I'm a first-time buyer – I bought a £300k home using cash I saved for my wedding after split from fiancé | The Sun

FIRST-TIME buyer Emily Duncan didn't think home ownership was possible after she split with her fiancé after five years.

The 33-year-old business analyst was desperate to find a place in London to call her own as quickly as possible within her £300,000 budget.

After being priced out of the market in south east London, she eventually found the perfect studio apartment in Upton Gardens, London, costing £300,000.

She used the cash she had already saved up for her wedding to put towards her £16,000 deposit instead.

Emily and her previous partner needed to cut back on spending to help save up cash for the big day.

They started meal prepping and batch cooking, saving them around £40 a week on their grocery shop.


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Emily also cancelled her £35-a-month gym membership, instead doing free workouts at home and jogging.

They also hosted dinner parties for their friends as an alternative to spending £70 on an expensive meal out.

When Emily set her heart on buying her own property, she decided to use the government's Help to Buy Scheme.

The government scheme gave budding buyers an equity loan and allowed them to put down a deposit of just 5%.

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You can get up to 20% of the value of your property – or 40% if you live in London – under the scheme.

The loan is interest-free for the first five years – but bad news for any budding buyers, the scheme has now closed.

But there are other schemes available that will give you a helping hand up the property ladder.

The Help to Build scheme offers an equity loan to help you build a home or convert a previously commercial building.

Through the scheme, the government offers you a loan based on the estimated costs to buy a plot of land and build a home or buy a building to convert into a home.

The First Homes scheme means prospective first-time buyers in England can get homes at a 30% to 50% discounted rate compared to market price.

But, if the homeowner decides to sell the property down the line, the discount on the new value will be made available to any future buyer too.

After living between her mum's home in Scotland and her Dad's home in Cornwall for 14 weeks following the break-up, Emily got the keys to her home in May 2022.

The Sun sat down with Emily to see how she went from being a saver to a homeowner for The Sun’s My First Home series.

Tell me about your house

It's a studio apartment in Barratt London’s Upton Gardens development in Newham.

The property is on the site of West Ham's former stadium Upton Park.

The property is open-plan, but there is a dividing wall between the living area and the bedroom.

This makes my bedroom feel slightly separated from the rest of the space and a bit more private.

I also have a big balcony overlooking a shared courtyard.

There is also a private residents car park.

How did you decide on location?

Originally, I wanted to stay around southeast London, but then ended up looking in Battersea.

The cheapest option there was £400,000, which was way out of my budget.

When I came across Upton Gardens, £300,000 price tag was far more achievable, and it wasn’t far from Stratford, which I know very well.

I took this as a sign it was meant to be and booked a viewing in early November.

The move would allow my commute to work to go from more than one one hour to 40 minutes, door-to-door.

Things all moved pretty quickly from there – when I put my mind to something, I go for it.

How much did you pay for it?

The flat was £300,000.

I took out a mortgage of £164,000 over 35-years at a fixed rate of 2% for five years.

My repayments are £550 a month.

I could only afford to buy the flat because I applied for a Help to Buy equity loan.

It's a scheme that helps first time buyers get on the property ladder with just a 5% deposit, even if they borrow enough for a mortgage.

The government will provide a loan of up to 40% of the value of the property if you live in London, otherwise you’ll get 20%.

There’s no interest added onto repayments in the first five years.

You have to buy a new-build in order to be eligible for the loan, but that suited us perfectly.

I received a £120,000 loan.

In the end, I ended up putting down a 5% deposit of £16,000.

How did you save for it?

I previously lived with my ex-partner, who owned a two-bed terraced house that we shared.

I paid him £600 a month in rent that he put towards the mortgage.

Before we split up, my partner and I were engaged, and we were saving for a wedding.

When the relationship ended, I put my half of the money that I had saved for the wedding towards my deposit.

This was around £7,000.

I first ramped up my saving efforts for the wedding in 2018.

To get my finances on track, I set up a standing order so that as soon as I got paid and a chunk of cash went straight into our savings accounts.

This worked out at around £500 a month.

To save more cash, we started meal prepping and batch cooking.

Every Sunday, I would write a food menu for the week and cook everything from scratch.

I made everything with just fresh ingredients like vegetables, meat and herbs and spices, and I would avoid buying ready meals or processed food.

This cut out food bill down from around £100 to £60 a week at the most.

Before we started saving for the wedding, we would spend up to £60 each on a meal out.

Instead of doing this, our friendship circle took it in turns to host dinner parties.

When it came to our turn to host, we would spend around £20 on ingredients and a bottle of wine.

This was a big saving on the cost of eating out.

We also stopped going on expensive holidays, saving us between £1,000 and £3,000 a year.

Instead, we would visit my mum, who lives in Scotland, or my dad who lives in Cornwall.

This way we would only have to spend around £100 on petrol, and we didn't have to fork out on accommodation.

Quitting the gym helped me to save £35 a month.

Instead, I used free weights at home and took up jogging.

After my partner and I split up, I lived with my mum for seven weeks, then at my dad's for another seven weeks.

This allowed me to save around £1,000 towards my deposit because I didn't have any outgoings.

I was also quite lucky because my dad also gifted me £3,000 towards the deposit to help me to reach my target.

How did you afford to furnish it?

Because I was moving into a new build, I wanted all of my furniture to be new too.

I wanted the apartment to feel like it was mine so I just continued on the same saving pattern as we had before to afford the furniture I wanted.

Overall, I spent around £3,000 extra to afford all the furniture that I wanted.

Do you have any advice for other first time buyers?

The prospect of buying a house seemed like a complete no go at the start of the break-up, but in the end, I found it to be a breeze.

Make sure you do your research because the Help to Buy equity loan really helped me.

Saving is mostly about cutting back on little things, and making small lifestyles changes.

Getting a new build was also really easy because it meant there was no chain.

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Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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