THEY say buying a house and organising a wedding are two of the most stressful things you’ll ever have to do – and Kirsten Craik would know after saving for both at the same time.
Kirsten, 33, bought her first house with her now husband Bruce, 39, near West Malling for £394,995 in June two years ago.
Gary Stone Kirsten bought her first home in June 2017 with her husband Bruce
Bruce popped the question after two years of dating and, eager to tie-the-knot, the couple set a date for August 2017 – three months after they were due to move into their new house together.
Now faced with paying for a house and a wedding, she upped her saving game – making lunch everyday, switching to a SIM-only phone plan and only buying drinks during happy hour which saved her hundreds of pounds a month.
With every paycheck from her job as a microbiologist in the civil service, she’d put aside £500 a month into savings and left herself with £400 a month to live off after she’d paid for her car and travel costs.
She was also lucky enough to live with her dad which meant her living costs were less than if she’d been renting.
They bought a new build house in Ryarsh near West Malling
Over 10 years, she managed to save £25,000 for a house and moving costs and another £7,000 to put towards paying for her wedding.
Now, the happy couple are expecting their first child in July. We caught up with Kirsten for the My First Home series.
What’s your home like and how much did you pay for it?
I live with my husband Bruce and we bought our house just outside West Malling two years ago in June 2017.
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It’s a newbuild semi-detached house with three bedrooms – two doubles and a single room, which we’ve turned into a nursery.
There’s a garden around the back and we’ve got a driveway but no garage.
We paid £394,995 for our house with a 10 per cent deposit – so that was about £40,000.
Gary Stone The pair decided to get married a few months after they bought their house
Gary Stone Kirsten is expecting a baby in July and converted the small room into a nursery
Bruce and I split the deposit down the middle so I used £20,000 of my savings for the deposit.
How much did you save overall and how did you do it?
All in, I saved around £32,000 over 10 years – £25,000 of that was for buying a house and another £7,000 was for our wedding.
I moved back in with my dad at his home in West Malling after uni, partly because I didn’t like the prospect of paying so much money for a room in a rented house with strangers.
I was earning £30,000 a year, so my take home pay was about £1,800 a month. I made sure that I put at least £500 straight into my savings and tried to live off as close to £400 as I could.
Gary Stone The house is new build, semi-detached with three bedrooms
Gary Stone The family have been living there for two years now and plan to stay for at least another five
The rest of my salary went on paying rent to my dad, my car, petrol and things like my phone bill.
Because I was always saving, I didn’t have to cut back on much as I never really spent too much in the first place. I never took out anything like a gym membership because I couldn’t afford to.
I stuck to only buying drinks during happy hour after work in London and often offered to drive to nights out with mates so that the night would be cheaper.
I’d also take out cash when I went out so that I wouldn’t overspend.
I made lunch every day to save me between £5 and £10 a day, adding up to about £200 a month.
Gary Stone Kirsten has been saving to buy a house since she was 21
Gary Stone Kirsten had to pay extra stamp duty because Bruce already owned a flat
I didn’t upgrade my phone either so I was only paying for the SIM card to make my phones bills much smaller.
I cut down on clothes shopping too and stuck to the sales. Oh and I also left getting my haircut longer so I didn’t have to pay for them so regularly.
If my trains were delayed I’d always make sure I claimed compensation and I sold my old stuff on eBay to make some extra cash. Shopping around for cheaper car insurances helped too.
It was always the plan for me to buy somewhere which is why I lived with my dad and never rented anywhere so I could keep saving as much as possible.
Before I met Bruce, I was looking to buy on my own but I just couldn’t afford it. I looked down the shared ownership scheme in West Malling and all over London but the monthly repayments – with both the mortgage and rent – was just too much for me pay on my own.
Gary Stone By July, there will be a family of three living there
Gary Stone The house is semi-detached and has a decent sized garden
We started seeing each other in 2014 and he already had his own flat in London. I began splitting my time between living at my dad’s then and living with Bruce.
Saving for a wedding at the same time? That’s mad!
Yeah, we got engaged on my 30th birthday three years ago, right when we were already saving to buy somewhere together.
We ended up getting the keys in June and then getting married in August. It was mad really and I wouldn’t overly recommend it.
It was a lot of home-made centrepieces and saying no to extras like on the flowers and things, but it still looked lovely.
Between us, we managed to save and extra £14,000 for the wedding but we did have help from both of our parents too.
What help is out there for first-time buyers?GETTING on the property ladder can feel like a daunting task but there are schemes out there to help first-time buyers have their own home.Help to Buy Isa – It’s a tax-free savings account where for every £200 you save, the Government will add an extra £50. But there’s a maximum limit of £3,000 which is paid to your solicitor when you move.
Help to Buy equity loan – The Government will lend you up to 20 per cent of the home’s value – or 40 per cent in London – after you’ve put down a five per cent deposit. The loan is on top of a normal mortgage but it can only be used to buy a new build property.
Lifetime Isa – This is another Government scheme that gives anyone aged 18 to 39 the chance to save tax-free and get a bonus of up to £32,000 towards their first home. You can save up to £4,000 a year and the Government will add 25 per cent on top.
Shared ownership – Co-owning with a housing association means you can buy a part of the property and pay rent on the remaining amount. You can buy anything from 25 to 75 per cent of the property but you’re restricted to specific ones.
“First dibs” in London – London Mayor Sadiq Khan is working on a scheme that will restrict sales of all new-build homes in the capital up to £350,000 to UK buyers for three months before any overseas marketing can take place.
Starter Home Initiative – A Government scheme that will see 200,000 new-build homes in England sold to first-time buyers with a 20 per cent discount by 2020. To receive updates on the progress of these homes you can register your interest on the Starter Homes website.
I remember one of our family friends saying to me “you’ve decided to do two of the most stressful things in the same year” and it definitely was.
Having said that, it was the most amazing feeling achieving two massive life steps within a few months – we were on a high afterwards.
If you are going to do it, I’d recommend that you give yourself a bit more time between the two events than we did.
What were the downsides of buying with someone who’s already bought a home?
The most annoying thing was that I had to pay extra stamp duty when it came to buying our place.
First-time buyers don’t have to pay stamp duty on a property worth up to £300,000 so we would have only had to pay five per cent on the remaining £394,995.
So between us we could have paid £4,749 – or £2,374.50 each.
Gary Stone The couple didn’t need to use a Help to Buy loan
Gary Stone There were a few snagging issues with the house once they’d moved in
We weren’t entitled to the relief at all because Bruce wasn’t a first-time buyer and because he was a landlord, we had to pay normal rates plus an extra three per cent because it was a second home.
So all in, it cost us £21,599. That was a lot more than I’d been expecting so I paid some towards it but Bruce had to cover the rest.
I couldn’t get a Help to Buy loan – where the Government will lend you up to 40 per cent of the value of the property interest-free for five years – because Bruce wasn’t a first-time buyer but we didn’t need one in the end.
Did you have any problems with your house after moving in?
Yes we did, which we weren’t expecting as it was new build. I think they moved us in a couple of weeks too early.
On moving day, I noticed that the laminate floors were speckled with splattered paint and there was a hole in the tiling of the floor that they’d left and just a few things like that.
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In the end, there were about 30 snagging issues that have now been fixed but it made moving in more stressful than it needed to be.Do you think you’ll stay there for a long time?
We’ve been in the house nearly two years now and plan to stay here for at least another five years.
We’re expecting our baby in July too so there’s no chance of us moving any time soon.
Unless Bruce gets rid of the flat in London, we’re always going to have to pay the additional stamp duty so it’s never going to be a cheap move.
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