His boyish good looks and genuine likeability have won TV presenter Jonnie Irwin a legion of admirers but he’s about to break the hearts of some of his most ardent fans.
The 42-year-old, best known for fronting Escape to the Country and A Place in the Sun, is preparing to tie the knot with his fiancée Jess. The couple are getting married in Northumberland, close to her native Newcastle, next month just before his starring role at this year’s Yorkshire Residential Property Awards.
“At least it will put to bed those rumours,” laughs Jonnie, whose sexuality is regularly questioned on social media by those with celebrity man crushes.
His trip north is a welcome one. Although he and Jess live in London, he’d like to escape to the country one day.
“Work keeps me in London but I genuinely would love to live in the country again. I go to the beautiful parts of Britain and see amazing places with my TV work and I think of it as a test drive for me.”
He grew up on a small farm in Leicestershire and inherited a love of bricks and mortar from his father, a developer. After studying for a degree in estate management and becoming a surveyor at property agency Christie’s, he did a screen test for A Place in the Sun.
For the last decade, much of his time has been spent filming the nation’s favourite property programmes and he clearly still love his job.
“I’ve just finished filming A Place in the Sun with Kim Woodburn, who starred in ‘How Clean is Your House’. It was hilarious, like working on a Carry On movie. I’d show her a bedroom and she’d say, ‘Oooh, if I was ten years younger…’ That was a lot of fun,” says Jonnie, who adds that a Place in the Sun Home or Away, is more of a challenge. “If I’m doing the home leg then it can be a tough sell when you are pitching north Wales against the Algarve.”
Buying abroad, he warns, can be a legal minefield, which is why he is working with Judicare to highlight the need for caution.
“They specialise in conveyancing, will writing and inheritance planning for foreign investments, all of which are important because buying a property abroad can be fraught with legal issues. I often get asked ‘what’s different about buying a home in the UK and buying one abroad’ and I say ‘everything’, which is why independent legal advice is vital and cost should be budgeted for. If you use a lawyer chosen by the estate agent or developer, they are not going to be acting in your best interests.”
In his spare time, he enjoys property renovation. He bought his first house in Birmingham in his early 20s and has leapt up the property ladder via a series of “do’er uppers” in London. He’s just finished his home in Highgate and is now looking for his sixth project.
“I enjoy it and I’m lucky that I can immediately see potential in a place and I know just how I am going to do it. Renovating is a good way of moving up the property ladder,” says Jonnie, whose search area is always north London, which provides easy access on to the northbound A1.
The capital is the obvious base for his work, which takes him all over the country and beyond, although his filming schedule is interspersed with property consultancy and after-dinner speaking. He presented last year’s Yorkshire Residential Property Awards and has agreed to present them again this year.
The event on October 13 is still open for entries and is designed to celebrate the industry’s successes while raising money for Variety, the children’s charity. All the funds raised are spent helping disabled and disadvantaged children in Yorkshire.
Jonnie’s travels round the country and beyond have helped him keep a close eye on the property market, although predictions post-Brexit are proving difficult.
“I was against Brexit socially and financially and there is a lot of worry for those who have properties abroad, although I would say that in some parts of Spain, four out of five buyers are British so the Spanish will be keen to make sure Brits are still welcome. The main issue for those wanting to buy overseas is the pound being devalued against the Euro but I think prices will adjust accordingly. I’ve just come back from Spain and Brits are still buying out there. For many it’s a long-held dream.”
As for home turf, he doesn’t believe that prices will fall short-term thanks to cheap mortgages and lack of supply. However, he adds that values may suffer if household budgets are affected by inflation caused by a weak pound.
“If you are trying to sell now then be realistic,” he says. “If the property has been on for more than eight weeks then you might want to look at reducing the price. If it has been on for longer then you are in danger of chasing the market down.”
*Entering the Yorkshire Residential Property Awards is designed to be quick and easy but the deadline of August 26 is approaching. Visit www.yorkshireresidential propertyawards.co.uk. The awards event is at the Queen’s Hotel, Leeds, on October 13. The categories are: Best Planning Practice; Best Design Project; Best Innovation Project; House Builder of the Year; Best Large Development; Best Agency; Best Regeneration Project for Housing; Best Small Development and Best Marketing Campaign. Funds raised go to Variety, the children’s charity,to help disabled and disadvantaged children in Yorkshire.