NEWS… BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
Welcome back to another instalment of What I Own.
We’re up north this week, chatting to Becky about her Manchester home.
She moved in during the pandemic, after previously renting in south London – and says buying in the capital ‘wasn’t an option’ on a single income.
Becky now pays £1,075 on her mortgage and bills – this is what she has to say about her buying experience.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Becky (@mymanchome), I’m in my mid-thirties and work in healthcare as a lead user experience designer. After a decade in London, I moved back to my hometown of Manchester a couple of years ago.
Where is your property? What do you think of the area?
I’m in the heart of Manchester city centre, specifically the Gay Village. It’s an amazing, vibrant area. It genuinely feels like being on holiday when the sun is shining. There are great places to go out, lovely green spaces (Sackville Gardens and Vimto Park), and there’s a real sense of community.
Unlike a lot of the city centre, it doesn’t feel too gentrified and still has its edge. It’s also really well-connected in terms of public transport. Everywhere seems to be no more than 45 minutes away, even the Peak District.
When did you move in?
November 2020, four months after I viewed it.
How much does your property cost?
It was advertised at £235,000 and I paid £230,000.
How much was your deposit?
What is the monthly cost of living here now; both mortgage and bills?
Everything comes to about £1,075 a month right now. I was accidentally lucky enough to fix my energy tariff at a good rate until 2024, so I won’t have to deal with that nightmare for a while.
I’ve started a higher-paid job since taking out my mortgage, so I’m also in the fortunate position of making monthly overpayments. I’d rather save on interest in the long-term and it’s still less than I paid per month in rent.
How did you save up for your deposit?
I’ve worked since I was 16 and have always been a saver. Owning my own home was something I aimed for as soon as I started earning. At first it feels impossible, but every penny really does help and the more you see your pot grow the more motivating it is to keep going.
Eventually myself and an ex-partner bought a flat in Stoke Newington, London, and when we split up he bought me out. I locked that money in a high interest account and continued saving too. I’m really proud that I managed to squirrel so much away.
What was the process of getting a mortgage like for you? Did you find any parts challenging?
Considering we were in the middle of a global pandemic everything was surprisingly straightforward. I’ve always been sensible with money so have a good credit rating, which obviously helps. I used a comparison site to find the best product for me then the entire thing was done online, which made it really easy to keep track of.
Where did you live before this – were you renting or living with family?
I’d been back to renting in South London for three years when Covid hit. For the sake of my mental health I didn’t want to spend the foreseeable future alone in a studio flat, and worried about being stuck 200 miles away if anyone got sick, so I spent the first lockdown with my family in Oldham. That planted the seed to move back up north more permanently.
What made you want to buy rather than renting?
The main thing for me was wanting to make a space my own. I was sick of never knowing how long I’d live somewhere and feeling like I was throwing money away paying off someone else’s mortgage. The usual reasons.
Despite having a healthy deposit, buying anything in London on my single income just wasn’t an option. ‘Temporarily’ moving back here reminded me how many good things Manchester has going for it, and after literally 10 minutes looking at property online it seemed the obvious place to both live and invest. You get so much more for your money and the fact there was a stamp duty holiday made the timing perfect (so I suppose this government has done one good thing).
My friends and family were shocked, because I loved living in London, but it had never necessarily been forever and it’s only two hours away by train. I reasoned that once we were through the worst of the pandemic I could always move away again and rent this place out if I ended up regretting it.
How did you find this property? What made you choose it?
I arranged viewings for two properties and this was the second. My sister came with me and we instantly made subtle heart eyes at each other over our face masks. I think there’s a lot that’s love/hate about my flat, but even seeing something controversial like glass bricks as soon as you walk in sold it to me, because I love them.
I made an offer but after a few days of negotiations the owners decided to sell to friends and removed the property from the market.
Weirdly, I wasn’t disappointed. People say “when you know, you know” and I just knew this would be my home. When that sale fell through the vendors came back to me and that was it.
How have you made the property feel like home?
Everyone said it would take ages to decorate etc, but I love interior design and DIY and once I’ve got an idea in my head I’m too excited not to go for it. I’ve had to consciously slow down, to live with the space and feel what will work, but I’ve now stripped wallpaper, painted walls, removed carpet, sanded stairs, upgraded radiators, painted kitchen cabinets, replaced handles, added murals, laid flooring, hung shelves, mirrors, and artwork, and installed essentials like CCTV and a beer bottle top catcher.
I already had some furniture and there are personal items everywhere: photos, prints and cross-stiches from friends, and treasures discovered while travelling (I generally get things from flea markets etc, rather than buying traditional souvenirs). People like to leave messages on the chalkboard wall and, most of the time, it’s not too rude.
I decorate for myself. This is my home, and if and when I come to sell it whoever lives here next can make it theirs.
What’s the inspiration for your interior decor style?
I’d maybe describe myself as a mini maximalist, because I like a blank slate but have quite a lot of retro tat and colourful clutter like LEGO and Disney toys. It’s organised chaos though — everything has its place.
I love mid-century modern design and vintage furniture is my favourite for many reasons — quality, character, lack of impact on the environment, plus the hunt is so fun.
It absolutely had to be a converted warehouse for me and I’m lucky that my flat has original Victorian features, like the cast iron columns and (restored) sash windows. I adore the exposed brick and ceiling beams. The building is actually Grade II listed and a piece of Manchester’s industrial history, how amazing is that?!
What’s your favourite room and why?
Definitely the open-plan living space. There are evenings when I’m curled up on the sofa and I’ll glance around and can’t believe this is my home. Despite the dream, I never thought I’d get to live somewhere like this.
Do you feel like you have enough space?
Plenty! I moved around a bit in London, but my last flat there would fit into my bedroom here.
Do you have plans to change the property?
There’s always a project brewing. I’d like to make the hallway brighter and more inviting, want to add trim to the interior doors to make them look less 90s and more fitting to the age of the building, the bathroom isn’t to my taste – but as it’s totally liveable, I’ll probably just do an environmentally-friendly DIY job, like on the kitchen.
Are there any problems with the property that you have to deal with?
There is a management company who oversee most things, but I wish they’d let us have pets.
And all the lightbulbs seem to be going at once and I’ve no idea how to replace recessed downlights yet… a job for next week.
What do you want people to know about buying a home?
While it is lovely being able to make a place truly feel like yours, there are downsides to buying a home. If my boiler breaks it’s up to me to do something about it. I keep a pot to one side for potential emergencies like that.
And check your lease, if you’re a leaseholder, because owning your home doesn’t necessarily mean you can do whatever you want. We aren’t allowed to keep animals so I have to settle for dog-sitting.
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What are your plans for the future, in terms of housing? Do you plan to stay here long term?
This is my home, and I absolutely love it, but my partner, Tim, and I are saving to buy somewhere together.
I’d like to keep hold of this place too, if at all financially possible, but whether I’ll have to sell this flat in the next few years I’m not sure.
With the prices of everything going up, and all the changes with the government, we’ll have to see how the numbers and stamp duty etc look at that point.
Shall we take a look around?
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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