'Dad lent me a deposit for a house - now I've got a multimillion pound property empire run from Doncaster'
When Paul Rothwell went to university, his dad suggested he bought a house.
He helped him do that, lending him £15,000 as a deposit, and Paul was able to rent rooms in the property during his time at Nottingham University.
That was nearly 15 years ago.
Mr Rothwell bought a house for £88,000. He spent £13,000 on the deposit and the £2,000 balance was spent tidying the property up. The four bedroom house was turned into student accommodation with six bedrooms, including one in the cellar where he lived in for two years. The other five rooms were rented out to fellow students.
He had a family history in business – they set up the Rothwell’s chip shops in the borough, where he worked growing up.
The rental income from the property covered Mr Rothwell’s mortgage payments twice over, giving him a healthy yield on his investment. The young entrepreneur was planning to sell the house once he completed his studies – it was worth £145,000 by that time. But after reading the business book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, he decided to keep the property.
But Mr Rothwell learned from his experience. And now, the firm he started after graduation, Empire Property Concepts, is one of the biggest property developers in Doncaster.
The 35-year-old now has a property portfolio worth millions through Empire Property Concepts.
After leaving university, he approached his bank and raised £38,000 that he used as a deposit on a second property in Thurnscoe.
Things have grown and grown since then.
And recently, he completed and opened his highest profile Doncaster scheme to date, with the opening of the Danum House development – the 72-flat revamp of the former Co-op building on the corner of Duke Street and Street and Sepulchre Gate. The first to the fourth floors now have 78 flats, comprising a mix of one, two and three bedroom properties.
He said: “After university, I continued to buy cheap properties that needed renovating and turning them into apartments, from 2005 to 2013.
“Then the Government introduced something called permitted development, which meant you could take office buildings and convert them to apartments, because of the housing crisis. There were empty buildings in towns that needed more people ilving in the town centres. That was the point at which we were able to take on big buildings.
“The first big one we did was Weston House, a former tax office, where Atteys used to be based. It was completed mid-2014 with 24 apartments, plus offices and commercial on the ground floor.
“With Danum House, a local investor owned it prior to us. They developed the ground floor, but the rest of it was vacant for a number of years.
“It came to us when they wanted to offload the building. We agreed to buy it once planning permission was in place. We worked with the architect Ian Barraclough. Now the biggest apartment in there is 125 square feet, which is big.
“It was a challenge to make it work, and we put light wells into the building. Now we’re really proud of the living spaces we’ve made there. When we showed the council round after it was completed, they were bowled over with it. I think all the contractors and staff should be really proud of what they’ve done.”
A domed ceiling at the top of the building was retained, and that has become part of a residents’ cinema room. The development has also seen the former Karisma night club, part of the site, turned into flats. Previously known as the Co-op Ballroom, it once stage a gig by the Beatles.
Half the flats have been sold, with half rented out.
Another ongoing development for Empire is Consort House, close to the new Doncaster museum site. Six months off completion, that is expected to be a 70-flat scheme.
The firm is also working on schemes in many towns outside Doncaster. In Bolton, it is redeveloping the Victorian former Globe Works, near the town centre, in a scheme that will see the creation of 124 ultra-modern, high specification residential apartments, with a swimming pool in the building. It also has projects in the centre of Halifax and Blackburn.
The firm now employs 30 people from its office Empire House – previously Weston House.
Mr Rothwell expects that number to rise as the firm grows.
But he does not see many more conversions of office buildings in Doncaster, as he thinks most of the possible sites have now been developed.
Instead, he said the firm was looking towards its own building projects. It is already looking at buying land away from the town centre for its first housing development.
“It would be nice to build a block in the town centre as well,” said Mr Rothwell. “We want to continue to contribute to the redevelopment of the town centre. I’d love to do something else on a par with Danum House.
“We are hoping to bring in grant funding to refurbish the external facade of Danum House, too. It is commercially unviable for a private developer, because it would need heritage certified workmen to do it.
“But if we could get the grants, we would like to bring it back as close as possible to its heyday in the 1930s.”