Saturday, July 13, 2024

First Time Buyer Tips from Property Expert Sara Damergi – The View

Sara appears to have no boundaries when it comes to taking risks. She has led a very exciting and remarkable life and is passionate about both property and traveling.

Born in Paddington and lived with her Lebanese father and English mother in London. Her father had a bespoke business dealing with Arabic VIP clients relocating, investing, or holidaying in London. When she was just three years old, the family moved to Beirut. Sara has very fond memories of her time there and at the time could speak fluent Arabic.

Unfortunately, when the war broke out in Lebanon, the family had to move back to England, and her parents divorced. “I then divided my time between London and Kent, and as my dad was a workaholic, it was given that I would be part of the business deals, property viewings, and general day-to-day duties when I was staying with him. I was answering the phone in his office and helping wherever I could. It may seem odd that I was part of the business when I was young, but no one ever questioned it, and I think it was partly cultural too. Family is everything in the Middle East. I got to meet Sheiks and diplomats and see their homes and go on property viewings as well. It was a whirlwind really but a great learning experience in the property business.”

Sara went to a very quaint school in Kent, which had originally been the home of Charles Dickens. She said, “It was like something out of a Harry Potter film. There were only five pupils, so it was very unusual, and I ended up being head girl, but with so few pupils to choose from it wasn’t really that special! I then moved on to do my A levels at a grammar school, which had more pupils, and I loved it. In fact, I am still friends with some of the girls now.”

Before she went to university, she lived in Ibiza and Cyprus for a while where she started up a club night. “My television career started by chance when I was at my mum’s house and we were watching a local channel, and my mum said that she thought I could be a presenter. So, I called them up and said I would like to give it a go and believe it or not they offered me a job and I got £50 a day!”

She continued working with her father on and off up until he moved back to Beirut when she was in her early 20s. “I started up my internet business, which is still going strong. That allowed me to become a digital nomad and travel the world with no fixed address, which was amazing. I stayed with tribes in rural Vietnam, an aristocratic artist in Sri Lanka, went snowboarding in Japan and cruising in Kerala to name a few! I was also the lead presenter on the international extreme sports show The Crunch, which was filmed across remote China and broadcast on primetime TV on Granada, Astra, and TV NZ across various territories.”

Always dipping in and out of working with her father in his property business, Sara said, “Some of the people my father worked with were extremely wealthy and it was totally another world. He found property for people and short-term holiday lets. Sometimes they would stay in a place for a very short period of time but would want it completely refurbished. I can remember having to go to Harrods and buy pairs of pyjamas that cost thousands of pounds.”

Sadly her father passed away last year and Sara and her brother have taken over his business. They are currently fitting out 10 apartments in Beirut, but Sara says, “The economy in Lebanon has crashed really badly. Here in Beirut, it is hard to sell anything in the current climate as property prices have dropped by 50%. It is the worst financial crisis since the 1800s and generally people are renting and biding their time until prices change. On a happier note though, as it’s summer, Beirut is buzzing with lots of tourists, which is great because they certainly need money pumped into the economy at the moment.”

Sara presented A Place in Sun, A Place in the Sun – Winter Sun and A Place in the Sun – Home or Away for three years, which she thoroughly enjoyed. “I had a wonderful time and travelled to some great places and it fitted perfectly with my love for presenting and my bug for travel!”

She then needed a well-earned rest and enjoyed having some time off. She bought an apartment in Catford, southeast London, which she renovated and now rents out. She also studied yoga nidra and iRest which is a form of meditation and can help with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said, “It was a very interesting and fulfilling time. I then worked on Coast v Country for Channel 4, which was great fun and after that I was offered my presenting role back on A Place in the Sun. In 2018 I became pregnant with my first son and took a little time off, but I was soon back working. I remember going to Italy to film during the pandemic and taking the baby with me – looking back I wonder what I was thinking of!” Sara then became pregnant with her second son, which was a complete surprise, but she is now back filming and has recently travelled to Portugal, France, and Italy. She said, “When I returned to filming it was so lovely to meet up and have a reunion as many of the crew are still working there.”

She now lives in London with her family and rents out her flat. She said, “I have had some real problems though – I had somebody who rented it from me and just suddenly decided not to pay the rent! I had to go to court and won the case but thank goodness I had insurance cover as I got all the money back and more as he had to pay me extra. So my advice would be to any landlord to get insurance as it is essential.”

Sara also has some excellent advice for first-time buyers and said, “Do not overstretch yourself, especially as interest rates have gone up. Life goes on and you have to live and there is nothing worse than being stressed and anxious if you can’t pay the bills. So, before you take the plunge, work out your finances to ensure you can afford everything from the mortgage to the bills and running costs.

“You should buy a property that you feel you will be happy with in five or eight years’ time! Moving home is costly so you should consider if the property would be big enough in the future for say, a growing family? It is also sometimes a good idea to look at areas you don’t particularly like. There is so much regeneration going on that areas which might seem run-down now suddenly are on the up. When I bought in Catford it wasn’t very trendy but now it is. Places like Ladywell, Lewisham, Tooting and Balham are now extremely sought after too. Transport links are also very important, especially if you are commuting. Check out what trains and underground stations are nearby. For example, the new Elizabeth Line has made such a huge difference to anyone commuting. New shopping centers are also a great indicator and consider what is important to you, is it shops, schools, green space?

There certainly never seems a dull moment in Sara’s very exciting life, and she is full of enthusiasm. “I’m so enjoying filming A Place in the Sun and of course my two boys are very special. I think I’ve got the ideal scenario at the moment as I still travel but I also have a wonderful family life – it can’t get much better than that.”

A Place in the Sun is on Channel 4.

First Time Buyer is an exciting bi-monthly glossy which takes a stylish and comprehensive look at all the options available, setting them out in an entertaining and informative way, and helping potential customers navigate their way through what is often a daunting and complex process. We dispel the myths, reinforce the facts and arm the reader with the tools necessary to make their homeownership dreams a reality.

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