Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Ladder to Success

Sarah Beeny talks to Andy Welch about the new series of Property Ladder - and how she came to launch her own dating website

A giggly Sarah Beeny remarks: "This might sound terrible, but when I say to someone 'keep the colours neutral', it's because they have terrible taste!"

It's just one of the little nuggets of truth the presenter and homes guru throws into the conversation when talking about Property Ladder. She's certainly had enough time to collect some anecdotes too - the hugely successful Channel 4 series has been in almost full-time production since 2001.

There are no signs of Sarah getting tired of the format, however, as she is more excited about the forthcoming series than any of the past offerings. The main reason is the unusual conversions which make up many of the renovation projects.

"Every year, the shows really do get better," she says proudly. " When I think back to the first couple of series, they were fairly unexciting developments. They were fun at the time, of course, but it was all pretty conventional stuff, and obvious.

"This series has some more unusual properties," she continues. " I've got a lot more to say about them as well, new things to say, as we haven't done these types of houses on the show before."

Regardless of what the development is, though, the Reading-native maintains the principles of all property renovation remain the same.

"I think in any business, the ultimate goal has to be profit. Any business that takes its eye off the bottom line will go bust. You hear that time and time again.

"Profit has to drive everything you do, but that's not to say that it's the only thing that matters. You also must enjoy the process of making the profit and enjoy the product," she says wisely. "That's what's really impressive about some people, they manage to do it all. They are the real winners. Profit in itself isn't really that enjoyable, making the profit is the enjoyable part. Most people, even those who deal in money, have to enjoy the dealing, otherwise it doesn't mean much and it's painful earning it."

She continues enthusiastically: "I'm just excited to have such good shows coming out. The first episode features a Methodist chapel conversion and a thatched cottage, both of which are brilliant."

The latter development was not only new to Sarah and Property Ladder because it was the first thatched cottage ever featured, but also because it changed Beeny's opinion on people who carry out work on their property themselves.

"A couple called Jackie and Vaughan bought the place and it really was in a shocking state," she explains. "Vaughan, being a carpenter, said he was going to do it all himself, and I thought 'yeah, right' because I'm always sceptical of people doing that.

"He did, however, do it all himself and I'm amazed. Hats off to him, because by the end I realised what a talented craftsman he is. He worked incredibly hard and whoever lives in that house will be very lucky."

Misconceptions

As well as revealing a number of truths about the show - Sarah likes some developers a lot more than others, doesn't understand why people attempt renovations on limited budgets and questions some of the decisions made - there are also a number of misconceptions about the programme that she's only too happy to put straight.

"People always say no-one listens to my advice on the programme, but they do, you just don't see or notice it. If someone is agreeing with me or doing something well, then it isn't an issue and we don't talk about it. I'm not going to keep asking someone whether they're agreeing with me or not."

Also, contrary to popular belief, Sarah is not constantly with child. She can go from her normal svelte self to looking like she's seconds away from birth in the space of a scene, but that's due to the way in which the shows are filmed. They're made over the course of a year, sometimes more, capturing the presenter at different stages of her two pregnancies.

"Yes, it looks like I'm always pregnant. I can't believe I've only got two," she gasps. "It feels like I've got about six from watching the shows back. I seem to have been pregnant so much, it's as if I've had a really bad deal to only have two. But certain developments go better together in a programme than others, so the bosses choose different ones."

Away from Property Ladder, which is basically an extension of her day job as a practising property developer (along with her husband and brother, she owns a development company), Sarah is a keen matchmaker to her friends.

This later turned into another job when she and a group of friends set up mysinglefriend.com, an online dating site where friends describe their single pals, rather than having singletons describing themselves.

It's now a well-known, established site, but it could see Sarah becoming the new Cilla when she fronts a dating show next year.

"We did a pilot last year, but it wasn't particularly successful," she says. "We're up and running again now though, so watch this space. Dating show formats are hard to come up with and are inevitably compared to Blind Date, but we think we've found the amber nectar.

"Mysinglefriend.com is really, really exciting," she continues. " We get about two weddings a week from it now. One week in May, we had 12 weddings. I've not been invited to any, though, isn't that rude?" she jokes.

Another hobby of Sarah's is growing vegetables in her own garden, but don't hold your breath for the launch of Beeny's Beans any time soon. "It was a really, really disappointing thing to do," she says glumly. "I loved digging the garden and planting, and I had some things that worked, but my runner beans were not good. I think it's because the rows were too close together and didn't get enough sun. Next year, it'll all be different."

The new series of Property Ladder begins on Channel 4 on October 30. Visit Sarah's dating site at www.mysinglefriend.com

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