Have you always been passionate about renovating?
I first got in to renovating property aged 19, and it kind of happened by accident. My mum saw a little 1 bed flat had become available on the same street they lived on in Meopham, and I had been wanting to buy a property since the age of 16. Don’t ask me why – I’d always seemed to have an old head on young shoulders! I saved all my money from part time jobs and I went to look at this property with my mum. It was a little granny flat that needed completely updating and I thought ‘I can do this’, and that is how it all began!
What is it about renovating you find most interesting?
I love turning the worst house on the street in to the best house on the street. I enjoying stripping properties back and discovering features that have been covered up and then restoring them. I absolutely love interior design but to be honest, it’s the whole process. Of course renovating property comes with stresses and projects seldom run smoothly, no matter how experienced you are, but I find those challenges interesting too.
You regularly travel to places for ‘A place in the Sun’ has this extended your knowledge of property, and inspired you in any way?
I’ve learnt so much about property abroad through the show, but I have also learnt so much about business and commercial properties and renovating those too since opening up our restaurant and coffee shop almost 3 years ago. It is a joy being able to advise so many people through ‘A Place in The Sun’ and help them make their dreams become a reality. Even if they don’t buy on the show, they always come away feeling that they have learnt so much.
How do you go about selecting properties to show the families? Is it a hard process to try and find something that caters to all their needs/wants?
Well the presenters can’t take the credit for finding the properties. There are an amazing team of researchers and producers that do all the hard work – a lot of work goes in to each episode before we even meet the house hunters. The director on each episode sends us the property details a few days before we film and we get to look over them. Occasionally I might suggest properties need to be changed and we view other alternatives, but it depends how the search is going.
What are some of your main tips for buying property aboard?
Always make sure you visit the destination at various times of the year. Some resorts close down during the winter months so it’s really important you realise what they are like. Check out what flight routes are like year round too because you might not be able to access your home abroad as easily as you think. Before you change up your money in to Euros, find out if the vendor is going back to the UK and if they want the money from the sale in Stirling. If they do it could be a way of negotiating on the purchase price as both parties will be able to save money.
Renovating is something you have done for years; do you feel that it has become more popular in recent years?
It’s not for everyone – some people do it once and then they are put off for life! A few people I know have run in to problems and say to me ‘How can you deal with the hassle and stress of so many renovations?’. I think it is all about having a great team of trades people – when you develop a good relationship with them and they know you are going to go on to do more projects, it can benefit both parties.
Talk us through the inspiration behind opening your coffee shop and deli Lord Roberts On The Green, and how the idea was brought to life.
It’s complete madness! If you told me 3 years ago I would qualify as a post mistress and open a restaurant and coffee shop with 27 staff, I would have probably laughed at you. We don’t have the post office any more, but we have created a thriving little place within our community and I am really proud of it. Our little village shop was closing down and I saw the potential to make something of it. Now it’s the heart of our estate and somewhere estate agents mention in their marketing material when they are selling homes in the area. It isn’t an easy kind of business to run and I’d say it is more of a passionate project, but it has become a huge part of our lives and we love it.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learnt along the way within renovation and property?
Never expect a project to run smoothly! Always allow for 25% minimum overspend on your original anticipated budget. Make sure you use a building inspector from the council rather than a private one – I’ve used both and although the council can be slower, it’s better in the long run.
Have you ever experienced any stigma being a women working/being passionate about renovation?
I haven’t, but my builders have seen me working as a labourer on site with them in boots, work clothes and covered in dust, and then glammed up ready for a photoshoot. I know they have had to take a double take thinking ‘is that the same person?’! I love that though… I am not afraid to get my hands dirty and muck in, I have always wanted learn as much as possible about the renovation and build process.
You have gained some really amazing opportunities through the years, what are the plans for the future?
Who knows what is around the corner? I’ve learnt that with Lord Roberts on The Green. I am pretty sure Alex and I will be developing more properties – we send each other links to property projects almost every day. I love my job in TV too so I feel very lucky I have been able to combine it all in to my career.
Laura Hamilton presents A Place in The Sun on Channel 4, alongside running her local coffee shop and deli ‘Lord Roberts on The Green’ (www.lordrobertsonthegreen.com).
For more information visit www.laurahamiltonofficial.com.