Property special - Sarah Beeny offers some advice
Moving on up
Sarah Beeny’s cool disapproval of hapless property developers with no sense of budget, timescale or the realities of the market makes for great TV. Here the star of Channel 4’s Property Ladder gives would-be developers the low-down on avoiding the pitfalls and turning a profit
Sarah Beeny may have flirted with the idea of a different career path but property was definitely in her stars. ‘My father is an architect and I grew up around building sites so they didn’t seem daunting,’ she explains. As her then-boyfriend (now husband) and brother were as keen on property as she was, setting up a development business seemed the obvious thing to do.
The three bought a split-level flat ‘in terrible condition’ in the early 90s, before development was fashionable, and set about doing it up. ‘We did everything ourselves: put in a new kitchen and bathroom and did all the cosmetic work,’ she remembers. ‘It was hard but I loved it.’ Not that she’d recommend it to everyone.
While there is still money to be made professionally, her message for those hoping to make a quick buck is clear. ‘Don’t do it,’ she laughs. ‘If you want to start a property developing business that’s a different thing but it’s never a good idea to see developing as something you do on the side. I’m always honest about that with people on the show. Off camera when people ask me what I think they should do I tell them: “Run for the hills. Don’t look back.”’
But for those who do decide to go ahead, Beeny advises doing your homework and sticking to budget. One way of affording a new home might be to buy something that needs work but don’t assume it will make you money, advises Beeny, and be honest about your DIY skills. ‘Take on as much work as you know you can do but never do it yourself unless you can do a good job. If you can’t, it will be counterproductive and cost you money in the long run. Concentrate on one area at a time and make sure you get a really good finish.’
Be prepared to buy in a less than swanky location if you’re on a budget; do your research on websites such as upmystreet.com and get to know the area by walking around. ‘After that, go with your gut feeling,’ she says. ‘If you’d be happy living there then the chances are that other people would be too.’
When it comes to selling up her advice couldn’t be simpler. ‘People really underestimate how off-putting ashtrays or litter trays can be,’ she says. ‘Give it a really good clean, from top to bottom.’