Owning property wasn’t on the top of my bucket list, I’ll be honest. I was too busy worrying about getting through my A-Levels and finding a job after university.
Getting on the property ladder was always one of those pipe dreams that I never thought about seriously until I was walking into the flat I now call my own.
Even when I was booking the viewing, I wasn’t seriously thinking about buying it. I was turning 23 in a week – there was no way someone my age would be able to afford a property in St Albans. Not on my salary. Not me.
Well, as you can probably tell from the title, I did it. Not on my own, admittedly, but two 23-year-olds on salaries less than 25k purchased their very own property. But how? I’m getting to that.
I wish this was a story of complete self-sufficiency and discipline, but it’s not. My other half had a leg up in the form of a grandparent dying. Yes, he was handed his half of the deposit by a stroke of luck.
However, while many 22-year-old men would go on a lavish holiday or an epic night out with the cash, my partner didn’t do that. Instead, he saved his money in a stocks and share ISA, not to be touched until we had somewhere to spend it on.
No, not everyone will find a lump sum of cash on their lap, but we’re not ashamed of it and wouldn’t be right telling you this without being 100% honest.
Living at home
I’m hyper-aware that my privilege has had a big hand in my purchase, but I can only tell my story.
After graduating from university in 2016, my parents told me I could live at home, free of charge. This was until I found a job and then it was under the agreement that the money I was saving not paying rent would be saved.
So, that’s what I did. For the first year and a half, I saved as much as I could. Which, given my salary (£18k) and London commute (over £250 a month) wasn’t an awful lot.
But it was all I could manage.
Then, when I moved jobs, said goodbye to my monthly travelcard and hello to a small pay rise (£23k), I put over 60% of my wages away every month.
Doing this, I was able to save up my half of the deposit.
Honestly, I’ve not historically been the greatest at saving. However, I’ve been good enough that I was able to live each month on a small amount (£200) of money.
I didn’t have rent to pay, but the money I was putting away wasn’t being spent.
This, coupled with the fact my other half generously offered to pay for me to do fun things, meant I was able to keep the money I saved in the bank rather than constantly transferring between accounts.
Help to Buy
Buying a new build comes with many pros, one of those being that you can borrow money from the government to help you get on the property ladder.
When we were buying in 2018, the government lent us 20% of the purchase price and in return, we pay them £1 a month for the first five years and after that we pay interest.
When we decide to sell, we’ll give then 20% of the new purchase price, which is fair enough, considering the fact they helped us in the first place.
We could also choose to ‘staircase’ and buy the government’s share of the property so we own 100% of it. But to be honest, given the size of our place (32 sqm), we probably won’t want to live in it past the five-year mark.
Choosing the right property for us
Technically, we could’ve afforded a larger property. We could’ve stretched to a one bed flat in the same building as ours, but it would’ve wiped our savings and we’d have little cash left.
Instead, we opted for the smallest property in the best location. This meant that we could comfortably afford it and let’s be honest, any property we buy next will be bigger!
You don’t have to buy small, but be realistic about your budget and what you can afford. For us, we wanted to live in St Albans, so it meant we couldn’t expect to have a lot of space, so the location was top of the list.
Yes, most of the reasons I’ve been able to buy my first property at 23-years-old is because of handouts and government schemes.
Even though I’ve had help, I also prioritised buying a flat over everything else. We could have chosen to use the inheritance to go travel the world, I could have spent every penny of my paycheck at ASOS and we could have chosen not to buy a property. But we didn’t.
We wanted it enough and we did it and now it’s ours.