Welcome to a special miniseries of How I Bought It, where we hear from first-time home buyers about how exactly they bought their place. Each of our buyers in this series used a government home ownership scheme to help with the purchase.
Next up: A 34-year-old academic and study skills tutor on £34,304 who used the Shared Ownership scheme to buy a 40% share in a two-bedroom flat. Shared Ownership allows you to buy a share of your home (between 10% and 75% of its value) and pay rent on the remaining share, with the option to buy a bigger share when you can afford to.
Location: Chorlton, Manchester
The home: A new-build flat with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a balcony, which finished being built in December 2019.
When I bought: I completed and exchanged on the same day, 31st January 2020.
What I bought it for: £74,000 for a 40% share. The rest of the property is owned by a housing association.
How I bought it: I put down a 5% deposit of £3,089, which I’d saved in a Help to Buy ISA so I received a top-up from the government. (I saved about £6,000 in total over two years but because I didn't have enough for a 10% deposit, I had to do 5%.)
Lender, survey and conveyancing fees: I paid a £500 lender fee which was added to my mortgage and £1,482.60 in conveyancing fees. I didn’t need a survey because it’s a new-build flat.
Stamp duty: I didn’t need to pay stamp duty because I was a first-time buyer and the property cost less than £300,000.
Monthly mortgage payment and shared ownership rent: I borrowed £70,300 and my monthly mortgage payments are £307.84. On top of this, I pay £278.76 in rent for the portion of the property I don’t own.
Ground rent and/or service charge: £98.05 a month for service charge.
Why I wanted to buy: I’ve always wanted the security of having somewhere to call home. I’ve lived in Manchester for 18 years and I’d always rented with other people until I moved in here. I wanted my own space and somewhere I could have my cat, Marjorie. Shared Ownership was the only affordable option for me in south Manchester. If I'd continued saving it would’ve taken me years to be able to afford somewhere outright and everything has boomed even more since COVID.
My old flatmate and I had been living together for eight years in a two-bedroom flat that was smaller than my new place. We’re still friends but we’d come to the end of our living relationship. Things had become strained in terms of cleaning and she was a smoker, which bothered me.
She was looking to buy a place, which spurred me on to start looking for somewhere because I didn't want to have to live with another stranger and I had enough money to do Shared Ownership. I chose south Manchester because I’ve lived here since university – all my connections and friends are in the area and my flat isn’t far from where I was renting.
I heard about Shared Ownership through friends of friends who'd done it
I started looking at two-bedroom flats and from a security perspective, as a single female living alone I feel safer in a flat than I would’ve done in a house. I wanted a new-build because I like to be warm. With older properties you spend a lot more in terms of heating and also aesthetically, I like the new-build look. I also wanted an en suite because I thought about the possibility of renting out a second room if I needed to.
I heard about Shared Ownership through friends of friends who’d done it and then I looked on the government website to see what was feasible for me. I then started researching it in more detail online.
I knew people who’d bought houses through Shared Ownership but I didn't know anyone who’d bought a flat. Through my research, I soon became aware that flats are usually leasehold so the length of the lease is something people should think carefully about.
The process: I found the development in January 2019 but it was off-plan so I didn't get to see anything until after I'd committed and put down a £500 reservation fee in June 2019. I didn’t look at any other properties. I was limited in my options and what was available, and I knew I wanted a new-build in this particular area, so I didn't give myself much room in terms of what I looked at.
Reserving a property I still hadn’t seen in person because the show flat wasn’t ready was scary. You can look at plans and be told where and how big things will be but you don't know what it’s going to actually look and feel like until you’re there.
With Shared Ownership there’s no negotiation when it comes to making an offer. You’re told the full market value and the price of a share and if you want it you put down a reservation fee. To confirm your eligibility you have to apply on the government website and give details of your income, status, whether you live in the area, etc. and they send you a letter saying whether you're eligible or not. That was pretty simple for me.
I used a free broker to arrange my mortgage, which was straightforward. I’d encourage other first-time buyers to do the same, particularly with Shared Ownership because there are only some lenders who offer Shared Ownership mortgages and brokers are more likely to be able to secure the best rates.
My broker helped me with the emotional side of things as well. There’s a lot of worry that new-build developments will sell quickly and that you need to act fast so it can be frustrating when things are slow.
Everything moved slowly on the legal side of things, which was stressful. There was a lot of back and forth between me, my solicitor and the Housing Association’s solicitor to get everything sorted. Six months after I got my mortgage offer, it was uncertain whether I was going to be able to exchange and complete on the same day because things were missing. It was difficult to get hold of my solicitor at times.
I ended up completing and exchanging on 31st January 2020 and moved in two weeks later because I had to put my own flooring down. It feels good finally being a homeowner but it took me a long time to settle, partly because of the pandemic. I moved in just before it hit, which was bizarre because my personal circumstances and everything with work changed overnight.
I’m grateful that I didn't have to go through the pandemic in a houseshare. I've got a spare room where I can work, which sounds like a small thing but a lot of people didn’t have that.
I'm in a block of 24 flats and I couldn't wish to live with better people. We've got a great community
It was difficult not being able to have anyone over to my new place for so long. For somewhere to feel like a home, it's about the memories you make and I wasn’t able to share it with people. During the first lockdown I was in a bubble with my ex-boyfriend so he was the only one who came here for a long time. Since restrictions eased this summer, other people have been over more and it now feels more like home.
Having neighbours close by during the pandemic was a huge source of support. I’m in a block of 24 flats and I couldn't wish to live with better people. We've got a great community and we're all of similar age and professional status. We’ve become friends – not just neighbours who help each other out. We’ve had a few barbecues and I've become good friends with one particular person. We hang out in each others’ flats and watch films together. She even looks after Marjorie when I’m away. I didn't know any of them before moving here so I count myself extremely lucky to have such good neighbours. Meeting them has been the highlight of the whole process.
The admin involved in home-buying was the biggest challenge – liaising with so many different people, sending countless emails, having so many phone calls and often feeling like you're not getting anywhere fast. Doing it alone, there was nobody else to take the pressure off.
Best piece of advice: I wish I’d known more about how conveyancing works. There's a huge gap between what laypeople like me know and those who are lawyers and understand legalese. The process is difficult to understand and they don’t give you a dummies’ guide. I’d recommend reading up on it before getting to that stage of the process.
I also wish I’d gone for a ground-floor flat with a garden. The pandemic probably has a lot to do with my feelings on that. I have a little balcony but it isn't the same.
Now I’m in: As it’s a new-build flat they recommend you don't paint for 12 months because the building needs to settle, otherwise it could cause cracking. I'm quite indecisive in terms of colours and interiors. The living room and bedroom are done but they took a long time because shops were closed so I couldn’t look at things and there was a huge backlog of online orders.
My favourite purchase so far is my sofa, which is L-shaped and teal. The walls are still white but I’ve added colour through accessories. I've gone with teal, mustard, white and wood in the living room and kitchen, which are linked together. My bedroom is baby blue, white and grey – a bit more tranquil. I wanted the place to be calming given I spend so much time here.