Sarah Beeny is one of the most trusted women in the property world. Anyone watching Sarah in action in TV shows such as Property Ladder and Restoration Nightmare can see this is a lady who knows her onions. Her straight-talking attitude and flair for property renovation has earned her hoards of fans. More recently Sarah has launched Tepilo, the online estate agency for those left disillusioned by the current house-selling process. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to have a chat with the hugely successful businesswoman, working mum and entrepreneur about property hotspots, renovation mistakes and family life.
How did you start out? What was your first job and what did you always plan to be?
I had many jobs when I was young – from washing up in the Little Chef, cleaning conference centre loos and selling ice cream – I think most importantly it taught me that I wanted to love what I did and be self employed.
When you started out did you predict the property market would become so volatile or competitive?
When I started Tepilo I had vast experience of the property market under my belt, so I was fully aware of the fast twists and turns that the market is capable of. But this is what excites me about this industry… you just never know! And when you have a clued up team behind you who are ready to take on everything that is thrown at them, the nature of the market needn’t be a worry.
In terms of industry competition, it’s never a bad thing. We have a positive relationship with our competitors, and we’re constantly learning from each other too.
What’s your opinion on the current property market? How do you see it being in five years time?
The current market is definitely pointing towards an increase in house prices in the next five years – so if you’re thinking of buying, get in there quick!
The amount of properties being added to the market has been steadily decreasing, and the prices are rising alongside the demand. I also think that the London property market will increase the most significantly, and this will have somewhat of a ‘ripple effect’, bringing commuter towns’ prices up by up to 30% and push the boundaries further, establishing new London commuter hotspots.
Do you still think there’s big money to be made in property?
Absolutely. The current market is looking good. House prices are looking to continue to rise with rent prices on the ride up with them, and with so many ways to profit from property there’s more or less a route to suit anyone who’s willing and able.
My best advice to someone contemplating investing in property is to sit down think about what you want from this step. For example, if you have the time and energy to buy and develop properties, then that is a brilliant way to make some big money, whereas if you have the funds but not so much time, think about purchasing a buy-to-let property. Just remember to really number crunch before you take the leap; really get a good understanding of the return you want to receive from your investment and if your finances can sit comfortably under this new investment.
Where’s the next big city or area to buy if you’re considering investing in property?
Commuter towns are great for investment properties. They’re much more stable in terms of changes in the market and are always in high-demand.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen anyone do during a renovation?
I think painting the whole of a garden white to try and make it look bigger was pretty up there in shockers. Incidentally it included painting the first six feet of every tree and all the garden fencing!
What’s the biggest property mistake you’ve made?
There have been sooo many – that’s how you learn. Probably starting work without thinking enough about what the best big plan was is the most important one you regret.
Where do you start when renovating? What advice would you give to first timers?
That completely depends on the room that you are renovating and the extent of the work. For example, if you’re re-painting your hallway, then get down your paint shop, choose your colour and get painting! But if you’re taking on a bigger job such as building a conservatory, you will need to think things through more thoroughly. For example, you might need to seek planning permission, you’ll need to find the creative mind that will help you carefully plan this extension, and then find the builder who will piece this new room together.. and that’s even before you start thinking about decorating and furnishing!
When I’m about to start a big renovation project I always contact friends or even knock on doors of people who have had similar work done. This way I can gather advice, inspiration and even see if they can recommend good workmen.
Can everyone renovate? Or do you have to have particular traits to be successful at renovation?
I think that absolutely anyone is capable of mastering their own renovation project, especially now that any questions or queries regarding pretty much anything can now be resolved by the internet within a matter of seconds!
Saying this, I’m not saying that everyone will find it easy, or even enjoyable all the time. But once the work is complete and you get to step back and take in the beautiful space you’ve created.. well, let’s just say, that moment makes up for the hard work, sweat and tears!
Tell us about Tepilo. It’s a great idea and seems like it’s what the market has been waiting for! What’s the vision and how do you see it evolving?
The idea came from my astonishment at how much ‘traditional’ high-street estate agents were charging to do things that property sellers could do themselves, and in fact, most of the time do a lot better!
Selling a home and the words ‘Estate Agent’ had grown to have negative connotations. I wanted to change the face of estate agency and make the process fair, affordable and as stress-free as possible.
What are the secrets of your business success?
I think that having amazing, skilled people working alongside me is so important, and also to give customers what they want rather than try and make them want what you think they ought to have.. especially now in a digital world where the customer really is king.
What inspires you?
Masses, though it changes as I get older. Nature and the outdoors is probably now my biggest inspiration
What’s your one piece of advice for working mums?
Segregate your time and try to turn off the phone when you’re with your little ones
What’s your greatest achievement?
Obviously I would say my kids – but apart from them and managing (so far) to hang onto my husband! – it’s probably My Single Friend and Tepilo. They are websites that not only have disrupted entire industries but also have genuinely improved people’s lives and that is an amazing feeling.
What’s next for Sarah Beeny?
So many plans. For now though, getting my kids to learn their 8 times tables and understanding long division again is quite a mission! I’m hoping to get down to writing another book later this year whilst Graham and I are continuing to manage our businesses.