What I Own: Natel, 28, who saved £17,000 for a deposit on a flat in Dagenham

In our weekly series What I Own, we’re taking a look at how people bought their first homes to try to illuminate the intimidating world of massive deposits and getting a mortgage.

Each week we’ll go inside someone’s owned property, sharing the good bits, the bad, and the actual nitty-gritty of how much buying costs and how they managed it (spoiler: a lot of people managed it by living with family members and thus not having to pay rent for a few years).

Last week we spoke to Lauren, a 32-year-old manager with a one-bed in Sydenham.

This time we’re nosing around the property of Natel, 28. Natel currently works as an employer engagement manager for a university, makes vegan nail polish in her spare time, and runs a property podcast with some friends after working as an estate agent for three years.

Four years ago she put down a deposit on a one-bedroom flat in Dagenham.

The big question: The deposit. How much did you need to save? 

So I ended up saving £17,000 for a deposit (which was 10% of the purchase price) and about £2,000 for fees.

After finishing university I moved back home and started working, so I planned to put £1,000 away each month for two years. I set up a standing order so that on payday the money went straight into my savings account before I could touch it. This should have left me with £24,000 but during that time I wasn’t saving for anything in particular, so I went on quite a few holidays.

Looking back I could have been a lot more disciplined but buying a property didn’t cross my mind until my colleague purchased one. We were similar ages and earning similar salaries, so it really brought the idea of property ownership into my mind.

My income varied as a large part of my salary was based on commission. On a great month I could take home more than £2,000, but on occasion It would be less than £1,000.

I didn’t have any help from parents or a partner, although luckily my mother didn’t charge me rent and travel expenses to work were covered so this made it a lot easier to save.

What was the total cost of your home?

The full amount was £152,000. Barking and Dagenham is definitely one of the most reasonably priced boroughs in London.

What was the process of getting a mortgage like?

For my mortgage, I chose to get a broker to do it on my behalf as I knew that banks could only offer a limited range of products. I was aware that I would have even less choice, due to my commission-based salary, than a standard buyer.

The estate agent I worked for trained me extremely well, so I was quite confident and knowledgeable of the process. Although that definitely didn’t prepare me for the emotional roller-coaster I went through!

Did you face any challenges?

Just before I started university, I had fraud happen on one of my bank accounts. I admitted fault as I fell victim to an entrapment call and therefore had to close the account. I opened new accounts at the time and from my understanding everything was fine.

I found my flat about five years later and my broker submitted a mortgage application, however it came back declined and we couldn’t understand why. My broker believed it was down to a distrust over the fraud that happened earlier. I wanted to look into it further, however raising it with the bank would have taken weeks. Which would’ve meant losing the flat.

It was a stressful situation that really took its toll. However, my colleagues gave me great advice and lead me to another broker that sourced a new lender. Again this was difficult as some lenders won’t consider all of your commission because it’s not guaranteed. In the end I purchased the flat and later managed to resolve the issue with the bank.

How much do you now need to pay per month?

I re-mortgaged last year, so that brought the cost down quite significantly. The mortgage is about £420 and the bills are about £330 so £750 in total.

How did you find the flat?

I found the flat on Zoopla. I only ever did one viewing of the flat before I purchased.

Being an estate agent I knew I had to move quickly if this is what I wanted. I chose this flat as it was the best-conditioned flat I’d seen for the price in the area and it has a lot of natural light thanks to the dual balconies and it was a walkable distance to the station. So it was a win-win.

Why Dagenham?

Initially I was looking further out into Essex as they offered decent properties within my budget. However when this property came up it was relatively close to my family home so I grabbed the opportunity to stay local. I literally made an offer on the same day as I hadn’t seen anything similar in the area. Also there hadn’t been much development in the area at the time, which meant it had a lot of potential for growth in the future.

What did you learn about buying a place from working as a real estate agent?

My manager and colleagues at the time were so supportive which really helped, as they passed on a lot of good advice from their own experiences, such as checking if the property was previously rented. If it was, there may be gas and electricity safety certificates that the owner may share with you, for example.

Ultimately the most valuable lesson that I learned is to get a good solicitor, whether you’re a buyer or seller. Many deals fall apart at the legal stages and it can be costly. A property is one of the most expensive things that you will ever own so make a good investment in your solicitor. If you were facing going to jail, for example, you wouldn’t just choose the first solicitor that you found online.

So make sure you do your research, speak to the solicitor and read reviews. Make sure that they are familiar with the area that you’re buying/selling in and the type of property. We discuss this in a lot more depth on our podcast.

How have you made the flat feel like home?

The first thing I did was change the wallpaper as although the flat was in good condition, it just wasn’t me.

Obviously the first thing I purchased was a bed but over time, I changed the carpets and painted some of the rooms.

The previous owner had left some fixtures behind such as the towel rack and massive wardrobes. I wanted to do a whole refurbishment and to get a new kitchen as I hate washing up and I really wanted a dishwasher. However my finances brought me back to reality, quickly!

I had to replace the fridge freezer and the washing machine as I found out they didn’t work particularly well.

Apart from the carpets, I did most of the redecorating myself such as putting up the majority of the wallpaper and painting the rooms. I did get some help from family and friends with things like putting up the TV, putting the sofa together and getting all of the old wallpaper off.

That reduced the cost significantly, but the wallpaper was tough to get right. I definitely wasted some money when I ripped through half a roll of paper.

Do you feel like you have enough space?

Yes, I have quite a lot of floor space which makes it feel quite open, the bathroom is unusually large. Although the bedroom could be a bit bigger.

Does owning pose any problems you didn’t have when you were renting?

Apart from during university I haven’t rented before. I guess the only downside is if something breaks, I have to fix it!

What are your housing plans for the future? Do you want to stay in this flat forever or are you planning to move again?

I definitely want a house in the future, but I wouldn’t want to sell my flat as there is a lot happening in the area right now. I’m in the process of looking for a BTL (Buy to Let) property. So I’ll do that first before I make any future decisions.

Wise. Let’s take a look around. 

How to get involved 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 need to have pictures taken of your kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom, plus a few photos of you in your room. Make sure you get permission for your housemates! 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]


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