A Surveyor's TV review of

Property Ladder / Property Snakes and



As Surveyors we note that there are many television programmes covering the property market aired on terrestrial and satellite television stations which we review in this section of our website. Our television review is our light hearted opinion of the television programme and gives a breakdown of the programmes content. In no way are we advertising the television programme or receiving remuneration for promoting it on our website we are simply giving general information.

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Property Ladder/Property Snakes and Ladders is a television programme aired on Channel 4 where in each episode of this Talkback Thames UK Ltd production Sarah Beeny gives the viewer an insight into a property that is being developed and the owners that are taking on the challenge. The programme is interspersed with advertisements and hops back and forth from each property in a natural pattern as the building work progresses showing the viewer how the projects develop.



Sarah Beeny

Sarah Beeny who hosts Property Ladder/Property Snakes and Ladders is the daughter of an architect and was born in Reading in Berkshire . After aspirations to follow a drama career and travelling the world solo she settled back in the UK to a variety of jobs. She decided to study the property market and with her brother and husband set up her own property developing business and not looked back since.

Sarah has not only presented Property Ladder/Property Snakes and Ladders but several spin off property programmes including Streets Ahead, Help! My house is falling down and Britain 's Best Homes as well as writing a weekly column for the Mail on Sunday and several books including Property Ladder: How to Make Pounds from Property and Sarah Beeny's Price the Job.

Sarah's business life has developed further with an online singles dating site and property website Tepilo together with a venture of renovating Rise Hall a Grade II Listed historic house in Yorkshire .

Sarah is a Mum of four and lives in London and Yorkshire .

Beeny's extensive knowledge of the property market makes her an ideal presenter for Property Ladder/Property Snakes and Ladders as she has a frank, no nonsense approach and years of experience in this sector.



Property Ladder / Property Snakes and Ladders Programme format enjoyed by surveyors et al

Each week Sarah Beeny introduces the viewer to building projects up and down the country and the owners who are going to have the challenge to carry out the changes. There is a wide variety of projects featured in each series from smaller extensions to total rebuilds in a many different styles at varying budgets. The programme can run and run as there are a wealth of property owners adding to their homes with extensions being popular the length and breadth of the country adding space and value to homes.

Sarah is always careful to point out that the idea is to add value to make a healthy profit and when property developing the owners' need to look at the property as a building rather than their home thereby not allowing emotions or personal preferences steer them away from their ultimate goal of a good profit. Local market knowledge is, as Beeny, will often say crucial to understanding the future purchaser of a property so understanding the potential buyer when deciding on a layout and specification of materials and furnishings is essential too.

Calling in property experts for valuations is featured and a drilling down of how the budget shaped up or not is featured where often budgets have needed to increase. This is a good insight for the viewer as frequently costs can spiral and prices that can be achieved are not always ones that are dreamt of by the ambitious owners.



Property Ladder / Property Snakes and Ladders Titles

Sarah looking at existing properties then it flashes to a changed property with the For Sale board changing to Sold. The programme started out as Property Ladder then with all the difficulties in the market became Property Snakes and Ladders.


Property Ladder / Property Snakes and Ladders Music

Property Ladder / Property Snakes and Ladders Programme example

Series 7, Episode 1

Sarah Beeny introduces the show by saying that adding square footage adds value so much so that extensions have become something of a national pastime – is bigger always better?

This week's programme is divided between two projects one in Bishop's Waltham, Hampshire where a couple with two children intend to redevelop a detached property to convert it into a super sized house and the other whereby a couple in Windsor, Berkshire plan two extensions to the front and rear of their property.

As Surveyors we frequently carry out both residential and commercial building surveys in Bishop's Waltham and Windsor and many of the surrounding towns and villages. We note that there are some larger properties in Dundridge Lane , The Avenue and Dean Lane in Bishop's Waltham and in Windsor in streets such as Mill Lane and Sheet Street .

In Bishop's Waltham a couple with two children have just purchased a 1950s house and are planning on developing the property to become a super sized mansion hoping to achieve a quarter of a million pound profit in just eight months! They plan on converting the property into one with five bedrooms, four bathrooms, electric gates to be an all singing and dancing house.

In Windsor the couple featured have plans to build two extensions, in the past have done up thirteen family homes, but not ventured into building work. Sarah explains that decorative changes are completely different to property development. The couple must look at property development as a project for a commercial gain rather than get too emotionally involved. The chosen house to develop has character with its style being Victorian mock Tudor and comprises of two storeys incorporating three bedrooms and family bathroom on the second floor. There plans are for one extension built over two floors on site of old garage making four bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs and two new reception rooms downstairs. They also plan to open up hallway to increase its size and add a second single storey extension to increase kitchen to the rear of the property. Sarah points out that an increase of only 2-3 feet on the rear extension is a costly exercise. Sarah feels better use of the space inside would be more practical and less costly rather than rebuilding the kitchen and feels making hallway so large is not the best use of space. This really is a development rather than a home project and although the wife wants a utility room and large hallway there really is not enough money in budget to do the two storey extension let alone back of the house one. The couple want to make £163,000 on the project which would be a 33% profit! Sarah points out that most developers look to make a 20% profit so they are being very ambitious on their limited budget.

Beeny explains the essential rule where adding square footage it has to be worth more than the cost of the building works.

Back in Bishop's Waltham the property to be developed is a short commute to the city and Southampton and Portsmouth football clubs are close by. This is an affluent area where classically style buildings command a premium. The property the couple have purchased to develop is an uninspiring starting point, bought via internet, rather impulsively without even viewing inside it they plan to spend £250,000 on doing it up sell for £1,100,000 making a £250,000 profit!

Obviously as Chartered Surveyors we would not recommend buying without viewing and certainly a full structural survey is money well spent when taking on a huge financial outlay.

The couple who have two young children plan a huge extension adding major square footage quadrupling the size of the property demolishing everything except two exterior walls! The plan for the new property downstairs is to have a grand entrance hall leading to a large dining room, even bigger kitchen, huge living room, study and dining room. Upstairs the plan is to have a galleried landing which will lead to an opulent five bedroom, four bathroom layout.

However the building externally is lacking in design and is nothing special – Sarah explains it could look like a couple of semi's and should be something much grander on the outside for top wack money.

Sarah suggests knocking the property down completely and starting again which would be cheaper. A new build could then be planned rather than working with what they have got. Sarah emphasis's to rework their exterior design – mock Georgian grandeur is what works to bring money in with local Wags and business men in the area.

The couple however explain that partly why they want to hold on to some of the original structure is that they have nowhere else to live with their two children. Sarah thinks they would be a lot happier living in a caravan than living on site – living with major building work around you can be extremely stressful.

In summary Sarah agrees that they can make a phenomenal profit when adding this much square footage but only if the design is right – the project is a great opportunity.

In Windsor it is day one of build and the couple explain that they are going to leave hallway taking Sarah's advice not to open it up. However not heeding Beeny's advice they are going to go ahead with rear extension to gain a few extra feet having talked to the builder and architect re the back extension.

Not giving up before the bulldozer sets in Sarah works out that adding 60 sq ft at £325 per sq foot totally they will make a £10,000 loss on the area which is obviously not good. The wife thinks the front of the property looks pretty but the back of the house does not and wants to give the rear of the building some beauty – emotions involved here rather than business decisions. Sarah explains this is not a gift to history it is a business and they simply cannot afford to build the rear extension as well as the front one. The budget they are working with is very conservative with £39,000 for labour and materials, £3,000 for electrics, £5,000 for plumbing, £6,500 kitchen, £4000 for two bathrooms, fees £4,500 making entire budget £62,000 which is highly unrealistic. In Sarah's opinion the rear extension needs to be ditched in order to try to come in on budget however the owners dig their heels in not wanting to settle for second best! Sarah explains it is not about second best but shrewd business decisions – they go ahead demolishing the rear of the house – now no going back!

Back to Bishop's Waltham the demolishing gear is out in force! The budget the couple have is £145,000 for labour and materials. Sarah feels that with so much that needs to be done, money could be better spent knocking down entire house and starting again. Whilst adding major square footage to a property should add value to maximise the profit the market needs to be carefully researched as well.


Local market research – what not ask a surveyor?

Just ten minutes away there is a house with 7,500 sq ft living space set in a larger plot of 4 acres. The comparison although slightly larger in scale than house being developed is on the market for staggering £3,000,000. The interior design is rather over the top and shows how glitzy people in the area are prepared to go! In this very affluent area properties appeal to the market that have a wide frontage, pillars, symmetry of building homes are a status symbol of what you have here so the grander the better. The couple's plans are for a property with no character but the specific market want this style of grand house to impress their friends as it is all about its appearance as one first views the property from the front. The example shown in the local market research exercise has a style which is a safe bet in this area of the market however the couple are sticking to their plans and are not prepared to change their design.

Over in Windsor the couple are changing their plans moving the utility area away from back door and the muddy garden as feels kitchen is not big enough to divide off to have it there. Sarah with muddy boots on shows the couple how impractical this would be as dirt would be walked in – mixing and matching does not work turning the room into a walkway from back door to utility/boot room a utility area should be next to kitchen. After realising this change of plan is not so good the couple agree that they need to make best of the layout rather than create a muddy walk through.

In Bishop's Waltham there is chaos around the family as work on the house is taking place with the family still living on site. The builder wants to take roof off which will mean family will need to move out to let the builders get on with things however the husband wants to stay to keep an eye on the build.

A few days after roof comes off torrential rain sets in and the family are homeless. Sarah to the rescue with a motor home to be positioned on site at £750 per week which should only be needed for a couple of months explaining that it would be difficult to rent somewhere on such a short term let. The husband is happy as he is on site to see how the work is progressing and supervise deliveries and the wife and children have somewhere warm and dry with amenities whilst the builders get on building.

Back in Windsor the project is just over half way through their six month schedule but an unforeseen issue has arisen with the roof. The existing roof –is damaged and not repairable needing replacing which is a budget buster.


Whatever the style of roof re-roofing can be expensive

The extra £20,000 required for roofing is not budgeted for and they have gone back to wanting bigger hall which Sarah explains would be out of proportion to the rest of the house and eats into rear extension losing space and light. The couple do not feel light would be an issue with their solution to add in more lighting paint walls in light colours and install light flooring! Sarah explains this will not be enough and is made worse by their decision to change to two doors not double doors which block the view and light from garden. The central pillar between the doors should go allowing a better view of the garden and additional light to the area. Sarah comes up with a solution a tubular mirror which goes through the roof which catches natural light bounces down through the tube into the dark room which the couple agree to install.

Over in Bishop's Waltham they are six months into their eight month schedule and are counting down days to get out of motor home. Four weeks later they move back into the property which is now a huge space with Sarah explaining that to dress and furnish will not be easy – inside needs to be seriously swanky.


More local market research

Sarah takes the couple to see a three million pound property just outside of Southampton showing them that the first impressions through the front door people need to be bowled over. Beeny explains that in huge spaces no element of design can be left to chance, spend big on items such as a feature staircase and flooring, the bigger the space the bolder you have to be. The couple were thinking more blank canvas than bold scheme but as Sarah explains at this end of market people are looking to move in, not do anything buying something that has been designed well. Therefore major design statements are key, with an enormous sitting room, much bigger furniture or more furniture works well the property they are visiting for research has seven sofas which is excessive normally but in such a large space works really well.


Completion in Windsor

In Windsor it is six months on and the project is finished with the side extension blending seamlessly into the original house allowing for the fourth bedroom and second bathroom upstairs adding value.

On the ground floor however they have been less successful as the hallway has serious delusions of grandeur being so big it is then an anti climax when you go into the other rooms as you expect the rooms to be bigger than the hallway. However detailing of rooms is spot on, traditional features given a contemporary twist that play up to the properties charm.

As Sarah predicated the rear extension was a massive amount of work and money for not enough gain but the couple are happy with their kitchen layout – emotions here rather than business sense.

The couple bought the house for £425,000, planned to spend £62,000 spent £158,000 as their original budget was totally unrealistic – costs rocketed in every area. The breakdown is now labour and materials £75,000, electrics £6000, plumbing £10,000, Kitchen £14,000, Bathroom (under budget) £2500, there was no budget previously for furnishing and decoration costs £25,000 and fees and professional costs are up to £25,500 making the total £158,000.



Asking the experts

The couple are hoping the property is now worth £750,000. Sarah calls in three local Estate Agents who agree the downstairs layout with large entrance hall is not ideal and set their valuations at £675,000, £685,000, £695,000 this if sold at lowest valuation giving a £92,000 and at highest valuation a £112,000 profit.

The property market is difficult and the property sells just under lowest sell at £665 making a £82,000 which equates to a 13% profit.


Completion in Bishop's Waltham

In Bishop's Waltham it is ten months on with everything top dollar says owner!

Sarah is still concerned regarding the exterior of the house wanting it to be more impressive and expresses her opinion as being care home looking! However the couple feel it looks like a new build and both agree that the sheer size of the development holds a premium in itself.

The Entrance hall has oak stairs and is a grand style staircase with a luxurious feel in rest of house having acres of black granite in kitchen and certainly a wow factor - the couple have taken on board knowledge gained from the market research. However with the living room which is an incredible space it is decorated in natural tones and the furniture is rather swallowed up by the size of the room they really need to be more bold here and the master bedroom could do with more furniture.

The original budget of £250,000 has actually come in at costing just under £350,000.


Asking the experts

Sarah Beeny calls in three local Estate Agents with one saying the property is caught between a rock and a hard place as it is not contemporary and ultra modern nor old with character feeling that if it was styled more grandly it would have appealed to a wider audience of buyers and would achieve a higher price – just as Sarah had explained initially.

Valuations come in at £950,000, £1.1 million, £1.3million which shows a big variation.

The couple plan to stay put holding out for at least £1.2 million hoping a mature garden will help them reach this level only a week later to be offered £1.3 million giving a £350,000 profit!

Sarah as ever explains that work should not cost more than the value of the space you add and to maximise your profit hit your market straight on.




Property Ladder / Property Snakes and Ladders in summary by a Surveyor

As Surveyors we too see a variety of properties often many of which have had extensions and alterations carried out to them over the years. Sarah with her knowledge of the market gives good, sound advice but sometimes this falls on deaf ears at the owner finds emotions get in the way of business acumen. The show contrasts a huge rebuild project with a smaller two extension project and shows how much can be done to change a house and to add value with the extra square footage gained.











Reference to other interesting articles on property television programmes and property issues are:-


Build, Buy or Restore?

Help! My House is Falling Down

Homes Under The Hammer

Help! My Brighton House is Falling Down

Cowboy Builders



Independent Surveyors

If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a Surveyor with regard to building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects report, dilapidations or any other property matters please contact 0800 298 5424 for a Surveyor to give you a call back.


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If you have a commercial property, be it leasehold or freehold, then you may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at www.DilapsHelp.com and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site www.DisputesHelp.com.


We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

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