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First-time buyer urges 'try shared ownership'

FIRST-TIME buyer Claraine Walker wants to shout a big YES to shared ownership after collecting the keys to her own part-buy, part-rent home earlier this year.

Like a lot of younger people on lower incomes, 22-year-old Claraine had just about given up hope of getting on to the property ladder after many months of searching and frustrating knock-backs from mortgage lenders.

Then she found out about HelpToBuy shared ownership − and in February moved into her new home at Cannock, Staffordshire, after buying a 50% share for around £60,000. It's a cherished dream come true for Claraine, a Moneymates Team Leader with Bromford Support, and she's already saving hard to buy a bigger share.

Would she recommend the part-buy, part-rent route on to the property ladder to other first-time buyers? "Yes, definitely," replies Claraine, pictured below, reeling off a list of advantages that includes:
LOWER deposits - in Claraine's case, about £6,000
SMALLER, more affordable, mortgage payments
OPTION to increase shares as and when she can afford it
INVESTMENT in the longer term for her money
SECURITY rather than "being at the mercy of a private landlord"
FREEDOM to decorate her own home as she wants to

Claraine sofa
And, last but not least: "I can still afford to go on holiday!" Her light-hearted remark reflects the fact that so much time and effort goes into making sure that each buyer's ownership share is truly affordable − and, as Claraine and other first-time buyers are pleasantly surprised to find out, the monthly housing costs are typically cheaper than renting from a private landlord.

"Shared ownership is definitely the most affordable way of buying a house if you have a low income and can't afford the deposit that lenders ask for on the open market," says Claraine, who was promoted from Advisor to Team Leader with Bromford shortly after moving into her new home and spends her working day helping vulnerable customers to manage their financial affairs.

"Many of my friends − especially couples moving out of their parents' home for the first time − go into renting as a short-term solution, hoping it will give them time to save a bigger deposit, but then find it too costly to do so.

"I always recommend that anyone like me should consider shared ownership as the first option. It's quicker and easier to buy and it can be cheaper on a monthly basis than renting from a private landlord. I had rented before and wouldn't consider doing it again. I was always waiting on the landlord, I couldn't decorate how I wanted and it was so expensive I couldn't save. I decided not to renew the lease and walked away with nothing to show for the money I had paid in rent."

Claraine doorstep
Claraine returned to live with her parents − still nurturing the long-cherished dream of owning her own home.
"I'd been saving for a house since I was 18 and spent about a year seriously looking looking to buy something. My biggest obstacle was the fact that my salary alone wasn't enough to cover the mortgage on an average-priced house and I started to believe that I would never be able to do it alone," she recalls.

"After viewing tons of houses and visiting half a dozen financial advisors I was left feeling so defeated that I virtually gave up. Then one day − purely by coincidence − I was driving past a new estate when it was holding an open day. I love snooping around showhomes so I popped in and ended up walking away with an application for shared ownership*. It was a real lightbulb moment."

Like a lot of young people, Claraine didn't know about shared ownership until that moment. This lack of awareness has been in the spotlight with a BBC online poll revealing last week that three-quarters of 18 to 29-year-olds in the UK aren't aware of part-buy housing schemes or don't know how they work and the wider problem for first-time buyers highlighted by TV presenter Cherry Healey in her BBC3 series Property Virgins.

"It's a real shame that more people don't know about shared ownership and how it can help them to get on to the property ladder at a price they can really afford," says Claraine. "My advice to other first-time buyers is really simple: say yes to shared ownership. Go on − give it a try. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain."

If you want to know more about Help To Buy shared ownership, how it works and where we are building part-buy homes, call us on 0845 60 10 878. You can also register for updates and follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Claraine diner

* Claraine bought her shared ownership through a fellow provider of affordable housing. We all operate under the same goverment-backed Help To Buy umbrella aimed at helping first-time buyers and other people who live in England and can't afford to buy a home on the open market.

16 July 2013