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A Place in the Sun Live at Birmingham NEC: We’ll help you ride off into the sunset

By Heather Large | Weekend | Published:

Owning a property abroad is a dream for many. We chat to the hosts of Place in the Sun about how to make those dreams become a reality. . .

Going live – the NEC will host A Place in the Sun Live this month

Lured by sunshine and sea, many of us dream of one day owning a holiday home abroad or even emigrating to warmer climes.

And for 18 years A Place in the Sun has allowed us to travel vicariously through others as they look to fulfil this ambition.

We’ve oohed and aahed at countless pretty villas in Spain, gasped over spacious manor houses in the Loire Valley and felt a teeny bit jealous of those jetting off to start a new life Down Under.

A Place in the Sun with Laura Hamilton, Jonnie Irwin, Amanda Lamb and Jasmine Harman

So we chatted to presenters Jasmine Harman, Jonnie Irwin and Laura Hamilton ahead of A Place in the Sun Live, which comes to Birmingham later this month, to get the lowdown on what it’s like filming the hit TV show.

And to kick things off we asked why they think us Brits are always longing for blue skies and why does living abroad seem so attractive?

“The warm climate, general cost of living, the food, relaxed pace of life and the chance to experience a new culture – it really does provide a new lease of life whether you want to kick back and read or hit the golf course. Winters here can be tough – the ‘Beast from the East’ in March this year, what was that all about? – so if you’re lucky enough to be able to skip off to your very own place in the sun then you just would.

“Yes, the summer so far here in the UK has been unusually warm but we shouldn’t expect to get this every year. That’s why so many of us decide to purchase holiday homes in countries with year-round sun, with the opportunity to pop back to old blighty when the warm weather hits,” says Jasmine, who has filmed more than 250 episodes for Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun – Home or Away since 2004.

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Going live – the NEC will host A Place in the Sun Live this month

While Jonnie says a move abroad can make financial sense and offer a better quality of life. “Rental opportunities, a healthier way of life, better food, the chance to expand your cultural horizon – loads of benefits! However, I find that each person I meet on the TV show and speak to at our exhibitions all have their own reasons for buying abroad. Some are seeking a full-time home to enjoy their retirement, some of looking for a holiday getaway pad and I also meet families looking for full-time relocation.

“It’s also way cheaper to buy and live abroad compared to the UK. I read recently that Spain and Portugal are in the top four cheapest European countries when it comes to buying everyday goods, according to a report from the Post Office,” adds the 44-year-old.

And when it comes to choosing a destination, the countless glittering beaches that dot the Spanish coast still draw in the highest number of ex-pats, says Laura.

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“Spain is the number one destination for British buyers, we’ve been buying there since the 1970s and it continues to have a huge draw for a number of reasons – the food, climate, beaches and the properties of course!

Great escape – the lure of endless days of blue skies

“The Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol are the top two regions in the country, but you can find good value property in many areas. Portugal, France, Italy and Cyprus remain popular with British buyers too, as well as the sunshine state of Florida in the US,” adds the 36-year-old, who has been part of the presenting team since 2011.

For anyone not familiar with A Place in the Sun, the show helps house-hunters find dream holiday homes all over Europe as well as far flung destinations such as America, Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean.

Couples are shown a variety of properties in their chosen destination and they give their verdicts to the presenters who offer plenty of advice for buying, running and maintaining a property in the particular location. At the end of the show viewers find out whether they have found their dream home or whether they will have to continue their search.

For Laura there is no better feeling than when a couple falls in love with a property – but she says it doesn’t always work out that way. “I’m always excited when people find their dream home abroad, it’s such a unique experience being part of their search and helping them find a property.

Jasmine Harman loves the buzz of exploring foreign shores

“We all differ in our tastes and see things in a property that others might not notice, I know straight away when filming whether the house hunters connect with the property or not, often before they walk through the front door.

“Of course, I’m a little disappointed if we don’t locate a home they fall for, but equally if it’s not right then it’s not right. Buying a property overseas is a big move and I’d rather see people take their time than make a rash decision. Their search may take months or even years, but it’s definitely worth the wait,” she says.

Jasmine also gets a buzz out of helping house-hunters. “There are many things that I love about being a part of the A Place in the Sun family but my number one must be I get to travel all over the world helping people find their dream home abroad – it doesn’t really get much better than that. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing our house-hunters secure a property they have their heart set on. Oh, and travelling also gives me the chance to try out loads of new vegan dishes too, though some countries are a bit behind others!”

And the show will always hold a special place in her heart for a very memorable reason. “In 2008, we were filming A Place in the Sun – Home or USA and between shoots in Las Vegas and Florida, my husband Jon, who was our cameraman at the time, whisked me off to New York for a birthday surprise. He proposed in Central Park and we got married the following summer. It was so special and so exciting going back to work and telling everyone,” she tells us.

Warm up – Jonnie Irwin chats to an audience at A Place in the Sun

Laura’s favourite moment so far has been filming in South Africa as it gave her the opportunity to see where her father grew up. “I visited the town he was born in which he hasn’t been back to since he was four years old,” the mother of two tells us.

One episode also sticks out in Jonnie’s mind. “I’ve enjoyed an awful lot over the last 14 years, but the highlights are always when we find someone a property they fall in love with and they want to buy it. I remember showing a couple an amazing property in some converted cloisters right in the heart of Florence and when I turned around to gauge their reaction they were both in tears. It was a lovely moment and it was a genuine reaction from a couple achieving something they had set their hearts on,” he explains.

It will be no surprise to hear that all three are keen travellers so we asked to know their favourite destinations and what was on their bucket lists.

“It is hard to choose just one from all the lovely places I’ve travelled to over the years. But if I could narrow it down to European and long haul, I’d say Italy, which I feel is my spiritual home, I just love the food, the history, the people, the scenery, the language, the culture, the architecture, the fashion, the romance! Italy has it all,” says Jasmine.

“And further afield I’d say St.Vincent in the Caribbean where I’ve had a couple of amazing trips. I love the unspoilt feel, trips to the Grenadines such as Bequia, the friendly locals, relaxed vibe, beautiful beaches, night-life, and the local rum!

“I think I’ve visited more than 50 different countries although I’ve slightly lost count! So, there are still plenty of new places I haven’t been to yet. I ticked a big one off my list earlier this year with a visit to Mexico which was amazing. I loved it and ate avocados morning noon and night! Next on my list is Brazil, I’d love to go out there for carnival one year,” he adds.

Lie the dream – crowds find out more about buying a a place in the sun

“I remember filming in Costa Rica a couple of years ago and didn’t really get to see the best of it. My buyers wanted to be in the interior not far from San Jose. Some of the mountains scenery was beautiful but the city itself was a bit disappointing. I’ve researched the coastal areas and I’m very keen to get down to the both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts – I just need to find someone who wants to buy there!” says Jonnie.

“I have never filmed in New Zealand which I would love to visit. I have been so lucky to travel through work and on holiday. I think travelling is an amazing thing to do with the family. It is so educational. My children have a map in their playroom and we pin everywhere they have visited.

“Our family own a house in San Pedro de Alcantara and I love spending time there. I also love Mallorca. The city of Palma is amazing, and the island has such beautiful beaches. Further afield I love the Maldives. I’ve been five times – I don’t think you can buy many properties out there!”

The presenters will be sharing their knowledge and advice at A Place in the Sun Live. which will feature more than 150 exhibitors from all over the world to showcase their collection of overseas homes.

And serious house-hunters may even be chosen to star on the TV show.

“It’s everything you need to know about buying property overseas under one roof! Instead of jetting off to look around properties and finding estate agents, lawyers and currency specialists to speak to, we get them all to bring their expertise to the NEC Birmingham.

“This way, anyone considering buying an overseas property can learn a lot of what’s involved in a short space of time, without leaving the UK. Obviously if you then decide to take it further you need to go out and visit, but this is a great place to get started,” explains Jasmine.

“Attending A Place in the Sun Live will also give you the chance to audition for the TV show if you aren’t camera shy! Just let our production team know where you’re looking to buy, as well as your budget, as you may well just get a call back. You can also chat to myself, Jonnie, Laura and Amanda Lamb about everything overseas property over the weekend too.”

  • A Place in the Sun Live runs from September 21 to 23 at NEC Birmingham. Spain will be well represented with agents from all over the mainland, the Canaries and Balearic Islands, along with agents from France, Italy, Portugal, Florida and many more. There will also be professional services with expert advice on legal, financial, tax and currency. Industry experts will be on-hand to talk you through the buying process and answer any questions you have. For tickets visit www.aplaceinthesun.com/exhibitions

Claim your free tickets

  • A Place In The Sun Live is offering Express & Star and Shropshire Star readers tickets to the Birmingham show – and they’re completely free. See expressandstar.com/aplaceinthesun for details.
Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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