TV presenter Laura Hamilton reveals she accidentally became a property developer who’s revamped 16 homes after purchasing her first flat at 19 with £5K – and reveals how ANYONE can do the same (even at today’s prices)
- EXCLUSIVE: Laura has renovated 16 houses including first commercial venture
- Moved back home and let her first flat after TV station she worked for went bust
- Rent covered her mortgage and she decided to save for another house deposit
- Mother-of-two juggles passion for doing up homes with job on A Place in the Sun
- Two years ago transformed her village shop in Purley into a deli and restaurant
- Laura, 37, shares her tips for succeeding in the property renovation industry
When Laura Hamilton bought her first home at the age of 19, she had no idea it would kickstart a career in property renovation that would see her buy, revamp and sell 16 homes – and own her own restaurant.
The A Place in the Sun presenter, 37, had saved up a deposit of £5,000 to buy a granny flat in dire need of a make-over – but a month later the shopping channel she was working for as an assistant floor manager went bust.
Suddenly unemployed, Laura decided to move back home with her parents and let the property out.
With the rent covering her mortgage, she decided to save up another deposit to buy her second home.
Laura Hamilton bought her first home at the tender age of 19 and has since bought and renovated 15 more properties
Flash forward 18 years and Laura has recently completed her 16th property project, transforming her local village shop in Purley, south London, into a restaurant and deli – her first commercial venture.
While the property market is a different beast to how it was when she started out, the mother-of-two still believes it’s a realistic venture for someone with enough drive and ambition.
She told FEMAIL: ‘I know how hard it is now to get onto the property ladder.
‘The property market I think goes in seven year cycles, and there are times when buying and renovation projects are hard to get hold of, so it’s good to have an in with an estate agent.
Laura has recently completed her 16th property project, transforming her local village shop in Purley, south London, into a restaurant and deli – her first commercial venture (pictured with Andrea McLean)
While the property market is a different beast to how it was when she started out, mother-of-two Laura still believes it’s a realistic venture for someone with enough drive and ambition
‘Renting is dead money, so where possible, even if you don’t want to live with your parents, suck it up if they will allow you to. It’s a good way of being able to save some cash.’
Just like the beginning of her property renovation career, Laura had zero experience of setting up a restaurant before opening Lord Roberts on the Green two and a half years ago.
But by throwing herself in, the venture now has a team of 25 staff, a brand new chef and, as of earlier this month, an alcohol license.
‘I’ve learnt so much,’ Laura admitted. ‘Of course you make mistakes all the time, and it’s controlling wastage, but it’s been amazing because we’ve set up a brand.
By throwing herself in, the venture now has a team of 25 staff, a brand new chef and, as of earlier this month, an alcohol license
‘I look at photos of the shop and I’m so proud of what we’ve done.’
Here Laura shares her top tips for becoming a successful property developer with FEMAIL.
Be hands on when you can
Laura, who recently appeared on Channel 4’s Kirstie’s Celebrity Craft Masters, told how she’s always been a fan of DIY and isn’t afraid to muck in.
‘I love it, I’m definitely the one that for Christmas, my parents would buy me a drill,’ she said.
Laura, who recently appeared on Channel 4’s Kirstie’s Celebrity Craft Masters, told how she’s always been a fan of DIY and isn’t afraid to muck in
Laura had zero experience of setting up a restaurant before opening Lord Roberts on the Green two and a half years ago
‘I love being hands on, however it’s just whether I have the time to do it.
‘In the past I’ve tiled a bathroom, but I won’t be doing that again as at the time I was working on Big Brother’s Little Brother as an assistant floor manager and it took me so long to tile this bathroom because I wanted it to look perfect that it would have been far cheaper to get someone in to do it!’
Find tradesmen you can trust – and hold onto them
These days Laura counts herself lucky she has a reliable team of tradesmen – an essential asset for developing property in her book.
Laura recommends going with council building inspectors over private where possible, to ensure there’s no conflict of interest. Pictured: Lord Roberts on the Green during the renovation
‘I’ve always been told good tradespeople are hard to come by,’ she explained.
‘The hard thing is, when you don’t have experience of doing a renovation project and a builder says to you, “We’ve done that”, you’ve actually got no way of knowing if they’ve done what they’ve said.
‘I’ve heard horror stories of people saying, “I gave my builder all the money and then he left.” Be a bit savvy with money, don’t be paying completely upfront.’
Laura also recommends going with council building inspectors over private where possible, to ensure there’s no conflict of interest.
‘Sometimes private building inspectors might be working alongside the builder,’ Laura warned.
Laura, pictured in Lord Roberts on the Green during its construction, said she loves seeing a rundown wreck become ‘something beautiful’
‘I’ve been in a situation where that’s happened and they’ve signed something off that shouldn’t have been signed off.
‘When you have someone from the council or an independent private one that has nothing to do with the builder, then that can’t happen. Even though it can sometimes take longer to get the council on board, it’s worth being patient.’
Get friendly with local estate agents – and your neighbours
When it comes to sourcing the right renovation project, Laura recommends getting to know local agents to find out what’s going on.
‘Even knock on people’s doors,’ she said.
When it comes to sourcing the right renovation project, Laura recommends getting to know local agents to find out what’s going on. Pictured left: the village shop before it became Lord Roberts on the Green (right)
‘Old houses that look run down, there might be someone there thinking about selling but they haven’t spoken to an estate agent. By speaking to people directly you can actually avoid estate agent fees.
‘I’ve always had the mentality, if you buy the worst house in the best street, make it the best house in the best street.
‘For sure I wouldn’t be living in the house that I’m living in now had I not bought and sold as many times as I had.’
Be prepared to go over budget – and lose money
While many of Laura’s projects have made a profit, she admitted she has ‘won some and lost some’.
While many of Laura’s projects have made a profit, she admitted she has ‘won some and lost some’
‘You don’t always make on property,’ she warned. ‘I bought at a particular time, did it up then tried to sell and the market crashed, so I didn’t make what I wanted.
‘I ended up having to let a house go just to get rid of it because I’d bought in the wrong area. Be prepared to make losses as well.’
Laura also recommends keeping a spreadsheet for your costs, and always being prepared to go over budget by at least 20 to 30 per cent.
‘Try and keep control of payments with your builder and do regular site visits,’ she added.
Location, Location, Location
Laura said a home’s location can be crucial to its potential value.
Laura, pictured with children Rokko, five, and Talia, four, said property development is a good industry to be in if you’re a mum
‘Being a reasonable distance to a station or a school is going to make it more appealing for people when it comes to selling,’ she said.
‘It depends what you want to do, whether you’re buying it to renovate and live in, or you’re buying to turn around and make money.’
Mistakes will happen
Despite her experience, Laura said she is still prepared for things to go wrong – which they did during her most recent project.
‘We had to rip out all our patio three months after opening the restaurant because we found out the builders had laid all the drains incorrectly,’ she explained.
Laura, pictured with husband Alex Goward, said she is still prepared for things to go wrong – which they did during her most recent renovation project
Laura told how she had to rip up the patio at Lord Roberts on the Green after the builders laid the drains incorrectly
‘It was a massive inconvenience for the business, we had pneumatic drills digging everything up because it had reinforced concrete and steel, it was ridiculous.
‘But these things happen and you have to deal with it, get it rectified and move on.
‘It’s very easy to get stressed out by property renovation, but you have to think of the end result. You buy something that’s a rundown wreck and it’s so amazing watching the transformation into something beautiful.’
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