Sara Damergi is of both Lebanese and English descent and is a TV presenter, internet entrepreneur and has worked with her father in his specialist relocation company and on property development projects. She is widely travelled and is a presenter on A Place In The Sun, A Place In The Sun – Winter Sun and A Place In The Sun – Home Or Away for Channel 4. She chats to Lynda Clark about her home, first steps on the ladder and fascinating career >>
FTB: Tell us about your first steps on the property ladder.
SD: My first step on the property ladder was fairly pain free and smooth in transition. I think I was fairly lucky that I had enough previous experience through working with my dad that I knew the deal. I know that’s not generally the case, however. I have a few friends who have just made the step, and they were on the phone to me asking lots of questions! It can be a very nerve-racking and daunting experience but exciting too of course! You can’t beat the feeling of owning and doing up your first home!
FTB: What is your current home like?
SD: I have a maisonette flat in south-west London that backs on to Wimbledon Common. I bought it as both an investment (it’s a doer-upper!) and as a home for a while. I have been renovating the property during my time off from filming A Place In The Sun so it has taken a little longer than I anticipated. I probably will be moving on fairly soon as it’s not a ‘forever home’, but at the moment it’s ideal, both as a bolthole for when I am in the UK and an investment. It has a country-like feeling with the woods and common nearby but is also only a short drive from central London, which suits me perfectly, and I enjoy the garden, which is a rare commodity in London.
FTB: Tell us about your career.
SD: Thankfully, I have had a very varied career and was lucky enough to be on the road with my dad from a very young age. He had a bespoke business that dealt with Arabic VIP clients relocating, investing or holidaying in London. My parents separated when I was young so, with a workaholic dad, it was a given thing that I would be part of the business deals/property viewings and general day-to-day duties when staying with him. I was answering the phone in his office from probably the age of nine! It may seem odd that I was part of the business as a child, but no one ever questioned it and I think it was partly cultural. Family is everything in the Middle East. I got to meet sheikhs and diplomats and see their homes and go on property viewings! It was a whirlwind really but a great learning experience in the property business.
I carried on working with my dad on-and-off, up until he moved back to Beirut when I was in my early twenties. In between those times I went to university, and I started presenting on a local channel and I also lived in Cyprus for a while running events. Five years ago I started up an internet business, which is still going strong, touch wood! That allowed me to become a digital nomad and travel the world with no fi xed address, which was amazing. When A Place In The Sun came up, it all seemed to fit perfectly; the presenting, the property business and, of course, the bug for travel! Currently, me, my dad and brother are building a development of flats and shops in Lebanon so that’s very exciting too – and lovely to do a family project!
FTB: What are you doing now, and what are your plans for the future?
SD: I am doing this interview from my hotel room in the eastern Algarve in Portugal. The next year is pretty full on with A Place In The Sun, the development project and finishing off my flat. I am hoping to fit in a rest period at home too as when you are away so much home becomes the holiday! I am planning to learn as much from this project in Lebanon as I can so I can potentially transfer the knowledge in the future to my own development projects. Somewhere in the back of my mind I have a dream of building a villa in Cyprus, but we shall see! I would like to continue presenting A Place In The Sun for as long as they will have me, but I would also love to do other presenting in the travel/entertainment arena too.
FTB: What is your view on the state of the property market?
SD: As prices are increasing and wages are remaining fairly static, of course there are concerns regarding affordability moving forward but, short term, it’s good news for the economy. The latest predictions from Savills suggest a 25% rise in property prices in London in the next five years. Others are more pessimistic and nobody has a crystal ball, but I like to remain optimistic. Of course, continued rises with no significant increase in wages is worrying for first time buyers, but hopefully the government will come good with more affordable housing and schemes like the Help to Buy scheme.
FTB: What advice have you got for aspiring first time buyers?
SD: Be a little cautious if you are buying a property, and make sure it’s a property that you feel you will be happy with in five to eight years time! If the worst happens and prices take a hit and interest rates rise and you can’t afford to move, will it be enough for potentially a growing family? I am not suggesting you should be pessimistic, however, but work out your finances for both the best and worst case scenarios before taking the plunge.