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Sarah Beeny on How To Live Mortgage Free: ‘It’s about finding alternative ways of living’

Property expert Sarah Beeny, architect Damion Burrows and designer Max McMurdo will meet individuals across the country who are self-building unconventional homes with one aim in mind – to be mortgage free.

The trio will be looking at these alternative ways of owning your own property in Channel 4’s new series, How to Live Mortgage Free, this week. Here, Sarah talks about what we can expect…

Your new show is How to Live Mortgage Free – what is it all about?

Obviously with no money, you can’t own a house. But if you have some assets, let’s say you’ve saved up enough for a deposit, or you’ve got some capital in your home with a big mortgage, is there a way of living in proper low-cost housing? Is there a way of looking at things in a slightly different way, and instead of having a home that will cost you £300,000, can you do it for a tenth of that cost? Can you get a home for less money, so you don’t have a massive mortgage?

And what is the answer?

It’s all about finding slightly alternative ways of living. If you want to go the standard route where you live near Starbucks and the tube in a three bedroom Victorian terrace, you probably can’t live mortgage free because you need more money for that. But a lot of people spend an awful lot of money on rent. If you can stop paying rent then you save an extraordinary amount of money.

What will we see on the show?

We have one girl on the show who pays £20,000-a-year in rent. She saved about £25,000, but that, as a deposit, was nowhere near enough to be able to buy a flat where she lived in London. So she ended up buying a barge for £168,000 and refurbishing it, and living on the water. There are a couple of people in the series living on the water. There are other places and other ways that you can live which are much lower cost, which either enable you to save up for a bigger deposit and a smaller mortgage, or you can just buy outright. We’ve got somebody else who’s bought a double decker bus and turned it into a home, which is really cool. And there’s another guy who’s turned the back of a lorry into a home. He does live on a farm in Wales, so he’s got the luxury of the fact that he can use his parents’ land. Land is the biggest cost involved – if you’ve got a piece of land with planning permission, that’s the biggest hurdle overcome.

One of the ways of doing that is to build on a brownfield site [land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes]. How do people go about finding such places?

Well, that’s the key. You need to be a dog with a bone. This is not the easy path, which is why it’s not the normal path. You have to hunt around. One of the things I’ve learned in housing is that the big wins go to the people who take the big risks. Brownfield sites are really interesting. It’s an easier planning battle to get a home on a brownfield than a greenfield site, and you end up with a much cheaper property. Quite a lot of people in the series are selling their homes with a mortgage and buying a new home for a lot less money.

What was your favourite solution that someone came up with for going mortgage free?

The double decker bus is really cool, and the lorry too. Everyone knows you can build a home out of a shipping container, but the lorry was really interesting to me. It’s mobile, which means you can take it with you in the future. It’s not simple to move around, but you can move it. And if you use a container, it’s difficult to put in the windows and doors because a lot of the structure is in the walls. But a lorry back is effectively a frame, and in-filling a frame is so easy, anyone could do it. My kids could do it. And you can fit it with any size of windows or doors. You need a low level of skill to turn a lorry back into a home, so I thought that was really clever.


Catch How to Live Mortgage Free on Wednesday 19 April at 8pm on Channel 4

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On – 18 Apr, 2017 By Olivia Heath

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