After renting for more than two years, a young couple were delighted to be able to save enough money for their dream first home – thanks to lockdown.
Florence Rumney, 29, and her partner Russell Baker, 32, together with three-year-old son Forrest, have finally bought a home of their own after renting a two-bed apartment in Maidstone.
Prior to the first lockdown, Florence, a sales co-ordinator, had been commuting daily into Oxford Street while Russell had been travelling to his job as a store manager in Stratford.
Both admit they wouldn't have been able to afford to buy if they hadn't been forced to spend a prolonged stretch of time at home last year.
As soon as the pandemic struck, Florence started working from home and Russell was put on furlough, and their changed circumstances meant they saved a fortune on transport.
They decided to reallocate the money they were saving on the daily commute towards a deposit.
Do the maths: How much Florence and Russell saved on their home
For a three-bed semi at Woodlands Green
Purchase price: £429,995
5% deposit: £21,500
20% Help to Buy loan: £86,000
Mortgage: approx. £1,231pcm
Estate charge: approx. £26pcm
Monthly spend: approx. £1,257
By utilising Help to Buy and the stamp duty holiday they managed to buy a four-bed semi-detached house at Redrow's central Maidstone development, The Mill at Springfield, in a matter of months.
'We were never intending to purchase a home until we realised how much money we could put into our savings from not commuting to London every day,' says Florence.
'Our season tickets cost approximately £6,000 each, so we were able to put almost all of this money to one side and save a sizeable deposit quite quickly. Our apartment was small with no garden, so we decided it was definitely the right time to buy a house, somewhere with more space.'
The stamp duty holiday — which has been tapering off and ends on September 30 — enabled them to save nearly £5,500.
Using Help to Buy, meanwhile, meant they only needed a 5% deposit, and were eligible for a government loan of up to 20% off the cost of their house, which will be interest-free for the first five years.
Commutability was another key factor for Florence and Russell, and now their working life is returning to some semblance of normality, being able to walk to the station makes a big difference.
Purchasing their home off-plan meant they could customise finishes to their taste. They opted for Silestone kitchen worktops, sliding wardrobe doors, Amtico flooring, a tiled bathroom and turf for the garden.
'Buying off-plan essentially enabled us to personalise our home as it was being built, which was such an exciting prospect and a fun process,' adds Florence. 'Our home is now styled and finished exactly to our tastes, so it feels like it's truly ours.'
Help to Buy is available to first-time buyers of selected new-builds to take out an equity loan of up to 20% of the home's value (40% in London).
There are differing caps on property prices depending where in the country you buy. In the south-east, where Florence and Russell bought, the cap is set at £437,600.
Prices start at £444,995, above the Help to Buy threshold, but HtB is offered at Woodlands Green in Staplehurst, south of Maidstone. Three-bed houses are from £429,995.
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