What I Own: Rhian, who pays £950 a month for the mortgage on her Dunstable house

This is Metro.co.uk’s series What I Own – where we chat to a different homeowner every week about getting on the property ladder.

Last time we spoke to Tom, who bought his Winchmore Hill flat with Help to Buy.

This week we are hearing from Rhian – who bought her Bedfordshire home with her partner two years ago, after selling her shared ownership property.

Rhian got the keys in March 2020 – just days before lockdown – and this is what she has to say about her buying experience…

Tell us about yourself Rhian…

I am 32 years old and I am a digital content creator working for a technology company. I’m currently based in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire, having moved from Watford – where I lived for the first 30 years of my life.

I live with my fiancé Luke, who I bought the house with, and our two 8-month-old kittens, Thor and Loki.

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

Our property is in Houghton Regis, which is part of Dunstable in Bedfordshire, and about 10-15 minutes from Luton airport (which is how people tend to know where it is). We live on quite a quiet road with a dead-end just past our house.

We didn’t know much about the area when we first came here because we moved 30 minutes away from where I’d always loved – due to affordability. But I love it, there’s everything we need here and we’re a half-hour drive from Watford and my family and Milton Keynes.

And the train station, which is a 10-minute drive away, can get me into London in 40-50 minutes – so it’s a great location.

When did you move in?

We got the keys to our property on the first day of official lockdown, back in March 2020, but we spent five months renovating the property before officially moving into it in August 2020.

How much does your property cost?

We paid £345,000 for the property, but it was originally up for £375,000.

How much was your deposit?

I don’t remember the exact amount but I believe it was between £57,000 and £59,000.

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

We pay £950 a month for our mortgage, and for our household bills (council tax, water, electricity, gas, household insurance and internet) we pay an additional £500 – although with the prices of energy going up this is likely to increase.

How did you save up for your deposit?

I owned a shared ownership property, which I bought in 2012, when I was 22 years old and I lived there for seven years before selling it in February 2019. So I was quite lucky that I made a good profit from selling the property, which paid for the deposit.

After selling my flat, me and my fiancé moved into my parents’ house for about a year so we could save some additional money for the renovations we knew we’d want to do when buying a house, and to allow us not to have a chain.

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

There were challenging parts because my fiancé is self-employed, so he had to provide a lot more information, such as three years of tax history. Thankfully, his income isn’t too varied so it wasn’t too much of an issue – but it was a lot more paperwork. And whereas my income was classed on my salary (pre-tax), his income was looked at after expenses – so it seemed like he earned quite a lot less than me.

Because I had been through the mortgage process before, I knew roughly what to expect – so it wasn’t too challenging. It only got challenging as we were getting close to exchanging – because of the pandemic.

I did worry that we might lose the house/not be allowed to move due to lockdown – and if things had been 1-3 weeks later (when they stopped house moves) we might have.

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

As I mentioned above, right before buying – and while we were renovating – we were living with my parents after moving out of my shared ownership flat.

What made you want to buy rather than renting?

I’d seen first-hand the benefits of buying, as opposed to renting, and knew that when we bought something together that we wanted it to be our own and not be paying someone else’s mortgage.

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

We had been searching on Rightmove for months, even before we were in a position to buy to work out what we could afford/what was out there etc. And we saved everything we could – so when we were ready to start viewings we knew what was still available.

We decided to do a drive-by of about 20 houses one week to see them from the outside/what type of roads they were on etc, before booking viewings. This eliminated about half of the houses as they were on busy roads or the parking was bad. Then we arranged viewings of the ones we liked for the following weekend and our house happened to be the first one we saw.

I think we chose it because it ticked every single box we had and it offered even more than we wanted. Plus it was within our budget.

How have you made the property feel like home?

Because my fiancé and his dad are incredibly handy people we were able to fully renovate everything in the house (doors/floors/trims/new kitchen/new bathroom/ new downstairs loo/new en-suite/ knocking down a wall/ putting a wall in).

Everything other than the external doors and windows is new, so we were able to do everything as we wanted it.

We are getting ready to do a garage renovation, so some of our rooms are currently storage space but once that and the garden is done it will be complete.

What’s the inspiration for your interior decor style?

This was one area I struggled with a bit because there’s so much on Pinterest and online to work out what you will like.

We didn’t really go for a decor style as such, we just picked colours and pieces we liked and then worked our way from there. I loved the idea of minimalism but that’s not for me and all of our stuff.

What’s your favourite room and why?

Probably my office, as it’s the one space in the house which is 100% my own and I can put all of my own tastes and decor in – plus it’s a room I spend a lot of time in, as I still work from home four days a week.

But I do also love our bathroom as it’s quite a calming space and is the most recent one to be finished. And knowing how the room looked before it’s had quite a transformation.

Do you feel like you have enough space?

At the moment yes. It’s only two of us and the kittens so there’s plenty of space for us now.

Do you have plans to change the property?

We’re going to do the garage renovation and use the space better. So there will be a utility space in there and an office for my fiancé. Then we do have plans to do the front and back gardens as well.

In time (if we needed to) I think we could extend to the side, or into the loft, but that’s not a plan at the moment.

We are in the process of getting solar power for our property, with the price of energy changing so much it seemed like a good time to look into it.

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

Thankfully, no problems. The survey came back pretty clear with nothing that we needed to do and there were no real issues when we moved in or renovated. I feel very lucky to have been in this position.

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

Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself. Get a mortgage adviser or broker to help with that side- as they’re trained to get the best deals.

And don’t feel like you’re hassling your solicitor by ringing for updates all the time. They deal with loads of clients at the same time and if you leave it to them it may take longer than you’d expect. Ring or email them often for updates.

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

We see this house as our forever home (or at least long-term home) which is why we have put so much into renovating it as we know we’ll be here for a long time.

So we want to complete the projects we’ve started (the garage), move onto the space outside and then do the only things we didn’t do (new windows and external doors).

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]k.

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