SARAH BEENY is without a doubt the most well-known female face in the UK property industry.
And in the cut-throat business of television, where there are countless others waiting to fill your shoes, she has managed to retain her popularity for more than a decade. Since starting out as presenter of Channel 4’s Property Ladder in 2001, Sarah has gone on to front several other popular property-based shows including Streets Ahead, Britain’s Best Homes, Beeny’s Restoration Nightmare and Help! My House Is Falling Down.
Not only has the canny property developer managed to have four children in between all this, she is now just as well-known for her business acumen. Sarah has two successful internet businesses — the dating website My Single Friend and the property buying, selling and renting website Tepilo. It’s a busy life, but we managed to grab some of Sarah’s precious time to get the lowdown on….
….the UK’s resilient property market
“I’m not surprised that in London it remains strong. A lot of it has to do with the state of the euro — many European investors are putting their money into London because they see it as a safe haven. There is a lot of money out there and investors obviously need somewhere to put it. If I had to choose between Greece and the UK, I know which of the two I would opt for.”
….staying true to her property roots on TV
“It’s not deliberate that I only present property-based TV shows, but I guess it’s what I know best. One of my shows, Village SOS, was more about business and I really enjoyed that side of it, too. I’ve been offered the opportunity to appear on a whole load of reality drama shows, but I’m not interested.
“I’ve been offered some amazing gigs, too, to present shows that involve a lot of travel, shows that I would love to be part of, but then I have four little boys at home to look after and I couldn’t just take off like that. I was once offered the chance to front a television show about homelessness, which would have meant living rough with the homeless to highlight their plight. I would have loved to do it, but had a six-week-old baby at the time and just had to say no.
“With property, you will always make mistakes as you go along and there will always be another fresh mistake to make. As long as you don’t keep making the same one over and over again, you will be fine.”
….the UK’s booming rental sector
“Many people struggle to save enough for a deposit to get on the property ladder — we should do away with having to save before buying. I actually think there’s a good argument against buying. You are tied to a mortgage and are basically renting your home from the bank. Plus, when you own, you are responsible for your own repairs. When you rent, you can just move. People are obsessed with owning property in the UK — it’s not a crime to rent a house. A cynic might even suggest that the government has manipulated the housing market for its own benefit.
….Tepilo.com and what she really thinks of estate agents
“My property website for buying, selling and renting homes is doing really well and there are exciting plans for the future. I think that estate agents are really important. Some estate agents have a very deep knowledge of their local property market.”
….the secret of her ongoing TV success
“It’s hard to say why I have been on TV for so many years. I think part of it is down to the fact that I quite like people. That helps. I had never mapped out a career in TV, it happened by accident. I got chatting to a stranger at a mutual friend’s hen party. The following day I received a call from the lady’s sister. It turned out to be an invitation to try out as the face of a new series following the fortunes of amateur property developers. I pondered over whether I should go or not, and in the end my late stepmother pointed out that you should say “yes” not “no” to life, so I did. Simple as that. I think I have been very lucky. I don’t think that my knowledge of property is amazing I always think that whatever I know about the market, surely everyone else knows, too.
“My boys always come first. There’s Billy, who’s eight, Charlie, who’s six, Rafferty is four, and Laurie is two. When you say their ages like two, four, six and eight it sounds like I meticulously planned my family, but come the next birthday, it goes out of sync again. Four kids are a handful, but they are great fun and secretly I wanted another one straight after Laurie was born. It was Graham who put his foot down. I tried to persuade him for 18 months after Laurie’s birth, but he was strong about no more.”
Now that Laurie is two, I have moved on. It would be complicated to have a gap now. And I have cleared my house of all baby stuff so there can’t be any more anyway.I try to give all my children their own bit of time every day, but with four it’s quite tricky. I try very hard to have a clear gap between work and family I am perfectly happy to switch all my phones off at certain times when I am with my family so that I cannot be contacted by the outside world.”
Viewers marvel at her knowledge of all things property and her prowess as a television presenter, but as JACKY HAYLER finds out, Sarah Beeny insists she’s just an ordinary mum, and her success is just down to good fortune.