What I Own: Jenna, who put a £16,000 deposit on her Wiltshire home
Welcome back to another instalment of What I Own.
For those not clued-up, this is our weekly property series where we chat to homeowners about their buying experience.
This week we are hearing from Jenna, who lives in South West England.
She moved in last year, during the pandemic, and this is what she has to say about getting on the property ladder…
Tell us about yourself, Jenna…
I’m 26 and I have always lived in Chippenham in Wiltshire. I work as a debt recovery specialist.
Where is your property?
My house is in Chippenham on the new Bloor Homes site. I absolutely love it, it’s within walking distance from a few supermarkets and there are plenty of places close by for nice dog walks, such as Lacock and Corsham. The neighbourhood is really friendly, too.
When did you move in?
I moved in on 31 July 2020. It was slightly delayed by a few weeks due to the pandemic.
What made you decide to go down the shared ownership route? And how have you found it?
I always knew I didn’t want to rent, this was something I was quite adamant on. However, buying a house is really tricky on one salary, especially with house prices in the South West. Shared ownership was perfect for me as it meant I could get onto the property ladder on my own.
How much does your property cost?
The house was £240,000.
How much was your deposit?
My deposit was £16,000.
What is the monthly cost of living here now; both mortgage and bills?
My mortgage payments are £276 a month and my rent payments are £330. I then have a service charge payment on top of this which is £30 (I think this is pretty standard for a new build development). The bills are then standard for any house – water, electric, gas, council tax, TV license etc – and this all totals to around £400.
How did you save up for your deposit?
I have always been pretty good at saving, ever since I started working at 16 really. I set up a Help to Buy ISA when they came out, I was about 19 at this point. I opened it with £1,000 and then set up a standing order for £200 a month which is the maximum you can put in it. By the time I came to buy I had the maximum in there, which is £12,000, which meant that I got the government bonus of £3,000.
Alongside this, I had an easy access savings pot, where I would always try and put as much as possible into. Some months I might put as little as £200 in (I didn’t stop my life to save, I have always been on lush holidays and never said no to a night out) but some months I might save £1,000 – it really depended.
What was the process of getting a mortgage like for you? Did you find any parts challenging?
I waited until my Help to Buy ISA was almost maxed out before I started to go and get advice. In hindsight, I had it in my head that you needed some great big deposit to buy a house so I waited. I’ve now spoken with people who have put as little as £5,000 down on a shared ownership house. So I could’ve done this all a lot sooner, however I’m glad I waited to have an extra £10,000 to spend after I moved in and a bigger deposit with smaller monthly payments.
I hadn’t heard of shared ownership beforehand, and the first ever mortgage meeting I had I came home really disheartened as I was only able to get a mortgage for around £140,000. There’s nothing you’ll be able to get around Chippenham for that and I thought I’d never be able to buy. I signed up to the Help to Buy website and then realised it is possible through shared ownership. I wish this was better advertised.
If you’re serious about buying a house, I would recommend signing up to this website as you get notified of houses coming up you’d be suitable for.
Where did you live before this – were you renting or living with family?
I was really lucky to have stayed living at home before moving here, which enabled me to save as much as I did.
What made you want to buy rather than renting?
I really didn’t want to ever rent because I don’t think I’d have ever been able to get out of that cycle. I know a lot of people that rent, who aren’t able to save much and will really struggle to ever buy a house. It’s more expensive to rent a small flat in Chippenham than what I pay for my beautiful two-bed house.
How did you find this property? What made you choose it?
I always look on Rightmove (I mean, who doesn’t?) I am always on there looking at million pound houses thinking how I’d decorate them. But I always kept my eye on two-bedroom houses on there. I originally reserved a new build flat in Chippenham as, after speaking to a few mortgage brokers, they got it into my head that that was all I was ever going to be able to afford alone. However, I wasn’t settled on this as I absolutely knew I’d hate having no garden.
I kept looking and this house came up. I enquired with Bloor Homes who put me in touch with Curo and they originally rejected me based on my salary. I was gutted, I had already driven up to the house to peek through the windows and fell in love with it. I went back to Curo to question this, the main reason being that I had only been in my job two months at this point so it was risky. However, I eventually got accepted.
How have you made the property feel like home?
It’s not just me here, my boyfriend Zach lives with me and we now have a puppy called Dougie. Zach decided to go back into education and is studying at Reading University, which has meant he’s no longer on a full-time salary so couldn’t get the mortgage with me. We decided that rather than him still renting and me living at home for a few more years that it’s best for me to get onto the property ladder through shared ownership with the plan to buy together in a few years time.
We’ve decorated pretty much every single room now. This was priority for me, I hated the house feeling unfinished and not homely. I follow so many different home accounts on Instagram and even made one myself @welcometo_number16. We had pretty much planned how we wanted each room, and luckily my sister’s boyfriend is a carpenter and so he helped with the panelling. Facebook Marketplace also became my best friend and I got so much furniture second hand.
Do you feel like you have enough space?
Definitely, at the moment. It’s perfect for the two of us and Dougie. We have lots of storage, including one built-in wardrobe and an airing cupboard upstairs, which helps. Downstairs were lucky enough to have a cloakroom which is such a bonus in a two-bed house. The house also came with a shed and the driveway is long enough that we have added storage out there too.
This definitely isn’t our forever home as it won’t be big enough, but it’s perfect for now.
Do you have plans to change the property?
The main thing that needed changing was the garden. I factored the cost of this into the budget as it needed doing straight away. Often with new builds the gardens aren’t level and my garden sloped so much, you couldn’t even get a table and chairs out there to sit at. I got lots of quotes together and the cheapest was £4,500 and I got a landscaper booked in for the second week after we moved in.
The only thing we really want to do now is to get the kitchen walls tiled, but it’s not an essential job. As I’ve mentioned, this isn’t our forever home, so there’s no big changes I really want to make now.
Are there any problems with the property that you have to deal with?
Like with any new build, you contact the developer with any ‘snags’ within the first year. We were so lucky compared to others, but this is also due to the house being completed a few months before we actually moved in meaning that all snags were fixed beforehand.
Also we had a really hot summer last year which stopped lots of cracks appearing in the walls. We had one issue with the downstairs toilet not flushing but that was fixed quickly. Also one of the kitchen cupboards needed replacing as it was scratched. A few bits needed touch ups but this is all pretty standard.
It’s important to check literally everything when you’re viewing a new build, go online and find a tick list for snags to take with you.
What do you want people to know about buying a home?
Don’t rush into it. Buying a house is the biggest thing you’re ever likely to buy, so really don’t rush and wait for something you really want. I put a deposit down to buy a flat, and I just knew it wasn’t right so I pulled out. I feel like there’s loads of pressure when you’re in your 20s, whether it’s to buy a house, settle down and have kids, travel – the list goes on.
But when you are ready, just go for it. Don’t let anyone put you off and tell you you can’t do it alone, or you won’t be able to afford it. Ask loads of questions and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to your solicitor if you’re ever confused. I ended up having a really good chat with my solicitor one day and asked her to completely ‘dumb down’ the whole process of buying a house for me as I was clueless and getting overwhelmed.
I’d also say make a spreadsheet and work out the average monthly costs beforehand. I had no idea where to start with average costs for a two-bed house from electrics to council tax. Work it all out and genuinely see if you can afford it.
What are your plans for the future, in terms of housing? Do you plan to stay here long term?
As for the future, I don’t think we’ll venture too far from Chippenham but we will definitely be buying a much bigger home together. We’re in the perfect house for a first-time buyer, but would definitely love a bigger house next.
I’ve realised there are definitely things I want next such as a utility room, a bigger kitchen, more bedrooms and an under stairs cupboard.
Shall we take a look around?
Do you want to feature in What I Own?
What I Own is a Metro.co.uk series that takes you inside people’s properties, to take an honest look at what it’s like to buy a home in the UK. If you own your home and would be up for sharing your story, please email [email protected]
You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’ve paid to live there and how you afforded the deposit, as that’s pretty important.
If you’re renting, you can take part too! What I Own runs alongside What I Rent, which is the same series but all about renting. Again, if you’d like to get involved just email [email protected]
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