A Place In The Sun: Stars of the C4 show over 21 years tell all on hit TV programme
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This year, more than any, with so many of us desperate to go on holiday, the feel-good TV series has provided a perfect respite from the restrictions of Covid. Over the summer it recorded its highest viewing figures in 12 years, and has now been promoted from daytime TV to a prestigious prime time slot on Sunday nights. Celebrating its 21st birthday this month, the show’s amazing 1,283 episodes have featured more than 6,000 properties across France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Bulgaria as well as further flung destinations such as the Caribbean, Florida, Costa Rica and even New Zealand.
Around 700 of these have gone on to be purchased by the show’s house-hunters who have picked up some eye-watering bargains along the way – including a French manor house for under £400,000 and a £6,000 home in Bulgaria, the cheapest ever to be sold on the show.
Yet whilst the series has seen different presenters come and go, its popularity has never dwindled. Fay Davies and Zilpah Hartley were the first ever presenters, with Amanda Lamb joining a year later.
Since then, there has been a roster of stars, with seven in place now – Jasmine Harman, Jonnie Irwin, Laura Hamilton, Ben Hillman, Scarlette Douglas, Danni Menzies and Jean Johansson.
“There are two things that the British are obsessed with: property and the weather,” explains Jasmine as she reflects on the secret to the programme’s success. “A Place in the Sun combines both of these and I think seeing what is available for your budget overseas is addictive. It inspires people to fulfil their dreams.”
“A Place in the Sun is escapism,” agrees Laura. “Even though it is dark and moody outside, you can still enjoy the sunshine 100 per cent. This year, people can’t get away but at least we can bring some of it to their home.”
And far from putting us off from making that life-changing move, say the presenters, the pandemic has sharpened our appetites for new horizons.
As Scarlette says: “A lot of people are realising how short life is and no one knows what’s around the corner.”
With ambitious plans to get back up and running as soon as Covid allows, here each of the seven presenters share exclusively their best ever properties, favourite buyers and hot spots as well as their trickiest customers and wackiest homes over the years.
Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun airs on Sundays at 7pm and weekdays at 3pm. If you’d like to buy your own house, go to a placeinthesun.com
SCARLETTE DOUGLAS: (Joined 2015)
Best bargain: I sold a stunning one-bedroom apartment in the Vineyards Resort and Spa Complex in Bulgaria for £20,500.
Trickiest customers: A couple in Antigua – they were never going to buy and just wanted a free holiday. They were rude, obnoxious and no matter what we showed them, there was an excuse as to why they didn’t like it.
Next big hotspot: Definitely Valencia. It is better than Barcelona in my eyes and a lot of money is being spent on the area close to the beach.
BEN HILLMAN: (Joined 2015)
Favourite destination to showcase properties: Costa Rica and New Zealand because of the epic scenery that forms the backdrop to many of the homes, as well as being able to buy architectural gems on a budget.
Most expensive property: I’ve sold some in Florida for around £300,000 – 5/6 bedroom houses with communal water parks, their own pool and spa, games rooms and amazing living spaces.
Your own house abroad? If only! If I did, it would be a small whitewashed modern/rustic retreat for my family in the Balearic Islands, probably overlooking a cove surrounded by pines where I could chill out in my plunge pool and read a good book.
LAURA HAMILTON: (Joined 2012)
Favourite place to showcase properties: The Balearic Islands… I love the city of Palma on Majorca but having spent this summer in Greece, I’ve also become fond of the Peloponnese and Kefalonia.
Best bargain: A cave house for £29,000 near Guadix in Spain. Two young guys bought it as they wanted to get on the property ladder and couldn’t afford to do it in the UK.
Biggest nightmare: In Florida, we got locked out with the keys, our kit and the house hunters’ bags all locked inside… a disaster!
Own house abroad: We have a family home in San Pedro Alcántara near Puerto Banus in Spain. It’s a fantastic lock-up-and-leave in a lovely location.
JONNIE IRWIN: (Joined 2004)
Favourite property: A beach house in Grenada. It didn’t have the infinity pool or flash interiors but seeing a veranda on stilts with the sea lapping against the beach blew my hunters away. They bought it, and they still own it.
Wackiest property: The strangest was definitely in Florida. From the outside it resembled something out of the Flintstones but inside was a mixture of a 1970s B-movie and a private sex club.
Favourite buyers: Andy and Linda who were buying in Cyprus and feature on tomorrow night’s programme. They always found the funny side of things – even some of my house choices. I introduced them to my game of Kitchen Bingo where you guess what’s in the cupboards. Let’s just say they took to it with relish.
Trickiest customers: I had a lady last year who wanted to buy in Madeira because it was close to the lost city of Atlantis. Stranger still, she wouldn’t give me a decision until she’d consulted her crystal, which she would swing like a pendulum and see which way it was swinging. Anti clockwise meant a “no”. I had to use all of my patience that week.
DANNI MENZIES: (Joined 2016)
Most expensive property: A £450,000 home in St Lucia. The view was incredible and the property had some unusual features but the buyers had a vision and the transformation, above, was incredible.
Best bargain: In Cyprus, we found a one-bed apartment that was bought for £180,000 by the owner eight years prior.
The golf course was half built and work had stopped, which lowered the price. The couple got a new one for £35,000. Then work was restarted, meaning their property value would have shot back up.
Favourite property: We viewed a £12million luxury property in Estepona, Spain, where they had spent £1million on the furniture alone.
JASMINE HARMAN: (Joined 2004)
Most expensive property: I showcased a luxury California property which was $17million! It had a complete replica of the high street of the owner’s home town in the basement.
Standout moment: I met my husband, Jon, on the first episode of the first series. He was the cameraman and we soon fell in love. He proposed whilst filming too. We were in the USA and he surprised me by flying to New York, where we got engaged.
Best bargain: A home in Costa Dorada, Spain, for two PE teachers with a budget of £65,000. We got one for £53,000. The clincher was when they timed how long it took from leaving the apartment to dipping their toes in the sea – it was four minutes.
Memorable house hunt: I went house hunting in 2006 with the singer Cheryl Baker and her husband, Steve, on the island of Sal in Cape Verde. I was a big Eurovision fan and I had Making Your Mind Up as my ring-tone. My phone rang in the middle of filming and I was so embarrassed. She and Steve started dancing and he pretended to pull her skirt off! I’m sure they thought I’d done it deliberately. They actually ended up buying two properties there.
JEAN JOHANSSON: (Joined 2018)
Best bargain: A three-bed chocolate box style house called La Favinie in rural France with its own vegetable patch, a barn and a stream running through the back garden. I’m pretty sure I sold that for about £65,000.
Next hot spot: Pescara, Italy. It has the beach, glamour, hills, great wine and amazing properties for good prices. It feels like a bit of a secret but I’m sure it’s going to explode.
Own property abroad: I have a summerhouse in Gotland, Sweden. It’s the perfect getaway. We have a secluded beach at the bottom of our garden and it’s our little slice of heaven.
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