Property Ladder


I used to like this show.

Partly because I had an interest in property development, partly because it was amusing watching amateurs who thought they knew better than the pro, Sarah Beeny, and mostly because it was fun ogling Sarah’s ever-changing bust.

In fact I have a theory that the reason most of the Donald Trump wannabes didn’t absorb a single word that Beeny said is that they were hypnotised by her ample chest. (Ample’s such a great word.) Thus she would give them sound advice, leave them to it, come back 4 weeks later and discover they’d done things totally different. The resulting conversation might go like this:

SARAH BEENY
Do you think a two-bedroom flat in
Wandsworth really needs a heli-pad?

DEVELOPER
Yeah I really think it’ll add value to
the place.

ME
You’re a fucking moron.

But of course they’ll ignore her, the heli-pad will stay, and the various estate agents will look as bemused as Sarah and value the place much lower than the auteur developer expected.

And I’ll laugh, heartily and haughtily.

But now it’s all getting a bit formulaic. The investor will either listen carefully to Ms Beeny, having figured out that this is the wise thing to do (and free expert advice), or they’ll ignore her as usual, but the resulting mess is no longer a surprise and not as much fun. Just like ‘Come Dine With Me’ must have contestants that conflict with eachother (the vegetarian bra-burner and the meat-eating chauvinist), just like ‘Grand Designs’ must involve people who can’t really afford to rebuild a barn in Suffolk but mortgage their souls and somehow manage. It all gets a bit tedious.

But I did notice an unusual parallel: The wannabe developer is a lot like the wannabe screenwriter. 

In both industries, there are standards. Expected guidelines that newbies should adhere to. When you’re Donald Trump, then you can put heli-pads on two-bed flats; likewise when you’re Aaron Sorkin, then you can do your own thing, because you’ve already made it.

I was recently reading a screenplay which someone called ‘Gary’ had submitted to The Nicholl Fellowship screenwriting contest. He was furious that he hadn’t made the cut for the second round, and threw his toys from his pram in all directions, crying that his ‘brilliant’ script with ‘amazing amazing characters’ was the ‘best that Nicholl had ever received’.

So, naturally, I had to read it. And, long story short, it wasn’t brilliant. I didn’t even realise it was meant to be a comedy until page 8. (Oops.) It did all the things that you shouldn’t do that would put a professional reader off. All the basics that you should stick to because that’s what the industry expects of you, because you’re a nobody, and if you don’t know the basics then you red-flag yourself as unprofessional. And your script – no matter how many months you spent on honing the dialogue – will end up in the recycling bin.

Likewise property developing. If the market wants open-plan living areas, give it that. Don’t try and be a smart-arse, you’ll ultimately only fall on that arse. That arse that is not so smart.

So, to sum up: Peel your eyes away from Sarah Beeny’s tits and look at the bigger picture.