Jasmine Harman is back on our screens presenting what she believes to be the most successful season of A Place in the Sun- Summer Sun yet!
What can viewers expect from the new series A Place in the Sun?
They can expect a lot of amazing value properties and lots of people buying their new homes. I think over this entire series, I have had one person who wasn't successful in buying a property. They made an offer and through no fault of their own, the sale didn't materialise. It's been fantastic, we are back in a situation on the property market where people are in a position to buy again, the exchange rate is really good against the euro so there are a lot more serious buyers. The confidence has returned somewhat.
You admit that travelling all over the world provides you with a lot of temptation- so which country has been the most challenging to leave?
For me, I am always more tempted by Italy. It might sound cliché but it feels to me likes it's my spiritual home. I love everything about Italian culture; the language, the food, the architecture the people, the music, the fashion; everything is so lovely that I always feel like I could just stay there. I just came back from Italy on Friday and it was really challenging to leave. It was emotionally hard to tear myself away. I also had a bit of difficulty in the airport. It almost put me off because I was travelling with my toddler with lots of luggage, the buggy, the car seat. There were no trollies, so I found it quite difficult to physically go.
You were in Portugal for many years so what's the appeal of living there if you were enticing newcomers?
I didn't choose Portugal- Portugal chose me. I was offered a job over there- I knew very little about it. I had never been there before. I decided to give it shot and I just had the most wonderful time there. As a young person in my twenties, growing up in the east end of London it just opened my eyes to the fact that there is a whole world out there. You can do what you want. The lifestyle was fantastic. I was close to the ocean; I could go to the beach after work and be outside so much more. I took up horse-riding, which I had always wanted to do but had never had the opportunity to do before.
The people are amazing, they have a beautiful language. I love the Portuguese language. I studied it for several years to be able to integrate into Portuguese culture. It has beautiful scenery, great weather, a fantastic lifestyle. It's a much slower pace of life which can be frustrating when you are trying to work but if you are on holiday or just trying to wind down it has nowhere near the amount of stress as there is living in London. There was still the pressure of jobs, work and deadlines; when you're working you still have all of those things. Everything moves more slowly and at a bit more of a relaxed pace.
You were selected from hundreds of applicants to present the show back in 2004, so how did it feel when you found out you were the right fit for the programme?
It was amazing- like a dream come true! I had never worked in television before and I has been living abroad on the Algarve in Portugal for the previous four years. I had a feeling that something big was going to happen in my life and something was going to change. When I got the confirmation that I had been selected, as a new presenter on a new Channel 4 show on the first series it was so exciting. It's a dream job lots of people say that it's a dream job - travelling to all these glamorous locations. I get to see such beautiful places and its hard work but it's so rewarding to be able to help people fulfil their dreams. Sometimes people have been thinking about it for years.
I was on my way out for dinner when I got the call, so we arrived at the restaurant and cracked open some champagne.
You write for many publications in including the A Place in the Sun magazine, so how do you juggle your writing commitments with filming?
With quite a lot of difficulty! I have had to scale back the writing since having my daughter because I don't have the time anymore. When I am not filming I am being a mum. I still do write for A Place in the Sun Magazine but it's difficult. If you have been working a 12 hour day, then you have to go home, feed, bathe and put a little one to bed, eat and then start writing it's tricky. Then you have to get up again at 6 o'clock in the morning, or during the night depending on how she sleeps- it's very difficult.
I am guilty of taking too much on. I need to take my own advice and learn to say 'no'. Sometimes it is better to do few things well rather than trying to spread yourself too thinly. I am a bit of a workaholic and I always want to work whenever I can. I think your priorities change when you become a mum so that's why I've scaled back the writing. A Place in the Sun magazine is the only one I do now and that isn't very frequent.
You started out with a career in health and fitness, so how do you maintain your fitness levels now in between your busy schedule and being a mum?
I don't do any exercise anymore! I am on my feet all day and I am chasing around after a toddler as well. For me, I feel very healthy, I have a very healthy diet; I became vegan nearly two years ago. I think about what I eat a lot more now- I don't eat chocolate anymore for example. I don't eat milk chocolate- I still have dark chocolate once in a while. I don't eat cheese or cakes and no one has got them so I have to go out and get them or make them. By default I have a really healthy diet, I get all the nutrients that I need. I don't have to watch what I eat anymore which is quite nice.
Do you find it difficult to eat abroad when you are working?
I do get some curious looks. There is always something I can have. There are a surprising number of vegan friendly restaurants in mainland Europe that also cater for special diets. Even in an average restaurant which you eat in every day they can always do something. It can be challenging to get people to understand no eggs, no milk, no cheese, no meat, or fish. It's not a concept everyone knows about but it's the same as eating out in the UK.
If you could build a house from scratch and place it anywhere in the world, what features would it have and where would it be?
Things that I really love in a property and what I really hanker after are strange things like a utility room. That would be so nice- to have somewhere to put all that laundry. I have had my laundry hanging out in my garden for the last three days. It almost got dry a few times and then it has got wet again. I could put it on the radiators or in the house to air but then it's in my way. Just somewhere to put stuff away, so I would have a lovely big utility room where I can put all the stuff that I don't want to see.
We are actually in the middle of doing a renovation project in the house we have just moved into. We are in the planning stages of doing the architectural design. What we have decided to have is a really lovely family space which is the kitchen, dining room and living space. It's all open plan with lots of light coming in from the garden. It will feel like you are enjoying the outside, even when you're in England and you have got to stay inside most of the time. Having a separate sitting room that is more of an adult space is something I missed having in my old house. Having somewhere grown up to go and chill out as well as a nice family space. We're having a play room as well. In the same vein as the utility room, if on an evening you can't be bothered to tidy up- all the toys and pick everything up, you can shut the door and think the play room is a mess but it doesn't matter. If you're having a dinner party you can do that because it's all contained. That appeals to me.
I would definitely have a swimming pool and lots of nice character features. Even if it's in a new build there is no reason it can't have its own unique character. A nice big garden and garage for my 1972 car. To live in, it would be somewhere close to London an somewhere leafy. Where I live is perfect because I am close to the train station and the shops and schools. It's still quite leafy and green. It's just outside of London- greater London.
If it was a holiday home it would probably be somewhere in Italy. All the boring things like a utility room don't matter because if you are on holiday you just want to be outdoors all the time. You just want to have a lovely time and enjoy it. On holiday your requirements are quite different.
Can you tell us about the behind the scenes process when you meet a couple who are looking for somewhere to live abroad?
I first meet them usually the day before we start filming just as a quick 'hello'. There are obviously casting people in the office, there are other people in the team who meet them before they come out. We have got an amazing casting researcher called Andy who meets people, interviews them and goes to film them and do screen tests. Once they are out on location, once I've met them, we have already done all the research. We know what they are looking for, which location they want to be in and the budget. We have done all that ground work over phone and emails, before I have even meet them.
The process behind the scenes is very much as you see it onscreen. It just takes a lot longer than you imagine. Everything gets edited. The house tour might take 3-4 hours to show them the house. When it's finally edited it's about 3-4 minutes. That's because we make them wait outside before they can see anything so we can get their genuine, honest reaction. On camera, we can capture when they first see a space if they like it or not. The behind the scenes process is more for the technical stuff that you don't notice as a viewer. As a contributor or being in front of the camera, there are things you have to do. Like wide shots, listening shots, close up shots. You have to do things from different angles. It takes quite a while. I think that's what's most surprising to people coming on the show is how long it takes to do everything. It takes a week to film one show and once it's aired it's less than an hour. It's 48minutes once you have taken out the adverts.
What's been your highlight from this season of the show?
For me a real standout moment was a house hunt in Granada. I was helping a lady- she was a bin lady- she called herself a bin man but she was a refuse collector. She thought that she would never be able to buy a property in the UK and she went out to Granada. We showed her 5 properties- she had as budget of 19,000. We found her a place! I don't want to give too much away, but when she had her offer accepted on the property that she went for that was a real highlight for me. For someone that thought they would never be able to get on the property ladder, we found her a place on a very modest budget and she was so thrilled. It was very heart-warming.
What's next for you?
Lots more A Place in the Sun, there is plenty more of that to come. That keeps me pretty busy all year round. I am talking about some other things but nothing has been confirmed yet, so I don't want to jinx anything. Hopefully may A Place in the Sun continue because it's just amazing. This series has been the most successful I think I have ever done in 11 years. In previous seasons we probably had about 70% of people buying. When the financial crisis hit it got very difficult for people to get their finances sorted. No one wanted to buy; vendors were losing money hand over fist on their properties. Now it's a really good buyers' market to sell which I think it makes it a really good time to buy. It's very exciting and the perfect market at the moment.
Jasmine Harman presents "A Place in the Sun - Summer Sun", which goes out every weekday on Channel 4 at 4pm until 25th September.
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