JOE Parker's dream £318,000 flat was nearly out of reach when banks said they would only lend him £250,000 – but he bagged an extra £63,500 to plug the gap thanks to a government scheme.
Joe, 35, who works in marketing, took out a Help to Buy equity loan to get the extra cash needed – and he only had to put down a 5% deposit too.
Under the Help to Buy scheme, the government will lend you up to 20% of the value of your property – or 40% if you live in London.
The loan is interest-free for the first five years and Joe only had to put a 5% deposit of £15,900 down.
Usually, buyers have to put down a deposit of at least 10%, so Joe would likely have had to save at least £30,450 to secure his flat without the scheme – far more than he could afford.
He also ditched the booze for nine months and had to put his holiday plans on hold over the Covid pandemic, saving him thousands of pounds.
A super tight budget of £350 a month helped him save as much cash as possible.
Living rent-free with his family for nearly two years also made it easier for Joe to squirrel away as much cash as possible.
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He’s a higher-rate taxpayer and moved into his home in May this year.
We sat down with Joe to see how he kept on track with his savings for The Sun’s My First Home series.
Tell me about your house
It’s a two-bed flat in a 200-year old converted mill in central Manchester.
The developer, Capital & Centric, turned the old building into flats, and there will be a communal garden all the residents will share.
There’s an ensuite bathroom and a main bathroom, and it’s very open plan – the living room, dining room, and kitchen is all in one space.
I may get a housemate to share the flat with me – I need to look into it a bit more and see what rent rates are like, but I would hope to charge somewhere in the region of £800-£850 bills included.
How did you decide on the location?
I needed to be within an easy commuting distance to London, because that’s where my job is based but I work from home most of the time.
The flat is a five minute walk away from Manchester Piccadilly station, which means it's super easy to catch a train down south from.
I also think the area is up and coming – there’s a lot of development happening around where I live.
The development was listed on Rightmove so I came across it when I was searching for flats online.
I reserved a flat before it was built, as it was still under construction when I spotted it.
That was nerve-wracking as I had no idea what the flat would look like in the end – but fortunately it worked out really well.
How much did you pay for it?
The flat was £320,000, but I managed to get £2,000 knocked off the price and got it for £318,000 after negotiating with the developer.
I said that the solicitors fees were very expensive and that I would struggle to afford them – the developer then agreed a discount on the property to secure the sale.
Sometimes builders offer incentives to buyers so they can clinch a deal.
This could be a discount on the house price, money put towards the deposit, or new furniture and appliances installed.
The incentives you could get vary on how generous the developer is.
I also took out a Help to Buy loan, which meant I only had to save a 5% deposit for the flat, and I got £63,500 put towards the house.
It’s an interest-free loan for the next five years – after that, I’ll have to pay interest.
I couldn’t have afforded the flat without the loan.
The bank said it would only lend me up to £250,000, which didn’t cover the cost of the property.
I put down a 5% deposit of £15,900 and took out a £236,500 35-year mortgage at a five-year fixed rate of 1.99%.
My mortgage repayments per month are £790.
How did you save for it?
I was really strict with myself while I was saving last year.
I had a budget of £350 a month that I would spend on everything, from food to my phone bill.
Living with my family helped a lot with my savings, as I didn’t have to spend any money on rent.
Every month before I started saving for a home, I would spend around £300 a month on takeaways and dinners out.
But I put myself on a takeaway ban and because of Covid restrictions I couldn’t go out for meals – which meant I saved a lot of money cooking my own food every night.
Covid really helped me to save a lot of money on travelling too.
I used to spend up to £6,000 on holidays a year, but I haven’t been on holiday for a year because of the pandemic.
A really effective way I saved money easily was well as by quitting drinking.
At the end of March last year, I felt anxious drinking alcohol and it made me feel worse about Covid restrictions.
I decided to knock boozing on the head, saving me £150 a month up until Christmas last year – £1,350 in total.
It was good for my mental state and savings – as well as my waistline.
It took a year longer than expected for the flat to be built because of the impact of Covid – but that worked out well for me as I could save more.
But the main problem I had was when we were nearing exchange.
The solicitor took so long getting the paperwork in order for me to get the keys – and forgot to ask the bank to release my funds to give the developer my deposit so I could move in.
It was so stressful and didn’t have to be.
Advice for other first time buyers?
Make sure you have your goals in mind when saving.
Try to look at all areas of your spending and see where you can cut down.
You can make a budget after looking at your outgoings and be strict sticking to it.
If you’re thinking of an easy way to save cash, think about giving up, or drinking less, booze.
It’s an effective way to save lots of money and I’ve learned you don’t need to drink to have a good time.
Here's how one savvy saver saved up for her first home by keeping to a "treat" budget of £50 a week.
While another couple haggled £11,000 off their first home to save them from losing it.
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