Let’s go back four years. We were living in a rented flat in Hackney; five of us all fellow Yorkshire friends from way back trying to make it in the big smoke. The place was dire. Mould in the bathroom, mould in the bedroom; drop a freshly laundered shirt on the floor and the lingering damp clung on as you peeled it off only minutes later. A mobile phone rings, you go to answer it, only to discover it’s a passer-by outside and the cracking windows have deceived you once again.
Now we live in a modern apartment with a roof garden overlooking the Shard and Canary Wharf, a stone’s throw away from Tower Bridge, walks on the river and pints overlooking the secret beaches of Wapping. Two double bedrooms with enough space for a second double guest bed in each, a new bathroom with a bath and an open kitchen dinner with a six seater dining table, eight seater sofa and a French Bulldog called Georges who sits in the sun on the private balcony. We own this property and it’s doubled in price in three years to just over half a million quid.
At first we were caught in the “new build” web; shown around show home properties by Hollister models selling you 20% of a £600,000 one bedroomed flat in Dalston.
How? Combination. Fellow Hackney house mates were saving up for a mortgage and we panicked we’d be left behind so started a saving scheme with Natwest and began praying it would sprout like Jack's magic beans into something substantial enough to buy in London.
Meanwhile, my dad - northern legend who spent his life working as a housing manager for the local council - began spending his retirement days researching London's housing association and government projects to see if there was another way.
He discovered Shared Ownership. Simply, you buy part of the property (in our case 35%) and rent the rest from the Housing Association at a low rate (in our case 65%) resulting in a reasonably affordable mortgage (in our case £90k). Your deposit is achievable, the monthly payments are affordable and it means you’re on the property ladder. And, it comes with all the perks of living in a rented property as the landlord takes care of any repairs or faults. As with a rented or bought property, you still pay service charge and council tax. The idea is that as your career progresses and your salary increases, you’re able to stair case up to buying more of the property. The catch here of course is that the longer you wait, the more your property is worth and the larger amount of deposit and monthly income you need to buy the whole thing. Rat race.
Shared Ownership was the winner; combined income <40k, both <30 years old, first time buyers? We ticked all the boxes. The last catch was the property had to be in a deprived area…hmmm. At first we were caught in the “new build” web; shown around show home properties by Hollister models selling you 20% of a £600,000 one bedroomed flat in Dalston. Pay now, move in next year when they’re built! Car space is only £10k! The tight Yorkshire lass in me was clutching the purse strings – we’d never be able to own this flat.
Then we discovered second hand Shared Ownership. Where someone had moved in to a new build Shared Ownership, couldn't keep up the payments and the property was recycled back on to the scheme to keep in line with the housing association’s figures. Genius. Only thing was, with little commission, no one wanted to sell them. I literally phoned estate agents every day asking to speak to Dave or Nigella or whatshisnamewhodoessecondhandnow? Eventually we found the flat, bought a dog - it was perfect. The end.
Well, not quite the end. When we were shown the flat we were asked to climb out the window to see the roof terrace because the fob wasn't working. Three years later it still isn't working, the window was now been screwed shut and the solicitors refuse to get involved. Not all silver linings in the big smoke.
Welcome to London.