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Celebrity landlord – Craig Phillips

With Big Brother 10 hotting up, landlords who watched the outcome of the first Big Brother may recall that the first winner was the cheeky but charismatic ‘Liverpudlian’ Craig Phillips.
What you may not be aware of is that Craig had quite a successful business career prior to Big Brother and despite his numerous media engagements has gone on to develop his property and landlord businesses.
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Property Hawk decided to track Craig down to find out how his landlord business was developing in the current downturn and whether he could give Property Hawk readers some useful insights gained from over a decades experience in property on how to be a successful landlord.
1. How long have you been a landlord & what first got you into it?
Being in the building trade most of my life I’ve always been aware one of the best investments is bricks and mortar. I bought my first house in the mid to late 1990’s and completely re-developed it, shortly after that I purchased another and that’s when the renting side of things started.
2. Why did you choose student lets as a posed to other types of lettings?
Back in the late 1990’s I had always rented out my properties to families as they were mostly houses in rural areas. At the time I originally entered the Big Brother house, my house I lived in near my folks pub was located in a rural area in Shropshire not too far from a college which caters mostly for veterinary studies. For the past 9 years now I have been racing around the country on the filming side of things working with the BBC, ITV and many many channels as well as for my own production company Avent Productions – one of the first TV shows I worked on was a live show for the BBC called Housecall and for this I had to move to Birmingham for 9 series which were filmed over long periods and actually lived with the chef James Martin who was also on the show. So – I decided as I wasn’t spending time at my own house it would be wise to convert it into a 5 bed shared house. Today I have 30 dwellings in the portfolio which in a mix and max of locations. These range from a large cottage, modern luxury city apartments, Victorian grade 2 listed houses, detached and semi detached houses too. Although I spend most of my time when not filming in Liverpool I do still consider the property and Shropshire my home though as I spent a big part of my life living there.
3. Are you still expanding and is it a good time to buy more property?
Great question – yes I’m currently building a replica grade 2 Victorian building in Liverpool on a plot of land – the original 1850’s house was sadly bombed during World War 2. Internally this is going to be 5 apartments, the house will include a basement, rear outrigger (built from reclaimed bricks we found from the original house when digging out foundations) and at a mezzanine floor – all of which were not in the original building. Outside though the building needs to looks like others next to it as it is a listed building. I’ve sat on this piece of land for many years and only now decided to build on it as I knew that the labour would be cheaper with this economic climate. In terms of long term investment if investors have the budgets, yes they can make wise investments now as house prices in most areas generally speaking have levelled out now and some even falling, I’m not sure about short term investment opportunities at the moment though. For me personally properties are long term investments, I don’t generally tend to buy and then sell, I tend to buy, re-develop and then rent out. I have a team of Liverpool guys and a team from Hodgkinsons bricklayers working on this, a couple of the younger lads newly qualified used to be trainees in my 25,000 square foot building school which I set up near the Grand National racecourse so it’s great to give something back as it were to the industry that’s given me so much.
4 .How do you find property and what type of property do you look for?
A mix and match; sometimes I will go to auctions, sometimes property developers have actually come to me directly to discuss a potential private sale – because I’m on TV they think I always have cash flow but like everyone else I have mortgages and overheads. In general I tend to look for the most wrecked and ruined properties in need of pretty much total refurbishment. I also am always keen to look at listed buildings too I take all the usual things like area into consideration, current market value and of course think about any potential investment as a long term one.
5. Do you have any investment criteria that you set when evaluating each investment?
Yes I tend to think that I want a 70% return on my investment once restorations and renovations are completed.
6. Is your celebrity status a help or hindrance to you being a landlord?
Both! I’m very hands on and like to oversee every stage of renting from advertising, maintenance on properties, viewing and vetting prospective tenants, paperwork etc. Sadly my diary doesn’t allow me as much time as I’d like to devote to this side of things as I tend to be asked to film here or to do some charity work there so that’s where the hindrance can be.
7. What are your future plans career wise? Do you intend to spend more or less time on your property?
Hopefully more, I am looking at a possible development opportunity for next year. I run my building company for 10 years and had 30 guys working for me by the time I applied for Big Brother to help Joanne Harris. These days I have a team working purely on private projects where and when I can. Building has always been a big part of my life and always will be; I do still love and get a kick out of renovating or building something.
8. I see that you endorse accommodation for students. Do you use their services?
Yes that’s right, as I mentioned my diary can often be hectic – that’s why I’m pleased to have recently come across as it gives me a great way to advertise properties quickly and keep tabs on any changes taking place in the world of student accommodation, it’s so user friendly too so for me that’s important as I need to access information and do searches quickly.
9. Do you have any specific tips about letting to students?
Yes, in terms of a tip for a student I was an apprentice builder and for me it was important to live somewhere close to where I studied (this actually happened to be a family members’ home for me) but most importantly to live somewhere were I was happy in. If you are happy with where you live this will reflect on your studies and enjoying your time studying.
In terms of practical advice to landlords I think it’s the stuff that goes without saying really which they I am sure will know. Make sure you are up to speed with the housing and tenancy act legals and guidelines, make sure you know your target markets for properties so you can advertise in the right places, make sure you take appropriate references and photo i.d. of tenants, of course the payment side of things keeping tabs on incoming rents. Also I’ve always found it’s wise to occasionally do random spot visits to check tenants in your properties are looking after them, don’t ever take your eye off the ball.
10. It seems you are pretty busy with being a landlord so do you have anything else in the pipeline?
I’ve just released my autobiography ‘My Story: Building Beyond Big Brother’ available now in WH Smiths, Borders, Waterstones,, Amazon nationwide. In this I talk a lot about obviously the media and charity stuff and my life in general and there is a big section devoted to my property developments side of things with some case studies in there. I’m also expanding Avent Productions corporate side more – we’ve just completed a project for Hodgkinsons and for the next few customers only can offer broadcast quality services for a much reduced cost price as we seek to expand the portfolio for more go to

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