Yes, it’s partly to satisfy our own curiosity about how other people live, but this series is also about exploring the reality of homeownership – which is still held up as the ideal for all us renters for whom saving for a deposit feels impossible.
This week we’re in Bedfordshire with Jo, a 35-year-old communications specialist working for a mental health charity.
Jo owns a three-bedroom house with her partner, Paul, having previously owned a one-bedroom flat.
She used to work as a journalist based all over the world, and says that living in Moscow, the Middle East, Malaysia, Malawi, and Hong Kong helped her to afford getting on the property ladder when she returned to the UK and met her other half.
Let’s talk about the deposit. How much was it and how did you save it up?
The deposit for this house was almost £36,000 (10%) and then we had fees on top of that at around £10,000. We bought the house back in June after selling my one-bedroom flat, which I purchased a few years ago.
In terms of saving for the deposit it was really my expat life that allowed me to get on the property ladder for my first home. The cost of living in some of the countries I lived was so much lower than in the UK. If I hadn’t have had that opportunity at a young age I expect we could still be waiting to get on the property ladder.
How much do you now need to pay per month for your mortgage?
Our mortgage total is about £315,000, so we pay around £1,800 per month including bills.
What was the process of getting a mortgage like?
As I’d already gone through the process of getting a mortgage before, it didn’t seem so bad the second time around. I also had someone else to share the experience with this time, which always makes things easier.
We were recommended a really good mortgage adviser, who found us a very low-interest rate and essentially did all the hard work for us. He also didn’t charge us, as he made his money from the bank. I recommend shopping around for mortgage advisers, as getting a low-interest rate will save you thousands in the long-term.
What made you choose this house?
We’d been looking for a good few months before we found this home. I’d say we viewed at least 10 properties.
We’d actually made an offer on another property, which fell through and was all very stressful, but I’m a great believer in fate and I think that property fell through as we were destined to find this one (all a bit hippy-sounding, I know).
We wanted a house with a bit of character and that’s something this house had in abundance. Even though it’s not a cottage it definitely has a cottage feel to it, with a gorgeous wood-burning stove in the lounge, a country-style kitchen and a roll-top bath in our upstairs bathroom.
One of the main selling points for us was also the immaculately-kept and well-established garden. When we went to view the property it was on a glorious sunny day and I just had visions of us sitting on our rattan furniture sipping sangria!
How have you made the house feel like home?
We’ve redecorated a few of the rooms, mainly the lounge and the two main bedrooms, but the main thing which makes it feel like home is our furniture, the things I’ve collected from my travels, as well as Paul’s Leicester Memorabilia.
As we moved from a one-bedroom house we needed to buy new furniture for almost every room. This essentially meant we could start from scratch in terms of the look we wanted to go for. I wanted to try to keep that cottage feel, but with a modern twist.
To keep the cost down we tried to source our furniture from as many different places as possible, for example Facebook Market Place, Ebay and then a few of the usual department stores.
I found the chests of drawers in my bedroom on Facebook and then up-cycled them. I sanded them down and painted them a dark blue colour to match the wall and then spray-painted the handles.
We also bought some plush cream rugs and throws, which make the house feel cozy in the winter, as well as plenty of candles. As you may notice from the photos I also love plants. We have a plant in almost every room, as they can really brighten a room up.
Did you have to spend a lot on redecorating?
As we moved from a one-bedroom flat we had a lot of furniture to buy so I would say we’ve spent a few thousand pounds on that.
We also converted a disused space attached to the house into a laundry room, which is very handy, as it means no noisy washing machine and tumble dryer in the kitchen.
Do you feel like you have enough space?
There’s only two of us at the moment so we definitely have enough space. But I think in the future we would look to convert the loft into a fourth bedroom with an en-suite.
Does owning pose any problems you didn’t have when you were renting?
When I used to rent I always had the luxury of freedom, because I’m such a wanderlust I could just pack up my things and be off exploring the world at the drop of a hat. With a mortgage you can’t do that.
As I’m getting older, and more importantly (ahem) as I’ve met my other half, that’s less of an issue and I do love our little house, but sometimes on dark dreary mornings I wonder what it would be like waking up on a beach again – never say never!
What are your plans for the future, housing-wise?
We’re very happy where we are at the moment and still have a few more things to do on the house. We like our kitchen but would like to adapt it slightly so it’s a bit more sociable, so we’re looking at putting in a breakfast bar.
Who knows what the future holds… I think further down the line we’d like to either buy a second property as an investment, or a holiday home in some far-flung destination, although I think Paul needs some convincing on the latter idea.
Let’s have a look around.
How to get involved 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@example.com.
You’ll need to have pictures taken of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your room. Make sure you get permission for your housemates! 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.