I’m a first-time buyer – I moved in to my new home just before Christmas 2015. But I don’t feel like an average first-time buyer (whatever that is). This is my story.
I am 49, my wife is 43, we have two children, 19 and 15, who both live at home. 15 years ago we were placed, by the council, in a three-bedroom housing association property because the flat we had been living in was unsuitable for a family. We were extremely grateful. I was working full time on minimum wage. My wife looked after the children and was only able to work a few part time hours per week
By the time the children were in their teens, we were both working full time, but the level of wages just wasn’t enough to get us a decent mortgage which would mean we could move somewhere better. So, we stayed in our social housing accommodation and put up with the negatives of living on an estate where some people didn’t seem to care about anyone but themselves and were often openly hostile to those just going about their business.
We all fell out of love with the housing association property.
Without really decent salaries we were stuck. Then, my parents died within two years of each other and I was left a small inheritance. However, when we combined the nest egg with the mortgage amount available to us, we still had less than £200,000 to play with – and here on the South Coast that barely buys a three bedroom flat, let alone a house. We were pretty despondent and while we were both working hard, our salaries were not increasing as fast as the cost of real estate.
A Ray of Light
My wife became addicted to RightMove and virtually every evening she could be found checking through the listings to see if any decent properties had been put up for sale in our price range. It was a pretty fruitless pursuit as the only thing that seemed to fit our parameters were caravans in over 55s parks.
Then, out of the blue, a three bedroom town house popped up in the alerts! It looked fabulous. Modern, spacious, clean – it was part of a shared-ownership scheme. A quick internet search for “share to buy” soon explained the scheme and by means of our family we qualified to apply. My wife and I booked an appointment to view the property.
We fell in love with it!
Unfortunately, so did four other local families, and, to cut a very, very long story short – and not going into the blatant ignorance of the estate agents who handled the sale – we were unsuccessful in our application, as, and I quote, “another family was in greater housing need”.
Fast forward 18 months and my wife is still checking Right Move for new properties. However, the number of additions to the website fitting our meagre budget keeps falling and now, the only properties which arrive are caravans, run-down flats and the very occasional shared-ownership scheme in the back of beyond!
Then, courtesy of our local Help to Buy team with whom we had to register for the previous application, we receive notification of a new estate being built in the nearby, rather swanky town in which we both work. The estate consists of a couple of blocks of apartments and seven three-bedroom houses; all for sale as part the Share to Buy scheme. So, we register our details and a few weeks later we are invited to view a show property on the site. The guidelines for eligibility are strict and we fulfil everything except the earnings – to apply for a house, a couple must be earning a joint income of £39,000.
We decided to go and have a look anyway, thinking that perhaps one of the two bedroom apartments would be suitable. But, sadly, they were just too small for the four of us and as we stood there, bemoaning the size of the show apartment, the salesperson asked us if we were interested in a house. I explained our circumstances and as soon as she heard the size of our savings pot, her eyes lit up. “Yes” she said, “If your money all checks out, you should be able to apply for a house despite your earnings being a bit low.”
The Painless Mortgage
That was at the end of July 2015. Today, I am sitting in my brand new home, with all mod cons, and the wonderful feeling that my inheritance has been put to great use, while our hard graft in the workplace is paying off. We finally have a foot (well 50% of a foot) on the property ladder.
Our first-time buyer mortgage application went through without a hitch – but it was possibly the least painful hoop we had to jump through on our way to the completion date – many delays and hold-ups, which were totally out of our control, meant we did not finally get the keys until 4 December 2015. Right up until the moment I sat in the bank and watched a five figure sum disappear out my savings account, I didn’t fully believe the purchase would go ahead. But it did. And we’re in our lovely house, with happy kids and a bright future ahead of us. And a family in need of housing being housed, was able to move into our old home in time for Christmas. That was a good feeling.
First-time Buyers don’t need to be ignorant
Whoever you are, whatever your age, and whatever your circumstances, buying your first home is a wonderful, exciting, yet daunting experience. It can be challenging, frustrating and potentially very serious if you get things wrong.
There’s a wealth of information out there for those who feel they need to research before they take the plunge into home ownership and it won’t ever hurt to shop around and do some Googling to find out if you could get a mortgage.
This mortgage provider has produced a handy infographic which talks you through the mortgage application journey.
While the Money Advice Service can help you with some of the basics about budgeting and working out how much you can afford to spend on a property.
And the Money Saving Expert has produced a downloadable booklet to help first time buyers understand some of the hurdles you will have to get over as a first-time buyer and how to boost your chances of being accepted for a mortgage