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My First Home: Sara Davies

Savvy saver: Sara got on the ladder in her early twenties

The TV dragon’s first home in Durham survived a car accident…

LAST year, Sara Davies, at 35, became the youngest entrepreneur to join BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den. She made her fortune establishing craft-supply company Crafter’s Companion while studying for a business management degree at York University. But how did being a super-smart businesswoman translate exactly when it came to buying her first home?

You had business success young. Did you buy then, too?

Simon, my now husband, and I had been dating since I was 15, and we planned to move in together after I graduated. I didn’t realise that Simon had already been looking at properties, but during my last year of university, when I was only 20, he sent me a link to a house and said, ‘This looks like our dream home, what do you think?’ The house looked amazing so we put in an offer pretty much straight away.

How did you get the deposit?

Simon had been working for a few years and he took the decision that he would stay at his parents’ house while I was at university. That way, he could stay at home and save. I worked over the summer to save up and we soon had enough to put down for a deposit.

What place did you go for?

We bought an old police house on the outskirts of Durham. We wanted to find the balance between somewhere we could put a bit of work into and somewhere we could move into straight away. The house we bought had three bedrooms, a little kitchen and a tiny bathroom. We paid £185,000, which seemed like a huge sum of money, but we worked really hard to save it up.

What did you do to it?

We put an extension on it and made the kitchen twice the size. We turned the little bathroom into an en suite and built another family bathroom. We also added another bedroom, increasing the value of the property. We renovated our house ourselves but we didn’t really have any DIY disasters. Someone did drive into the side of it once, though. Our driveway led on to a line of bushes and then the car park. A lady had parked there in her automatic. She thought the car was in reverse when it was in drive, and she put her foot down on the accelerator. She went straight through the bush, through a fence and into the side of our house. Simon came home to find police at our house and lots of crumbled bricks.

Did you mature rather quickly with your finances then?

Yes. Running a business does that to you. I had a lot to carry on my shoulders at quite a young age. I employed my first couple of staff quite early on, so that gave me a lot of responsibility in terms of paying wages and making sure that they could pay their own mortgages.

What happened next?

We went on to buy the house in Teesside, our forever home, eight years ago. We viewed the house before we’d put ours on the market. I fell in love instantly. The guy we bought the house off has quite a big property portfolio but this was his family home that he was selling and they’d already bought the one they were moving to. He agreed on a part exchange for our old house and we completed the sale in four weeks.

What is your best advice for first-time buyers?

My dad always encouraged us, his kids, to buy at the top end of what we could afford, and then pay as much off the mortgage as we could, as quickly as we could. The only downside is in your early 20s you want to live your life. I’m a fan of balancing those sentiments. Yes, stretch yourself but don’t ask too much of yourself.

Sara is a patron of the Bradley Lowery Foundation, which provides fundraising support for sick children and their families, bradleyloweryfoundation.com