If you’re new here, this is What I Own – Metro.co.uk’s weekly homeowner series.
We take you inside the homes of people who have managed to get on the property ladder and talk to them about mortgages, deposits and more.
This week we are chatting to Natalie – who lives up north. She has a five-bed home in Leeds that she bought with her partner, and enjoys posting updates of her property over on her Instagram account @thisblackgateshome.
This is what she had to say about her buying experience…
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Natalie and I’m 39. I live on the Leeds/Wakefield border with my boyfriend Damian, and we have his two daughters and my two sons here half of the time each. I work as a digital performance analyst for an insurance company, I’ve been with them for just over 10 years, working previously in their Leeds office but now I’m home-based (and have been since the pandemic).
We own a four/five-bedroom detached property, which was built around 1980 but extended and modernised about five years ago.
Where is your property?
Our home is in Tingley, which is right on the Leeds border with Wakefield. We both lived in adjacent towns until recently, so knew the area fairly well, but we have found that we love living here.
It’s a lovely community with friendly people, it’s quiet – other than the chatter from the school next door during term time (which I love) – and we benefit from having countryside on our doorstep while still being within easy reach of the neighbouring town/city centres of Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford.
When did you move in?
We moved in at the beginning of June this year, so we’ve lived here for just a few months – although it already feels like longer.
How much did the property cost?
We bought the property for £370,000 – £5,000 under the asking price.
How much was your deposit?
Our deposit was £132,000, or about 35%, which was raised from the sale of our previous respective properties, plus some savings.
How much do you pay per month – mortgage and bills?
It costs us just under £1,000 per month in mortgage payments and about another £450 in household bills (excluding food and petrol, etc).
How did you save for your deposit?
Our deposit mostly came from the sale of our previous respective properties, but we had both been fortunate to continue working full-time throughout the Covid pandemic. So with no travel, parking, days out, holidays etc to spend money on, we were able to put a good amount of money away every month towards buying a house, including stamp duty – although we were lucky that the freeze was extended so we didn’t have to pay this on completion.
I also run a small Etsy business and during the pandemic I extended my product range to include face coverings, which brought in additional income.
How did you find the process of getting a mortgage?
Getting our mortgage was fairly straightforward as we used a trusted broker, who dealt with the process for us. They compared the deals available to us, but in the end they found it was most cost effective to stay with Damian’s mortgage provider due to the early repayment charges, so we ported his existing mortgage and took out an additional product to borrow the difference.
We will review things when the fixed terms are up and shop around to get the best deal, as we’d like to reduce the term in the future.
Where did you live before this – were you renting or living with family?
Before we moved in here, Damian was living just a couple of miles away in the house he bought 15 years ago. I was living a couple of miles the other way in a rented flat, having split up from my ex husband two years previously and moved out of the house we owned together until the time was right to sell.
This house purchase took so long due to delays elsewhere in the chain (six months) that I ended up living at Damian’s house for three months before we completed, as my landlady sold the flat quicker than we completed, and all my stuff went into storage. So it was a hectic time and cramped with all of us in his three-bedroom house but worth it in the end.
What made you want to buy rather than renting?
We wanted to buy rather than rent as the cost of rent on a property the size we needed would have been far more than a mortgage payment, and we had the equity to be able to buy. We’ve both been long-time homeowners, and having moved home three times in as many years I wanted the security of having a settled home, especially for the children’s benefit – as did Damian.
I was originally going to buy a three-bedroom property on my own, but Damian and I had been together for over a year at that point and realised that we wanted to live together, so it made more sense financially to do that a little sooner than originally planned rather than buy, sell and buy again within a short time. Who said romance is dead!
How did you find this property?
We found this property while searching on Rightmove online, to see what homes were available locally within our budget. We weren’t ready to proceed at that point, as we’d accepted an offer on Damian’s property but not on mine yet, so we saved it for later and as soon as we were eligible we arranged a viewing, looked around it the next day and made an offer minutes later, which was accepted.
We found out it had previously been under offer but that sale had fallen through and it had come back to market, so we were really lucky to get it. We loved the house because it was so spacious and well laid out, had a gorgeous new open-plan kitchen and dining area with bi-fold doors out to a large garden, had lots of storage and there was scope to convert the garage into an additional living space – because Damian was adamant he wanted a separate living room and cinema room/man cave.
The property was in our ideal location and also needed very little immediate or major work, which would allow us to use our little spare time to just simply decorate it to our own taste.
How have you made the property feel like home?
Although we haven’t been here too long, we’ve already made some big changes to the decor. I couldn’t redecorate while renting, so when we moved in I took two weeks off work to get stuck in. My first task was to decorate my eldest son’s room, which had previously been used as an office and was bright lime coloured and very tired. Then I decorated our dressing room and made half of it into a home office for me to work from. We also transformed our master bedroom, as the blue wallpaper was so cold and dark, so we added wood panelling and painted it in light neutral shades which has made a huge difference.
We’ve also redecorated the entrance hallway where the wallpaper was torn and stained, repainted the feature wall in the kitchen to match our dining furniture and colour scheme, plus added splashback tiling in the kitchen and utility room to make them more practical for cooking and cleaning. I haven’t really stopped. We’ve done most of it ourselves but we are really lucky that Damian’s brother is in the trade, so anything too tricky we are able to enlist his help with.
What’s the inspiration for your interior decor style?
I love neutral, Scandinavian and Boho styles and you can see where these have lent inspiration to the room transformations we’ve already completed. I get most of my inspiration from Instagram, and some of the amazing accounts and hashtags I follow.
There’s an amazing home decor community online, all supporting and encouraging each other. I save my favourite images to refer back to later, and create mood boards for each room during the planning process to help me picture things. Although the longer I wait to do a room, the more my ideas change.
What’s your favourite room?
My favourite room is our master bedroom. I’d originally planned to paint one wall dark green, but after moving in I found the room doesn’t get much natural light so I completely changed my plan and instead used lighter, neutral colours. I’m still in love with the wall panelling we added and the rattan accessories. I added a few black accessories to match my boyfriend’s divan bed and headboard, and even though I ended up recovering those to further brighten the space I still love the finished look.
Do you feel like you have enough space?
We chose this house for the space it offers – we wanted the kids to each have their own bedroom and for everyone to be able to enjoy different shared spaces too. And it certainly offers that. The kitchen is the heart of the home, it’s perfect for entertaining, eating and hanging out in – it has enough space to extend our dining table to seat up to 10-12 – and the current living room is large enough for us all to watch a movie together.
Do you have plans to change the property?
My next project is to paint the magnolia-coloured hallway and staircase to brighten the area, add some wall art and swap the carpet for a stair runner to add interest. We also want to remove a large inset kitchen cupboard and build a custom-made bar. Meanwhile, our biggest plan is currently at the architectural and planning stage and that will see the garage converted into a living room and office space for Damian to work from home.
Once that’s done, the current living room will become a cinema room and man cave to watch movies on a large screen and play arcade games in. When we bought the house, we made a deal that I could do whatever I wanted to every room as long as Damian could have and design his man cave, and I was more than happy with that.
Are there any problems with the property that you’ve had to deal with?
We’ve been lucky in that we haven’t encountered any major problems with the property. Because it’s new to us but not a new property, we’ve mostly been sorting the odd bit of snagging and redecorating where the paintwork has become tired or to lighten the space.
The only thing that was urgent when we moved in was to install a full length shower screen, as the half screen that was there previously meant water was covering the en suite bathroom floor and occasionally leaking through the kitchen ceiling when the shower ran. The previous screen looked good, but just wasn’t practical.
What do you want people to know about buying a home?
Buying a home can be slow and stressful, especially when selling two to buy one and being in the middle of a double chain – I’d recommend avoiding doing that if possible.
But the most important thing to remember is to stay positive, keep communicating directly with all parties, don’t be afraid to push for updates and just know that all of the stress is worth it and quickly forgotten once you get the keys.
What are your plans for the future, in terms of housing?
We plan to stay here long term, as our children range from 16 down to 7 years, so we will likely need this much space for quite a few years yet and that’s why we are keen to do what we want to make the property work for us. Then in the future, once the kids have grown up and left home, we might downsize – who knows.
Shall we take a look around?
Do you want to feature 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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@example.com.
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