one of the best parts of the show is to sit down and listen to other people’s theory and practice for investing in property. You glean a huge amount of information from people talking about their successes and failures and there whys and hows.  You can’t glean all of the information you need from stands.  The quality of speakers (the ones I bothered to go and see!) was very high and they appeared to be speaking honestly about their investments.

The organizers apparently have a filtering process that makes sure speakers don’t just do cheap sales pitches, and whatever process they have seems to be working. There’s some really good quality advice that you can get from these seminars, and they’re all but free.  Beats some BS ‘Property Secrets Mentoring Millionaire Quick University Course’.  Yours at the bargain price of only 25 grand for 3 days.  Usually 50 grand, but for you its cheap. Etc.

I went to seminars on the London Olympics, which obviously impact some of the properties that I recently brought in auction, and Ranjan Bhattacharya’s (property-habits.com) ‘Ways to buy properties 30% below market value.’  I’m looking forward to his full course, which I’m reviewing soon.  He seems to be on the ball with UK strategy, and needless to say it’s got nothing to do with overpriced luxury flats.  Also on offer was Dominic Farrell from ‘Beware The Sharks’, going over his traditional economic fundamentals.  This is always a good one to pick up, even if you have seen it several times before – it’s a great reminder of why we are in property investment. One of the biggest eye openers I think I had at the show was a seminar by Joe Jaffa looking at Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. It is interesting to see the ways they have done their market analysis.  Personally, I think Poland is over regulated – somewhat stuck in its communist past – and it’s interesting to see a different take on it.   Hungary, which I have always had quite a lot of faith in as a market, seems to be low on the Joe Jaffa investment wish list.  Apparently interest rates and tax on the government’s borrowing are both too high.  Personally, I think that this economic weakness is an interesting opportunity rather than a threat and might lead to bigger rises in the property market in the long run, but certainly the Czech and Slovak areas have performed well in the past and have signs of continuing growth.  However, other speakers highlighted the relatively inflated price of Czech property relative to average earnings – a good indicator in my view.  I think from what I have seen of the Czech Republic, there seem to be big issues with corruption and long-term steady growth in the market in Prague. This seems to suggest that other locations are due some growth and, although capital cities have an appeal all of their own, I think places like Brno can be part of a more diverse (and ultimately better) investment strategy.  However, I have not studied these markets in great detail.

It is always quite amusing to see the number of people who come to the Property Investor Show utterly unprepared, despite having bought expensive stands.  You see virtually bare shells with a couple of posters and people sitting around looking as if they do not know why they are there.  Even worse, there are some unstaffed stands with noone to give out leaflets or information.  It’s quite shocking that people could be so disorganised when the stands cost somewhere in the order of a grand a metre – but there is always somebody who cannot get their act together. I wonder what their investments will perform like if they can’t even get their sales pitch sorted out.

I also got to tryout my new press pass at the show, which was great fun because it appears to be a magic card that gets you absolutely anywhere. I don’t intend to abuse the privileges that I get from being a journalist but it’s certainly interesting to see just how well it opens doors for you.  No one seems to ask too many questions about what magazine I write for – one quick flash of the pass and I was through all of the security doors and into every seminar. Being a journalist is fun.  Coming soon, an article about the property economics of the Glastonbury festival 😉

So, in summary, the Property Investor Show is great.  If you can’t be bothered to go you’re far too lazy to deserve any property profits at all.  Get your arse down there next time, and squeeze the other venues in throughout the rest of the year – keeping your finger on the property pulse.