Thursday, October 6, 2022

Jasmine Harman: Sunny Days Ahead

Jasmine Harman trained as a fitness instructor and never dreamed of being on the TV. However, there was a twist of fate and she’s now a top presenter and a regular host on A Place in the Sun. She talks to Lynda Clark about her exciting career, and with her property knowledge and experience gives some excellent advice for first time buyers

Jasmine is a very busy lady and with two young children and a full schedule of filming to organise she hardly has a spare moment. She regularly presents A Place in the Sun and has also presented a host of television shows on prime-time TV. 

She was born in Hackney, east London, and comes from a “big Greek family”. Her father is British and her mother Greek Cypriot, and Jasmine has six younger siblings, so home life was always very hectic. “Even though my parents separated, I’ve always been close with both of them. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a vet until my mum told me the job involved putting animals down. I was so upset at the thought of it that I went right off the idea and decided to become a vegetarian. Then I wanted to be a pop star, even though I can’t sing!

“I was quite academic at school, but I was also very creative. I enjoyed science and maths as much as drama and English literature, but in the end, I decided to focus on the more creative subjects. After taking my A-levels, I decided to train as a fitness instructor. It’s an involved process as there are many different components to it, like anatomy, nutrition and of course the physical side of things.”

Jasmine got her first job in a health club in Islington, north London, and stayed there for a couple of years before becoming assistant manager in another club in Muswell Hill. “It was 2000 and I was offered the opportunity to go to Portugal and become marketing manager of a health spa. I was headhunted for the position and as I have a real sense of adventure and love travelling I decided to go. It was a very exciting opportunity and although I had never been to Portugal before, I felt that with the right attitude I would make it work. It was absolutely amazing and I loved every moment of it. The lifestyle, social life and the people were all fantastic. It really made me broaden my horizons, and having grown up in Hackney, I suddenly felt that the world was my oyster and I could do and achieve anything I wanted.”

Jasmine was responsible for the marketing budget and decided to advertise on the Algarve’s popular radio station, Kiss FM. “I went along to the meeting to sort out what we were going to do and requested we have a female voiceover for one of the ads. They suggested that I do it myself, and after securing a good discount for the adverts, I agreed. A week later I was left in the studio, live on air, and it was a real baptism of fire! I coped though and managed to get through it, before staying there for three years to present a twice-weekly magazine-style show!”

It was at the end of 2003 that Jasmine had a life-changing birthday. She explains, “I was turning 28 and had been thinking I needed a new challenge. I was out for my birthday with friends and after a few margaritas we were feeling a little merry and they suggested that I return to the UK and become a TV presenter! It may have been suggested in jest, but it put a thought in my head. 

“I had the idea of making a travel show, so I made a pilot in the Algarve. When I returned to London I decided to approach a production company asking if I could go in and talk to them. When I phoned them, the girl who answered spoke Portuguese and, as I speak the language too, we chatted away and I think it broke the ice. She asked me to do a screen test and a couple of months later I was back in the Algarve filming A Place in the Sun: Home or Away? It couldn’t have worked out better, as I knew the area, so I could really advise the house hunters about living in Portugal and give them some inside information. I’ve been presenting the show ever since.”

Although Jasmine lived at home with her family until she moved to Portugal, she had the insight to save for a deposit. “I was in my early 20s and a close friend and I decided we would buy a large house together and maybe rent out a couple of rooms to help with the costs. But we ended up in a contract race and didn’t get it. It took about four or five months and during that time the prices had gone up so much that a three bedroom house went from around £150,000 to £200,000, which we couldn’t afford. 

“When I went to the Algarve, I was given an apartment as part of my contract so I was able to save quite a lot of money while I was there. I eventually came home and rented a room for a couple of months. I started dating Jon, my future husband, who was a cameraman on A Place in the Sun, and soon afterwards we moved in together. Jon gave up his flat and we were planning to rent somewhere together but as we had managed to scrape together enough for a deposit, we decided to buy instead, which made more sense. 

“It was quite a whirlwind and just to be on the safe side we saw a solicitor who drew up a trust deed, which ensured we would both be covered if anything went wrong. We bought a Victorian three bedroom garden flat in Tooting, which we still own and let out.”

After a couple of years, the couple decided to buy a house in Sutton and found the perfect one. Jasmine says, “We bought it with the intention of moving in, but then got the news that we were going away filming for a long stretch and it seemed too much of a hassle to move in and then go away for six months, so we decided to let it out instead. Finally, we really did want to move as we needed a home which didn’t need much maintenance as we were always away and never had the time to do all the various jobs. We found a house that had been built by an Australian lady. It was a complete one-off and didn’t look like a typical British house at all because of her influence. There was a huge concertina glass door at the back, which allowed the outside space to become part of the living room.

“We then went on to buy another house, which was exactly what we had been looking for but needed a lot of renovation. It is in an area that we didn’t know very well, but it ticked all the boxes so we decided to buy it. It’s just into Surrey, and even though it is just a 15-minute drive to our old home you get so much more for your money. I took my own advice and looked further afield and was pleasantly surprised as you wouldn’t normally get anything like this size of house at the price we paid. Living in the suburbs has proved to be lovely and we’re close to the station, so it only takes half an hour to get into central London. 

“It’s a beautiful detached 1930s house, which originally had six bedrooms, a swimming pool and a big garden. The area is great, with a lovely little high street, some great parks and several excellent schools nearby too. Initially we planned to rent it out so we could save up to do some work on it, but things didn’t quite go to plan and so we moved in instead. Again, I took my own advice and we lived in the house for about a year before making any major changes, which is very important as you get to know the place and see it in all the different seasons. 

“It had been extended in the 1980s and was typically decorated in that era. The en suite off the master bedroom was enormous and had pink carpet, which had actually been custom-made and stitched into place. There were curved steps leading up to a Jacuzzi and even though it was certainly not to our taste, it was the perfect example of what would have been very fashionable at that time. 

“We decided to move out so the builders could start with the renovations and actually moved back into our first property. It was perfect timing because the tenants who had been there for around seven years were moving out and buying their own home. It was different living there this time as we now have two children, but there are three bedrooms and a garden so we managed very well.” 

Jasmine and Jon completely changed the house and knocked through walls so it’s now open plan, with a huge family space. They also have a new kitchen, bathrooms and the annexe, which was only accessible from the outside, has been turned into a utility room and Jon’s office. Jasmine continues, “We also changed the layout of upstairs and we now have five double bedrooms, which is fine for what we want. We did think about also doing a loft conversion, but we decided we really didn’t need any more space or bedrooms.

“Even now, though, we haven’t quite finished renovating and it is certainly not a finished project. I am always doing something in the house but I found a wonderful virtual interior design company called My Bespoke Room, who are very affordable and lovely to work with. Now we are working more at home I needed an office space and they did a superb job creating a space for me for around £250.” 

Jasmine, who has two children, was able to travel abroad for A Place in the Sun with the children, and her mother also went on location to look after them when she was filming. “It was so lovely for us all to be together and a very bonding experience. But when my daughter started school I had to change my work schedule and I couldn’t be gallivanting around the globe, so I had to make a work-life balance so I could be a parent and also a jet-setting TV presenter. I live a sort of double life but somehow it all works very well. During lockdown, it was quite tough as we couldn’t do any filming, although we did manage to do some in 2020, albeit socially distanced. We also had Brexit to deal with at pretty much the same time, which meant getting visas to go to certain places and dealing with restrictions on how long you could stay in certain places.

“Now we are back in full swing and people are desperate to buy abroad. I have been very surprised about the interest, but in places like Cyprus, France, Spain and Italy, properties are going like hot cakes! It is a complete mixture of first time buyers who can’t afford to buy in the UK but still want to get a foot on the ladder and people who are retired and are determined to make it happen. You can still get a very decent home for under £100,000 abroad, which is very affordable.” 

Jasmine has some excellent advice for first time buyers and says, “It is very hard to get on the ladder, so it is important to make the most of the different Government schemes and incentives. Not everyone has the option of getting help from their parents and it is very hard to save for a deposit. Living at home means you will be able to save, but again that is not always possible. 

“Buying with a friend, partner or family member is great, especially if you can’t afford to buy on your own. But, it is really vital to draw up a trust deed so everything is very clear if any issues do arise. Another important point is to make a Will, as once you have bought a property you will have assets. I know it is not something any of us think about but it does give you peace of mind. 

“Also remember that it’s not just buying the home that costs money – you have to remember there will be other costs like removals, Stamp Duty and solicitor’s fees, and everytime you move it will cost money again. So, I think first timers should look to the future and find a place for the longer term. Ask yourself lots of questions about what is important to you, and if you have children, of course, there will be a very different list of priorities. Finally, always get professional financial advice so you get the best mortgage for you, and work out your budgets, being realistic of course, so you have a good idea of what you can afford.”

As we finish our chat I feel that Jasmine has the best of all worlds, with a wonderful family, beautiful home and a great job. She says finally, “I’m always so busy but I love and enjoy every new challenge that comes along.” Personally, I think we are going to see Jasmine on our screens for many years to come.

A Place in the Sun broadcasts weekdays at 3pm on Channel 4

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