From the rugby pitch to the con­struc­tion site

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Ex­eter Chiefs’ fans sing the Tom­a­hawk Chop war chant when the team walk on at the start of home games.

The pair are now com­plet­ing their first pro­ject, two houses and a bun­ga­low on a site at Bish­op­steign­ton in Devon. All three open-plan, modern-style homes have sold long be­fore com­ple­tion.

“Our spon­sors at the Chiefs in­cluded land firms, es­tate agents, solic­i­tors and ac­coun­tants, which were all con­tacts we could use. Those links meant we could deal straight with di­rec­tors and other de­vel­op­ers. It didn’t make it easy, but it did make it a log­i­cal choice to move into prop­erty,” ex­plains Salvi, an Aus­tralian flanker who has re­tired and is now on Ex­eter’s coach­ing team.

Fel­low Tom­a­hawk direc­tor Low, a Scot­tish prop in his fifth sea­son with the Chiefs, got the prop­erty bug af­ter the club held tu­to­ri­als on in­vest­ment for play­ers. “I had sev­eral buy-to-lets in Scot­land to give me fi­nan­cial free­dom af­ter I stopped play­ing, but the tax changes and the dif­fi­culty of man­ag­ing those while play­ing in Devon meant I had to get some­thing else,” he says. “This has been a bril­liant chal­lenge and it’s my fu­ture ca­reer.”

The pair have more sites across Devon lined up for their next schemes. It’s for­tu­itous tim­ing, as de­mand for prop­erty around Ex­eter re­mains high. They feel their ex­pe­ri­ence in a sports team has helped them man­age their builders, as well as face new tasks in­clud­ing bat­tling against coun­cil plan­ning de­part­ments.

Now that he has re­tired from the game, Salvi is find­ing his kicks else­where. “Even get­ting some­thing like plan­ning con­sent or sell­ing the homes in ad­vance has given me a new form of adrenalin rush,” he says. “There’s a great feel­ing of achieve­ment.”

Salvi and Low have some way to go to dis­place for­mer foot­ball stars from the top of the prop­erty tree – or, in the case of ex-Manch­ester United play­ers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, from the top of St Michael’s, their planned 39-floor, £200mil­lion sky­scraper.

Af­ter a trou­bled plan­ning his­tory, the new scheme in cen­tral Manch­ester, which has re­cently been ap­proved, will con­tain 190 lux­ury apart­ments, in­clud­ing a du­plex pent­house with two ter­races, as well as a five-star, 200-bed­room ho­tel.

Neville has had a long-stand­ing in­ter­est in de­vel­op­ment, which meant that to­wards the end of his play­ing ca­reer he would train in the morn­ing and do site vis­its in the af­ter­noon. He is just one of many from foot­ball who have turned to bricks and mor­tar.

In 2014 then-Liver­pool play­ers Luis Suàrez, Lu­cas Leiva and José En­rique, along with Ar­se­nal mid­field­ers Mikel Arteta and Santi Ca­zorla, be­came di­rec­tors of re­gen­er­a­tion de­vel­oper Cap­i­tal and Cen­tric In­vest­ments.

The firm’s lat­est pro­ject has been the cre­ation of 60 flats in Manch­ester’s his- toric An­coats, de­lib­er­ately tar­get­ing lo­cal res­i­dents to avoid, in the com­pany’s words, “in­vestors si­phon­ing them off ”.

But it’s Rob­bie Fowler – boast­ing 26 caps for Eng­land and play­ing for top clubs in­clud­ing Manch­ester City and Liver­pool – who has per­haps scored the most suc­cess with prop­erty. Dur­ing his time at City, fans used to chant “We all live in a Rob­bie Fowler home” to the tune of Yel­low Sub­ma­rine, a nod to his buy-to-let em­pire in Manch­ester.

In re­cent years he has ex­panded into sem­i­nars, with the Rob­bie Fowler Prop­erty Acad­emy cov­er­ing every­thing from in­vest­ment to de­vel­op­ment and men­tor­ing. “When I started I didn’t know much about the prop­erty world, but I had good ad­vice from peo­ple who did. It was putting that into prac­tice that made my busi­ness go from strength to strength,” he says, ex­plain­ing why he cham­pi­ons coach­ing ses­sions for new in­vestors.

The prop­erty fast lane lends it­self to ex-rac­ing driv­ers like Ed­die Irvine, too. In 1999 he came sec­ond in the For­mula One world cham­pi­onship, but long be­fore he was Michael Schu­macher’s team-mate at Fer­rari he had a lu­cra­tive al­ter­na­tive in­come from mul­ti­ple buyto-lets in his na­tive North­ern Ire­land.

He then be­came a builder, setting up Chrishard­zoe De­vel­op­ments in his home coun­try and the Casa Ischia com­pany in Mi­ami, where he is now let­ting his own seven-bed­room beach home for a re­ported $180,000 (£140,400) a month. So is there life af­ter world-class sport? You bet – and it may be on a build­ing site near you.

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