Norwich is a top destination for students. Belle Wiley talks to Phil Walters, landlord of PW Properties, about the building blocks of setting up his own business.
Why is it a good profession to get into?
Being your own boss allows you to concentrate on what's important. I used to work offshore all over the world which meant that I missed out on the first few years of family life. I was looking for an alternative and the landlord profession runs in my family. I learnt a lot from my father and how building up of portfolio of residential properties would give a good income now and in later years
What does the work involve?
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Over the past 10 years, I have built up a portfolio of student residential properties in the Golden Triangle in Norwich.
It's vital when buying a property for rental that you remove all emotion and approach it on a critical basis. You have to look at the location, interior set up, potential rental yield, the amount of work required to ensure that it gives you a worthwhile return. I've bought some houses with the most hideous interiors – olive gloss on the walls, orange painted kitchens – but that can all be covered up with a huge pot of magnolia.
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As a landlord you are responsible for providing safe, good quality accommodation to your tenants and with that you have to keep up to date with legislation. I am one of the Directors of the Eastern Landlords Association, which provides advice and help in case of problems.
What are the positives/ negatives of this profession?
The summer period when the students move out and move in is intensive, often working 18 hour days. You clean through the personal litter of people's lives and sometimes discover some rather strange pastimes. One student had left lots of black marks in the corner of his room which I thought had been left by a squash ball; but no, they were from him juggling his fire clubs which he assured me were not lit.
Moving into student accommodation is often the first time young people have lived independently and can bring teething problems. I get lots of calls like that the freezer is not working properly and 99 times out of 100 it's something like a choc ice stuck in the door or the door is not being properly closed. But this is all part of the job. Unfortunately there are a few rogue landlords who give the profession a bad name. There are plenty of accredited landlords who are part of a landlords association, like myself, and who take pride and satisfaction in providing good quality accommodation.
Is there much local demand for people trained in this area?
Norwich has a lot of students and there a lot of landlords; the Eastern Landlords Association has 1200 members. You have to be on the top of your game to ensure all your properties are rented out by working hard to build a reputation by providing good quality accommodation and service. Marketing is vital and I gather testimonials from satisfied students and put them on my website.
What would you look for in someone setting themselves up in this profession?
One of the most important qualities in setting up your own business is self-belief and that only comes after you've done the groundwork. You have to take the time to research and network. As a landlord you need to be approachable, tolerant, knowledgeable of current legislation and you shouldn't be afraid of hard work.
Contact details for Phil Walters
Eastern Landlords Association (01603) 767101