What Sarah Beeny learnt with her first home, aged just 19

Sarah Beeny tells Ara­bella Youens she owes ev­ery­thing she knows about prop­erty to the mis­takes made along the way, start­ing with her first buy at the young age of 19

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

The sea­soned prop­erty devel­oper, en­tre­pre­neur and TV pre­sen­ter Sarah Beeny con­fesses she had “a ter­ri­ble re­la­tion­ship with ed­u­ca­tion” while at school. In­stead of fol­low­ing her friends to univer­sity, she headed straight into work – any kind of work. And while friends were balanc­ing so­cial lives with their stud­ies, she was in Lon­don ne­go­ti­at­ing her first step on the prop­erty lad­der.

As a child of an ar­chi­tect who spent many hours wait­ing in the fam­ily car while her fa­ther was at meet­ings, it’s fair to say that Beeny’s eyes were opened to the world of prop­erty per­haps ear­lier than most. Pre­co­cious though it sounds, she started to look for some­thing to buy from the age of 16. “I wasn’t like my con­tem­po­raries,” she ad­mits. “I knew from a young age that I wanted to work with build­ings and own my own home as soon as pos­si­ble.”

In the end, it was a gam­ble that paid off. By her mid-20s, Beeny had es­tab­lished a de­vel­op­ment busi­ness and had al­ready bought and sold her first prop­erty. A few years later, a chance meet­ing at a hen party led to a screen test for her first TV show, Prop­erty Lad­der, and her ca­reer took off. She says: “By the time my friends had started work­ing and were buy­ing their first flats, I was buy­ing Rise Hall [her 97-room, Grade II* listed house in York­shire].

“It hap­pened as a re­sult of co­in­ci­dences and a lot of luck. But I tell my chil­dren now that the main rea­son we’ve ended up where we are is be­cause we started so young, when we had the en­ergy and were pre­pared to com­pro­mise so much.”

Com­fort was prob­a­bly the first thing that was com­pro­mised when it came to Beeny’s first flat: a run-down, two-bed­room ground-floor prop­erty in Bat­tersea, south Lon­don, with no bath­room and an out­side loo. A pro­bate sale, it hadn’t been touched for many years.

“It was 27 years ago and I was only 19,” she ex­plains. “Peo­ple have the im­pres­sion, es­pe­cially in Lon­don, that in those days you could go out with your spare change and buy a three-bed­room house, but it wasn’t the case.

“To­gether with my brother, whose room you could just about squeeze a 4ft by 6ft bed in, and my then boyfriend [now hus­band, Gra­ham Swift], we bought the flat for £52,000. It seemed like a huge sum of money.”

While work­ing two jobs with a to­tal salary of £5,500, Beeny had a help­ing hand with the de­posit. After her mother died, in 1982 when she was only 10, she was left a trust fund that was meant to be kept in­tact un­til she was 28.

With the clar­ity of pur­pose, the young Beeny asked a so­lic­i­tor that she met by chance while work­ing as a wait­ress whether it was pos­si­ble to break the terms of the trust to ac­cess the money early.

“He could see that I wasn’t go­ing to whit­tle it away on noth­ing, so on

‘When my friends started buy­ing their first flats, I was buy­ing Rise Hall’

agreed to my plan,” she re­calls. “That pro­vided a £7,000 de­posit.”

Pho­tographed stand­ing un­derneath the “sold” sign with her now fa­mil­iar wide-beam grin, she bor­rowed noth­ing more com­pli­cated than a hand drill and ham­mer from her fa­ther (the dex­ter­ity with chis­els and chain­saws would come later).

Beeny and the oth­ers set about reno- vat­ing the Bat­tersea prop­erty with what lit­tle spare time they had. “My fa­ther gave me a Read­ers’ Di­gest an­nual with some rudi­men­tary ad­vice on DIY home ren­o­vat­ing.

“We im­me­di­ately made a num­ber of first-time ren­o­va­tion er­rors, in­clud­ing block­ing ac­cess to the gar­den while we con­verted what had been the pantry into a bath­room. It meant that for quite a long time we had to climb out of the kitchen win­dow in the mid­dle of the night to go to the loo.”

Week­ends were con­sumed with paint­brushes and white spirit. “My friends were all hav­ing a high old time at univer­sity, while I was scour­ing the small ads in Loot in search of fire­places or sec­ond-hand fur­ni­ture. I re­mem­ber feel­ing quite mid­dle-aged and an­noyed about that, but it was the sac­ri­fice I’d de­cided to make.”

Each les­son Beeny learned from the mis­takes made in SW11 all those years ago helped pre­pare her for her fu­ture ca­reer. “I had a fight one week­end with wall­pa­per,” she re­calls. “This was the early Nineties after all, and wall­pa­per was still the rage.

“My fa­ther had taught me how to wall­pa­per and un­der­lined the im­por­tance of soak­ing it to pre­vent bub­bles.

“I couldn’t be both­ered and tried to solve the prob­lem by get­ting some sy­ringes from our lo­cal GP prac­tice and in­ject­ing the bub­bles with wall­pa­per paste. When that didn’t work, I tried a new tac­tic of slic­ing through the bub­bles with a blade. In the end, it had to come off and we started again.”

Like any DIY ren­o­va­tor, Beeny and her flat­mates had to out­source elec­tri­cals and plumb­ing to the pro­fes­sion­als. “They were re­ally good and ended up work­ing with us in the early stages of our prop­erty de­vel­op­ment busi­ness,” she says. “It also taught me an­other golden rule to ren­o­va­tion: it’s re­ally hard to find good trades­peo­ple.”

‘We made a num­ber of first-time ren­o­va­tion er­rors’

BUILD­ING A CA­REER Sarah Beeny, main, and out­side her first flat in south Lon­don, far left; she is sup­port­ing John Lewis’s Home So­lu­tions ser­vice to help find trades­men

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.