What I Own: PR consultant Erica, who had a £22,000 deposit with shared ownership

Welcome back to What I Own – our weekly property series.

Today, we are chatting to Erica, who got on the property ladder with shared ownership.

She put down a £22,000 deposit on her London flat and pays 25% of the monthly mortgage.

This is what she had to say about her property journey…

Hello Erica, tell us about yourself.

I’m a 37-year-old freelance PR consultant, originally from Adelaide but now living in sunny Catford (South East London).

Where is your property? What do you think of the area?

Catford is one of the Lewisham hubs, and it’s surrounded by Ladywell, Hither Green, Lewisham (town) and Beckenham. It’s an area I’m familiar with, having lived around the area over the last ten years or so. So when it came to buying, it was high on the list thanks to the green spaces, transport links, and great community projects.

When did you move in?

I bought my flat in May of 2019, but lived nearby about five years ago and always stayed pretty familiar with the area during that time.

How much does your property cost?

I bought my flat through the Government’s shared ownership scheme where I own 25% of it, and pay rent on the rest. As a shared owner though, I am considered the landlord of the property.

It was originally on the market for £315,000 but the final purchase price was £285,000 due to some building work that was scheduled for the site next door (which annoyingly happened during the lockdown when I was working from home while a whole building was being demolished by hand).

How much was your deposit?

I had a deposit of £22,000.

What is the monthly cost of living here now; both mortgage and bills?

As I say, I pay 25% mortgage which is around £225 per month, then I pay rent on the rest which is around £760 per month which includes a service charge for maintenance, grounds keeping, etc.

My bills are around £250 per month for everything – water, electricity, heat and hot water, Internet, and TV subscriptions.

How did you save up for your deposit?

I’d been saving for years when I was working full-time, while flat-sharing with friends who are a couple as that meant we could share a two-bed flat three ways. I had close to £10,000 saved myself, and I received around £16,000 in inheritance money which honestly was the only way I was able to buy. After solicitors’ fees and furniture costs, the rest was my deposit of £22,000.

What was the process of getting a mortgage like for you? Did you find any parts challenging?

So much of it was hard. Most people would agree that £22,000 is a lot of money, but it was nowhere near enough needed to buy something without utilising one of the Government schemes.

Most lenders were only offering me around £100,000 to borrow, based on my full-time salary, so shared ownership was the route I chose to take with what I could borrow. It’s not ideal, and selling a shared-ownership property comes with its own challenges too, so I try not to think too far ahead.

I used a mortgage advisor, as I am not confident about borrowing at all, so that was the biggest help as it really made me realise what I could buy based on income and outgoings.

From there though, the whole buying process is a minefield. Solicitors who don’t communicate, agents who just want to get rid of properties, and trying to navigate the timing of it all so you’re not left with nowhere to live was all just very stressful. I will not be doing it again any time soon.

Where did you live before this – were you renting or living with family?

I was renting with friends, and before that with a private landlord as a tenant. Both were just stop-gaps while I could save as much as possible, with buying a place of my own being the end goal.

My family are in Australia, so I didn’t have the option of staying with them to stay money, but I totally get why people do it as it’s such a financial windfall.

What made you want to buy rather than renting?

I was just always brought up to think of renting being like throwing money at a wall – you’re paying off someone else’s mortgage, and you have limited to no control over the decision making when it comes to decor, fixtures, etc. and I was sick of being limited to how I could decorate my spaces.

Plus, I was done with living with other people. When looking at the cost of renting a one-bedroom flat vs buying it, it was a no-brainer: buying was more affordable. 

How did you find this property? What made you choose it?

I’d signed up to all the property alerts, and was specifically looking for shared ownership properties, which had its own platform to find them. I would check daily and those that ticked of the majority of my ‘must haves’ I would then go and view.

This flat was actually the first property I ever looked at, but on the day I visited, it was the height of summer, I rushed to the viewing from work, ran up the three flights of stairs, and was in such a bad mood that I stood in the living area while the sun burned through the (lovely) floor-to-ceiling windows and I was like: I am absolutely not living here. I will melt in this flat. On the way out I passed the lift, and cursed myself.

I then looked at a few more properties over the next few months, and then one day in February 2019 I saw the offer had fallen through on this flat and was again open for viewings.

I went back during much milder weather, took the lift up, stood on the balcony which has amazing views of Canary Wharf and thought: yes, this is it.

How have you made the property feel like home?

Well, I’ve filled it with colour, for one thing. It was a magnolia nightmare when I moved in, which was just not going to work for me. It now has shards of my personality and life all over it, with prints and photos I’ve taken on travels, or collected from art fairs, colours on all the walls, and something to look at in every corner.

As I spend so much time here now that I work from home full-time, I had to make sure this was a space I felt comfortable and settled in, and that represented my personality so anyone coming in (or seeing it online) would instantly get an indication of who I am.

What’s the inspiration for your interior decor style?

Umm.. a toddler’s art room? It’s a bit like a rainbow has vomited everywhere, but with more thought? I don’t really know. Colour brings me joy; I wear colourful clothes, I have colourful hair, it only makes sense that I would have a colourful home. 

Certain rooms are inspired by specific things, for example; the green wall in my bedroom was painted after a trip to Sri Lanka, as I was inspired by the calming quality of the plants and trees there; the wallpaper was added later as it was boring to wake up and look at a blank wall and this print reminded me of one of my favourite designers – Kitty McCall.

And the bathroom has no natural light so I wanted to paint it a bright colour to make it a happy, light place and the tiles are stickers that reminded me of Lisbon, which is one of my favourite European cities.

What’s your favourite room and why?

Probably my bedroom, as it’s just such a happy yet calming space. And I upgraded my bed and mattress recently to a proper supportive, comfy mattress, and it’s now just such a wonderful experience being in bed that I seriously look forward to climbing in there at the end of the day, and love waking up to that mural wall.

Do you feel like you have enough space?

Definitely not. It was a fine amount of space for just me when I wasn’t working from home, and when my living area was exactly that. Now it’s also my office, and I now have a little doggo who – while on the small side – still has a lot of things of his own, which clutter the space.

Realistically, I can’t afford anything bigger, despite earning a lot more money than before, because I am self-employed now, and because I have had to start saving for a second deposit from scratch.

Do you have plans to change the property?

There’s only so much I can do to the property without having to get permission from the building association, but there are loads of things I would love to do: re-tile the whole of the bathroom, take out the bath and put in a lovely shower, build in some storage in there as there is none, and pull up all the carpets to lay wooden floor.

Realistically, that money is best saved for a deposit for the next property, while I make small, affordable cosmetic changes that ‘will do for now.’

Are there any problems with the property that you have to deal with?

Mainly the property association who are the world’s biggest scam artists – who I won’t name. They try to bleed us of money for repairs that they can’t show us the receipts of, increase our service charges despite pretty poor maintenance in general of the property, and constantly change the rules without notice.

I really wish I had done my research on this group before I had bought, as they also make selling a real nightmare, and it’s a group I would have actively avoided if I’d know what I was in for.

What do you want people to know about buying a home?

It was the best decision for me, but I know it’s not for everyone.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in buying but isn’t sure they would be eligible, to look at all the options. While this Government is not one I voted for, want, or believe a single word of, there are some great financial schemes on offer to help first-time buyers. Without the shared ownership scheme, I would not be a homeowner.

What are your plans for the future, in terms of housing? Do you plan to stay here long term?

I think I’ll probably be here for the next 3-5 years while I can save for another deposit and until the issues around the EWS1 (cladding) are resolved so I have the option to sell (currently lenders aren’t offering mortgages on properties without an EWS1 certificate, which – surprise surprise – is not high on the agenda of the property association), and then I’d love to buy something bigger. 

The dream would be a two-bedroom property near the coast (St. Leonard’s or Folkestone are the current relocation spots of choice), with a lovely garden for Peanut, and way more natural light and space in general for me.

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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