The length of a marriage. The age Juliet is about to celebrate when she gets it on with Romeo. The number of years since the Dog Translator was invented (yes, really).
Or, in my case, the length of time spent renting – three years in Hull then 11 years in London.
Countless dealings with dodgy landlords, sloppy housemates, one cockroach infestation (never live above a KFC, guys), and two doses of steroids from mould-induced asthma later, I decided I wanted to buy. But I knew no one would give me a mortgage. No one, until I heard those two magic words at a christening. Not “bless you,” but SHARED OWNERSHIP.
A teacher friend had managed to buy a two-bedroom flat in LONDON with her actor husband and NO SAVINGS. What?!?! Shared ownership sounded like something I needed to know more about.
Shared ownership works by getting a mortgage on a share of the total worth of the property, starting at 25% and going up. You pay a reduced rent on the 75% and also a monthly service charge. It is aimed at ‘low and modest income earners to buy or rent at a price they can afford.’ It’s much cheaper than private renting but overall more expensive than ‘normal’ mortgages.
My sister’s friend bought a two-bed in Angel with just a £2,000 deposit! The stuff of dreams.
What they don’t advertise/mention in the small print is the minimum income often required (e.g: £45,000) or if you are on a lower income, the deposit that is required (for my modest income, looking at a place worth up to £400,000 I was told I would need a £200,000 deposit – obviously if I had that I would buy normally, most people don’t have that sort of money lying around!).
One housing association admitted to me shared ownership is not just for couples but as most of the competition are couples, singletons don’t really stand a chance!
Cue seven months of viewings, sending off tax returns, letters from banks, financial statements, letters from mum/dad/granny/granddad who are all giving me a contribution (as part of my inheritance) early to add to my savings. I also saved hard from working 80-hour weeks last year so now I have a (substantial for shared ownership) £26,000 deposit. I also did what most self-employed people do when trying to buy – did a tax return without claiming any expenses (including my agent’s commission for all acting work which is usually 20% plus VAT). A joyous half an hour of tax return heaven (rather than the usual three-day hell) but this left me an additional £80 tax to pay a week for the next year and a half so that my earnings were boosted on paper…!
I also did what most self-employed people do when trying to buy – did a tax return without claiming any expenses.
What next? Lots of nos. Lots of “nothing wrong with your application, it’s just competitive.” Lots of couples, I suddenly realised, were all looking around these flats before or after me. I asked for a straight answer – “am I not getting these flats because I’m not buying with a partner?” Eventually one housing association admitted to me shared ownership is not for couples but as most of the competition are couples, there’s not really a lot of chance getting a property until you are. I’ll just put that on my match.com profile then? Romantic…
Most recently, a financial adviser has said I should aim to get a two-bed worth £225,000 in total (apparently they exist in London but I haven’t found it yet…).
If you manage to tick one, or all of the below boxes, shared ownership could be for you. I want it to be for me, but I am not sure it is…
1. High earner, no savings or cannot rely on family bank (I don’t know anyone who has bought a home without family help).
4. Key worker (e.g: working in local hospital).
Take a look at this website for information about potential homes near you.