Max McMurdo explains how to escape the shackles of your mortage | Property | Life & Style

How to live mortgage-free? 

Property TV presenter Sarah Beeny has the answer, or at least the canny home-owners she meets on her new Channel 4 property series do.

Boosting monthly mortgage repayments is the easiest way to speed up owning your home outright but the Wednesday night show, How To Live Mortgage Free, has revealed that recycling, or upcycling, is the more imaginative solution.

Architect Damion Burrows and designer Max McMurdo are Beeny’s co-presenters and McMurdo has been particularly inspired by the stories of transforming a 100-year-old derelict Dutch barge and an agricultural trailer in the first two shows. 

“There is actually a movement of people who are moving out of houses and getting rid of their mortgages through extraordinary ways,” says McMurdo, who first appeared on BBC Two’s Dragon’s Den with his eco-friendly furniture in 2007 then in 2015 inspired viewers to consider living on water after his floating home made from a shipping container was featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

“This show celebrates going mortgage-free through using clever design and innovative ways of living,” he says. “It’s so British. The success of Shed Of The Year is partly down to its quintessentially British ways – it’s a show that could only work here – and I think How To Live Mortgage Free is much the same.”

Abandoning mainstream bricks and mortar is a lifestyle change as much as financial one, says McMurdo, who was particularly impressed with the family of four who move into a double decker and the couple who moved into an agricultural trailer.

“Wow, even I couldn’t picture that,” he admits, “and how inventive they are with the material they use and the techniques. The couple in the trailer did all that for just £5,000. That’s the cost of a kitchen so how on Earth did they make a new home for that?

“It’s a question of thinking outside of the box and not buying traditional development land, which is the reason I went for a houseboat: you just rent a mooring space.

“Another couple on the show were working some arable land and part of the agreement was that they could build a temporary structure as long as they looked after the land. So there are other ways than just buying a plot and building with bricks.”

One of the reasons people want to create their own property is so they can install eco-features such as a reed bed to process waste, rain water harvesting and air source heat pumps to supply underfloor heating.

Back in 2007 carpenter Kelly Neville incorporated all these elements into a home in Cambridgeshire that featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs. 

It is now on sale for £665,000. The Hexagon House, detached with four bedrooms, is in Little Downham near Ely and has an open-plan kitchen/living room plus six acres.

It’s on the market with Cheffins (01353 654900;

But for those who share McMurdo’s obsession with living on the water, narrowboats may be the answer to low-cost…

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