Meet the couple who’ve upgraded their home...
And their lives
“It’s funny to think that something as simple as a dining room table could make such a difference to my life,” laughs James Woods. “For 15 years I’d been without one. There wasn’t space in the flat I’d lived in. It was one of the first things I bought when I moved into my new house. Now, I’m enjoying cooking and eating meals at the table instead of on my lap. It’s something of a novelty.”
Two months ago 36-year-old James and his partner, Andy (45), left their one-bedroom rented flat in Letchworth and moved into a newly-built, two-bedroom house. “We’d been renting for so long and desperately wanted to buy a place of our own,” says James, who’s a Sales Account Administrator for a medical firm.
“But the prices were out of our reach. We’d thought about shared ownership but hadn’t looked into it properly. Then, as the area where we lived got worse and my dad, who’s disabled, could no longer manage the stairs to our first-floor flat, we knew we had to find something better.”
Looking for a new place
James searched online, keeping an eye out for any shared ownership properties coming onto the market. In January 2018, he spotted a new development being built in Langford where bpha were offering homes for shared ownership. “The houses weren’t even built but we loved the spec, and the village setting really suited us,” explains James.
“We registered our interest and one of the sales advisors from bpha contacted us. They explained everything in detail. It looked like we could actually afford to buy a two-bedroom house. So, feeling excited, we went ahead and reserved a home!”
It took just over two months for James and Andy to complete their purchase. They bought a 40% share in their home and now pay rent on the remaining 60%.
“bpha explained everything in detail. It looked like we could actually afford to buy a two-bedroom house.”
Support from bpha
“The whole process was straightforward. It was just a case of going through our finances and then looking for the best mortgage deal. bpha suggested we use a company who specialised in mortgages for shared ownership buyers. They searched the market and found us a good deal. It was just like having our own financial advisor,” added James.
The couple only needed a 5% deposit but they were able to pay a bit more thanks to a financial gift from Andy’s mum. All in all – with the mortgage repayments and the rent to bpha – they’re now paying around the same as they did for their one-bedroom rented flat.
A better quality of life
James points out: “The house has made such a difference to our lives. We’ve got a downstairs toilet which is such a bonus. It means my dad can visit us without worrying about the stairs. And Andy’s mum can come to stay because we’ve now got a spare room.
“The freedom and extra privacy we have is something I’ve come to really appreciate. Living in a flat, we were always conscious of the neighbours around us. And you forget what it’s like to have a garden. When we moved into our house, the garden was ready-turfed with a path and there was even a new shed! We’ve since added a patio and it’s been so relaxing sitting outside in the warm weather we’ve been having. To celebrate moving in, we’ve just had a barbecue for family and friends – the first in 15 years!”
“When we moved into our house, the garden was ready-turfed with a path and there was even a new shed!”
Meeting the neighbours
So what does James think about moving to a new development? “There’s a real sense of wanting to get to know your neighbours here. People are moving in all the time – we’re all new, so it makes things easier. The community is planning a get-together barbecue on the village green soon and that will give us a chance to meet more people.”
James says that without shared ownership, there’s no doubt that he and Andy would still be renting. “With house prices the way they are, this has been the best option for us. We’ve got so much more for our money now in terms of space and privacy. And the fact that we own a good chunk of our home really is the icing on the cake. We plan to staircase and buy more shares in the future until we own our home outright. It’s simply the best thing we’ve ever done.”
If you’d like to find out more about shared ownership go to www.bphaoptions.org.uk