I have always been incredibly independent, impatient and excitable when it comes to doing my own thing. This was especially true about leaving home. Don’t get me wrong – living at home with mum, dad and my three brothers was great; I was (and still am) extremely lucky to have a wonderful family that have always loved and supported me.
I just wanted to get out there and be the grown up that I knew I was.
At the age of 20 I was working for a small housing association as an admin assistant after dropping out of Uni and trying various temporary and retail jobs that just weren’t for me. I didn’t earn much at all – and definitely not enough to get my own place. I spent my money on clothes, going out with friends and paying the token amount of rent that mum and dad charged me. At this point in time, home ownership was a distant aspiration for me and one that I wasn’t convinced I would ever achieve.
So, fast forward a few months when I managed to secure a secondment role as a Housing Officer. This meant a pay rise….to £19,000 per year….a fortune to me! The first thing I did was to look to move out of home into rented accommodation, and that I did.
It was a tiny two bed second floor flat in the middle of town which I shared with my friend Mark. As I had twisted his arm into moving out of home too, I forfeited the big room to ensure I had someone to help with the bills. I managed to squeeze a small bed and a chest of drawers into that little room, and I still had space to close the door – just.
The flat was damp, it was cold, and running it ate up most of my wages every month, but I was so happy to have my own space. This was until Mark decided that he wanted to move back home after only 4 months. Mass panic ensued, until one of my brother’s friends, Tom, got kicked out of home and took up my offer of the big room in my mouldy and expensive home (he didn’t have much of an option at the time).
Tom and I had an absolute blast in that place for about a year. We were both skint all the time, so were living on poached eggs on toast and spending the weekends having friends over and getting drunk on cheap vodka.
When Tom got himself a serious girlfriend, I started to think about what I was going to do long term. I knew that the current situation was never going to continue forever and by this time I had started to resent spending all of my money on renting a home that was, especially in hindsight, pretty horrible.
I was at work when one of my colleagues and her husband were offered a shared ownership house. I remember asking her about it, knowing that she didn’t earn a dissimilar wage to me. She told me to join the housing register initially and to log my details with South West Homes, which I did. Then I just kind of forgot about it.
One day, I got home and there was a leaflet from Magna Housing Association about some one bed properties that they were building in the area for shared ownership sale. They were having a drop in event at the local Council, so I thought I would swing by and find out some more information. At this point in time, I still didn’t have a full understanding of what it was, just that I would get on the property ladder if I were lucky enough to be able to afford one.
The guy from Magna was super helpful, and sold me the idea of owning one of these amazing flats without too much effort, so that got the ball rolling. I signed up to express an interest and was given the details of their approved financial advisor.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that I was still skint. The savings that I had before I moved out of home had dwindled to the £600 mark, which was no where near enough for a deposit on a home. Another thing to add though, was that this was 2007, and things were pretty good for borrowers at this time.
I called the financial advisor, and she visited me at my flat. She was amazing. She sat there scribbling away, then made some phone calls, and then told me that I could get an 100% mortgage for up to £65,000.
Things were changing though. Northern Rock had just gone under and developers were starting to struggle to sell their properties. As were Housing Associations.
I had decided to pursue the one bed flat with Magna, when not long after my visit from he financial advisor, I had a call from a colleague of mine telling me about some new shared ownership properties that were on the market with Raglan Housing. They were in my preferred area and there were two bedroom flats going, with the small ones being sold for £63,000 for a 40% share – which I could afford!
So I put in for one of those, and was extremely shocked and elated when I received a call saying that I was successful. I was so lucky. Not only that, but I received my mortgage promise literally a week before 100% mortgages were withdrawn by most lenders.
I accepted the flat without even looking at it. I was bottom of the list for the six that were available, and four were out of my price range, so I didn’t get a choice. I was offered a ground floor two bedroom flat. When I went to view it, I vividly remember the overwhelming feeling of joy, that went straight from my stomach up to my eyes that just made me sob with pure happiness. It was perfect. I couldn’t believe that it would be my home.
There were a couple of snagging points along the way. Firstly, the fact that I just fell short of the affordability criteria. My job had just become permanent though and this was March 2008 by this point. This meant I was due a pay rise in the April and my boss at the time pulled all the strings he could with HR to get the information to Raglan Housing that I would be earning an extra £500 per year in the next month to put me just within that bracket. Secondly, I had to move back home for a month to use the extra money to pay for fees, and my wonderful parents gave me £1000 to pay the solicitors. But, in July 2008, single and having just turned 23, I collected the keys to my new home.
Tom was unexpectedly single at this time too, so he came with me as a lodger, which helped with the bills.
Fast forward 8 years and I’m happily still here. Tom moved out with his lovely girlfriend, soon to be wife, and I had another friend move in. She moved out and got married, and my older brother moved in. Then I met my husband in 2011.
He was in the Army and based in Catterick in Yorkshire. We fell in love quickly and talked about where we were going to make our future. The biggest part of the decision? My lovely shared ownership flat. I was on the property ladder and had a good job that I loved. Decision made.
He left the Army and moved in with me. And it’s now our home. It’s affordable, its warm, it’s safe, we have great neighbours. Ok, so the boiler has broken down a couple of times, the taps in the bath have needed replacing and these things have cost a few quid to fix. But not that much. And I get a huge sense of pride in knowing that it’s mine, including the responsibility that comes with it.
I also pay a service charge along with my mortgage and rent. But the communal areas are clean and well maintained. I believe that this is down to having a Housing Association as the freeholder. Private freeholders in my experience, do not do as good a job.
We’re now lucky enough to be getting to the point of thinking about moving to somewhere bigger, on the open market. We have some savings, and most of all, we have built up a bit of equity in the flat. This means that we can move on to the next stage of our lives and to give someone else the amazing opportunity for this wonderful, affordable, shared ownership flat to make a difference to them and give them the amazing foundation that it has given me.