How being made redundant helped me boost my deposit for £342k one-bed first home

FIRST-TIME buyer Ash Scott, 34, was left “heartbroken” when she was made redundant just a few days after a visit to the bank about getting on the property ladder.

Without a job she knew her dreams for home ownership would have to be delayed.

But two months later, in April 2018, she’d secured a new job in PR, had pocketed a £10,000 redundancy payout to help boost her deposit and she was back hunting for properties.

Ash told The Sun: “I was pretty shattered when I was made redundant.

“I had to put a pause on looking, and didn’t know what would happen in the future.

“In the end, the redundancy payment meant I could stretch my deposit from 5% to 10%.”

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In the summer of 2018, after five years of strict savings, Ash put down a £34,000 deposit to buy a one-bedroom flat for £342,000 in Richmond, southwest London.

Here she shares her experiences of buying her first home for The Sun’s My First Home series.

What’s your new home like?

It’s a one-bedroom flat on the ground floor, located in Richmond, southwest London.

It’s about 20 years old. There are five flats of the same size in my building.

In terms of space, it’s just what I wanted. The most important thing I never thought I’d get is outdoor space.

How much did you pay for it?

I paid £342,000 for the flat and put down a 10% deposit of roughly £34,000. I put down the offer in July 2018, and then moved in in December that year.

I got a mortgage fixed over five years, with a term of 25 years. My repayments are now roughly £1,000 a month.

Before I bought this place, I was paying around £1,250 for a one-bedroom rental flat in Chiswick, west London.

My mortgage repayments are lower than when I was renting, which is always good.

How did you save up for the deposit?

When I hit my late 20s, I decided that I really needed to start saving. I was living by the wage month to month.

Nothing really went into savings and I thought I needed to grow up a little bit.

I wish I’d been one of those people to put away £10 a month since I was 13 years old. But it just wasn’t me. If I had it, I spent it.

But from that moment when my wage came in, I started putting away £500-£1,000 a month.

I did that for several years. I was still trying to enjoy life and do everything else, but I had to be quite strict with myself.

Train fares are expensive so I wouldn’t travel to see people as much, meaning I didn’t visit friends and family outside London as often.

I also cut back on takeaways and just cooked more at home. Plus, I got family and friends to travel to see me for a change.

Another thing is that I moved around quite a lot to find cheaper rent. I would leave houses to live in places that were slightly cheaper.

When I decided I had a sensible amount saved up, I went to the bank to speak to a mortgage advisor on a Saturday.

On the following Wednesday, I was told I was being made redundant from my job.

I was kind of heartbroken because I didn’t know what would happen in the future. I had to put a pause on looking, as I knew I needed to have a job to get a mortgage.

In the end, I used the £10,000 redundancy payout that I got from that job for my deposit fund.

Initially I was thinking that I had a 5% deposit, but the redundancy payment actually meant I could stretch it to 10%, which made the mortgage repayments a bit cheaper.

It took me five years of hard-saving to get my deposit together.

This included the £10,000 redundancy payout, and more than £20,000 of other savings, a bit of inheritance from family members passing away and ad hoc bonuses from my job.

I’m a higher-rate taxpayer, meaning I earn more than £50,000 a year.

How did you decide on the area?

I’m originally from Scotland and when I moved to London, I sort of always lived in the west.

It’s where I always wanted to be. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to afford a property in this area in Richmond.

The plan is to stay here for a while, I don’t have any plans to move.

It was a rental property before so I've done some work to it, such as paint the walls.

What help is out there for first-time buyers?

GETTING on the property ladder can feel like a daunting task but there are schemes out there to help first-time buyers have their own home.

Help to Buy Isa – It's a tax-free savings account where for every £200 you save, the Government will add an extra £50. But there's a maximum limit of £3,000 which is paid to your solicitor when you move. These accounts have now closed to new applicants but those who already hold one have until November 2029 to use it.

Help to Buy equity loan – The Government will lend you up to 20% of the home's value – or 40% in London – after you've put down a 5% deposit. The loan is on top of a normal mortgage but it can only be used to buy a new build property.

Lifetime Isa – This is another Government scheme that gives anyone aged 18 to 39 the chance to save tax-free and get a bonus of up to £32,000 towards their first home. You can save up to £4,000 a year and the Government will add 25% on top.

Shared ownership – Co-owning with a housing association means you can buy a part of the property and pay rent on the remaining amount. You can buy anything from 25% to 75% of the property but you're restricted to specific ones.

"First dibs" in London – London Mayor Sadiq Khan is working on a scheme that will restrict sales of all new-build homes in the capital up to £350,000 to UK buyers for three months before any overseas marketing can take place.

Starter Home Initiative – A Government scheme that will see 200,000 new-build homes in England sold to first-time buyers with a 20% discount by 2020. To receive updates on the progress of these homes you can register your interest on the Starter Homes website.

Did you encounter any problems with the purchase?

When I started the process, I actually started looking in Twickenham because that was a little bit further out.

Then I found a place in Twickenham that I put down an offer for in May 2018, and it was accepted.

But once I had the survey done, they basically told me to walk away from it.

The estate agent had it on the market for a two-bed. And when the surveyor came round, he said that isn’t a second bedroom.

Therefore it didn’t have the right planning permission and all this sort of stuff. So I was heartbroken.

I had to walk away from it after going through the whole process and start from scratch again. I cut off contact with the estate agent.

Was there anything else you found hard about the process?

I didn’t have a clue about leaseholds and how it all worked, it was quite daunting.

Getting my head around that was hard, and I was doing it by myself. My family doesn’t live in London, so all the places I was seeing I was seeing by myself.

My bank Halifax was really helpful during the process though, and I did use a broker for the mortgage too.

I was also lucky that my landlord was a solicitor, and he gave great advice on how it all worked.

How did you afford to furnish it?

I didn’t have any money after buying the place, but I had to get everything from scratch.

The first thing that I bought was a corner sofa. It was bought on finance.

Because it’s a one-bed flat, I knew that if people stay over I can’t really ask them to sleep on the floor.

So I paid a little bit of a deposit, and I’m still paying it off now. I think it will be paid off in October.

My mum gifted me my bed frame which was really nice of her, and I then bought the mattress.

The sofa and the bed were the two big things for me, but it’s been 18 months of buying stuff.

I was lucky because all of the white goods were left in the property as part of the negotiation, so that was good.

I’ve only just recently bought a freezer. I lived without a freezer for 18 months, which people think it’s ludicrous.

Lockdown forced me to get a freezer, I think it’s actually saved me a lot of money.

What advice would you give to other first-time buyers?

Don’t think that you can’t do it, it can be done. Even in this time of uncertainty and jobs.

As long as you set your heart on it and you set your mind to it, it can be done.

You have to give up a little bit of the luxuries at times, but I guess now is the perfect time to save when people aren’t travelling as much.

Set yourself a target every month and do your best to stick to it. Everyone treats themselves now and again, but don’t be hardened by it.

A hard-working doctor joined a peer to peer savings scheme to help her buy her £335k two-bed first home – but it didn't come without risks.

Meanwhile, another first-time buyer tells us how moving out of London and quitting the gym helped her buy £450,000 first-home.

Plus, a third first-time buyer stopped spending £100 a month on clothes and shoes to help him save up for his £315,000 one-bedroom flat.

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