When Amar and Amy got married, the next logical step was to buy their own home. But with a chunk of their savings gone on an expensive wedding, buying a flat or house with an easy commute into central London seemed a pipe dream. The couple are not alone – a 20% deposit in London is now more than £80,000, according to the Nationwide Building Society. So for Amy and Amar, as well as countless other couples, getting on the property ladder seemed unachievable. “We were both the first in our families to get married, so it was important to us to have a traditional Indian wedding – the cultural elements, the outfits, the big celebration,” says Amy. “But that doesn’t leave a lot for a house.”
Reluctant to rent, the couple moved in with Amar’s family while they planned their next move. They hadn’t heard of the shared ownership scheme until Amy’s brother, who works for a housing association, told them about it. The scheme allows you to buy a percentage of a property – usually a 25%-75% share – and pay rent on the rest. The housing association owns the remaining share, but you’re the homeowner and enjoy all the freedoms – from how it’s decorated and when to sell. The scheme is becoming more popular, with a recent Savills report finding there were more than 13,400 shared ownership completions in 2018. “It really appealed to us,” says Amy, 30, who works in advertising. “The more we looked into it, the better it was. They are new properties in nice locations, and a part of it is ours and we can eventually buy the rest. It was a way of being able to get our own place rather than have to save up forever.”
In December 2019, the couple found their perfect flat in a converted office block in Uxbridge, west London, through a local housing association. Although their plans were inevitably interrupted by the coronavirus lockdown, they got the keys in June – the day before Amy’s 30th birthday – and moved in a few days later. “Location-wise, it works for us,” says Amar, 31. “It’s 10 minutes from the station, close to Buckinghamshire for green spaces, and although it only has one bedroom it’s pretty sizeable.”
The couple’s journey has had its ups and downs. Amar, who was training to be an accountant, was made redundant during lockdown and has now decided to follow his dream of becoming a chef and is in the process of starting his own catering business. Thankfully, being homeowners brings stability and, importantly, has allowed them to move on with their lives. “We really wanted to do it on our own, our parents have done enough,” says Amy. “I think it’s about how you look at it,” added Amar. “Whether you’re a glass half-full kind of person or a glass half-empty kind of person – I’m the former. For us, it really did open up a new chapter.”
For Kieran, 35, and wife Charlotte, 32, the step to shared ownership came after the property they were renting in Whitechapel, east London, was put up for sale by their landlord. “We were a bit bummed out,” says Kieran, a television producer. “It had happened previously, too. It was in 2016 right at the apex of the London housing bubble, so we didn’t know what the next step would be.” It was when Kieran’s mum suggested looking at housing associations that the couple found out about shared ownership, says Charlotte, who works as a nurse. “We didn’t really know what a housing association was. We thought it meant being put on a council waiting list or something.” They did some research and decided that shared ownership looked a good way to get on the property ladder.
“When we first started the process, we thought it was all new-builds,” says Kieran. “We realised what we wanted to do was put as much into the mortgage as we could and pay less rent, and realised that some of the resale properties seemed more suited to this. We had a look and were amazed at what you could get – there were some really beautiful period properties.” They weren’t alone in being drawn to a resale property; according to the Savills report, Rightmove listed about 2,500 secondhand shared ownership properties in the final quarter of 2018 – up 69% compared with the same period in 2010.
After a hiccup with a seller who pulled out, they found the flat they now live in in Wood Green, north London and moved in in August that year. They own a 65% share, with Notting Hill Genesis housing association retaining the rest. Since, they’ve married and had their first child, Oliver, who recently turned one. Though they’re looking to potentially move out of London to the north-west to be closer to family, they credit the shared ownership scheme with getting them on the property ladder. “It’s just so expensive renting and you never feel properly at home,” says Charlotte. “You’re so dependent on your landlord. If you own somewhere you’re in control and that’s really important to me, especially with a child.”
“We genuinely have had a positive experience and would recommend it to anybody,” added Kieran. “We’re looking to move because we want a house and a garden for Oliver to play in, which we can’t afford where we want to live in London, but hopefully this has given us a springboard for the next step.”
To find out more about shared ownership – and if you could be eligible – head to sharedownership.net