Owning a home is, for many of us, one of life’s key goals. Our recent study1 uncovered that becoming a homeowner is important to over three quarters of people in the UK. But purchasing your own place is a challenge – especially for the younger generations struggling to get onto the property ladder. In 2015, the percentage of young people aged 20-30 owning their own home fell to 45%: the joint lowest level since 19962.
We interviewed young couple Greg and Emily, and followed their journey of buying their first home together – complete with ups and downs. They revealed how they were able to secure a deposit, the exciting yet daunting move into their new pad, and how they managed to make it their own whilst sticking to a strict budget.
Tell us a bit about yourselves
We’re both 25 years old working in London – Greg as a Product Designer, and Emily as a Graphic Designer. We met at University, and after graduating we planned to save up and buy our first place together. And finally, here we are!
Can you tell us more about your new pad?
It’s in East Finchley, North London and is about a 10-minute walk from the underground station. It’s a good-sized, 1960s one bedroom property, with a separate kitchen (which is rare these days!). The living room has big windows, which make it really bright and airy. There’s also a big storage cupboard, which helps us keep the place looking neat and tidy (Emily also plans to use it as a walk-in wardrobe!).
How did you manage to save up for your deposit?
After graduating, we both moved back home to our parents’ houses, which meant that it was possible to commute into London from home and save up every penny we could! We were both careful with our spending, and opened ISAs to get the most out of our savings. Moving home did feel a bit like a backwards step after being away at Uni. But after two and a half years we had saved up enough money for our deposit, so we’re really pleased that we made that decision.
How did you feel on moving day?
The day we moved in was very exciting, yet emotional! We both ran out of work on a Friday afternoon to collect the keys, and couldn’t wait to get to our new home. However when we arrived, we were completely overwhelmed. We had fallen in love with the place when viewing it, but we turned up to something that looked quite different to how we had remembered. The lack of furniture in the rooms exposed problems we hadn’t previously noticed, such as marks and holes in the walls, grubby-looking rooms, and some questionable DIY jobs! We realised at that point that we had a lot of work on our hands, and coming from our lovely parents’ homes, this came as quite a shock. Emily got quite emotional with the sudden realisation that this was all very real, and it was now our responsibility!
The first night we didn’t sleep very well at all. We were surrounded by all of our belongings packed into boxes and covered in dustsheets, and everything felt extremely unfamiliar. Every little noise kept us awake! Despite this, we knew that all we needed to do was spend some time working hard on the property, and it would start to feel like ours in no time.
What did you unpack first?
The first thing we did was build our bed and make it feel cosy with our bedding and pillows. Having a comfy bed to sleep in after doing DIY all day really helped.
How was your first week in the house?
We both booked a week off work, so we could make the place feel comfortable as quickly as possible. We used this time very efficiently – waking up early and spending the entire day sanding, repairing, painting, cleaning and fitting new appliances. We roped in family and friends for help as well, which actually made the hard work a lot of fun. Emily’s mum spent an entire day scrubbing the bathroom to perfection! Every day, it was so rewarding to see the progress we were making, and with help from a few people we were already making our mark on the place. It only took a few days to make a huge improvement on the property. It was an exhausting change from our usual week spent sitting at a desk, but we really enjoyed getting stuck in.
Do you remember the moment it felt like home?
After about two weeks, all the walls were repaired and we had finally finished painting. We tidied up the rooms, and put up shelves in the living room and pictures up on the walls. This was when it really felt like it was our home and no longer a DIY project!
Where do you both like to enjoy a cup of tea together and relax?
In the evening, the setting sun shines straight through the living room window, and the whole room is bright, warm and cosy. This is our favourite spot to relax together!
What’s your favourite thing about your new house?
It sounds ridiculous, but it would have to be our 1970s-style serving hatch between the kitchen and the living room! It was one of the first details we noticed at the viewings. We love having a separate kitchen, but when friends are over for dinner the hatch means we’re not cut off from all the conversations when cooking! It’s also become a great photo opportunity for when we have friends over – we’ve planned our picture wall around it so from the living room it looks like you’re in one of the frames!
Do you have any other plans for the house, to put your stamp on it further?
We’re still waiting for our sofa to be made and delivered, so at the moment we’re sitting on beanbags and dining chairs, but that’s all part of the fun and it’ll be great once it arrives! We’re also looking for a colourful rug for the living room, which will make the room feel cosier and more homely. We hope to re-tile the bathroom and put in a new shower, but we’ll need to save up for that. In the meantime, we’ll stay on the lookout for hidden gems in charity shops and online!
Greg & Emily: House to home on a budget
Since moving in, Greg and Emily have managed to design their dream home with the help of some hard work and creativity. Read their practical ideas about how to turn a house into a home on a strict budget.
Additional sources: Research carried out by Censuswide research on behalf of Aviva in March 2016, using a random sample of 2,000 adults from across the UK