Charlotte’s new home is a spacious, one bedroom apartment at Orbit’s Dunton Meadows development in Sevenoaks. Nestled in an idyllic setting, right next to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, the peaceful enclave of new houses and apartments is still within very easy reach of Dunton Green Station, for Charlotte’s daily commute to work. At peak times, the train journey to central London takes as little as 45 minutes; so moving out of her parents’ house in nearby Ightham has reduced her door-to-door travelling time to an hour each way, and is saving her half an hour a day. On top of the saved time, Charlotte is also enjoying the benefits of being able to walk to the station, and leave her car in a dedicated parking space at Dunton Meadows, rather than paying to park.
“I’d been searching for my own place for a while”, explains Charlotte, “I knew I could barely afford a one bedroom apartment, but I was desperate to stay in the Sevenoaks area because my family and friends are all here. Property prices were shooting up, and I’d been looking since early 2016 without much success. Finding the perfect apartment at Dunton Meadows was definitely a case of the right place at the right time.”
A friend of Charlotte’s had bought her own home at another new housing development in Bromley, with the assistance of the Help to Buy: Shared Ownership scheme. This meant that when she heard that Shared Ownership properties were available at Dunton Meadows, Charlotte wasn’t afraid to register her interest and book a viewing. Through the government scheme, buyers with a household income of less than £60k a year are eligible to purchase a percentage share of a new build property, and pay a subsidised rent on the remaining portion. In Charlotte’s case, she was able to secure a mortgage for 40% of a one-bedroom apartment, and importantly, this meant she only had to find a deposit for the 40% share she was buying.
Charlotte comments: “Having a full mortgage on a property in this area could have meant me needing to raise around £60k for my deposit. That sort of lump sum simply isn’t feasible on a single income, and that was even with the financial advantages of living with my parents while I saved.”
“I was delighted when I saw what I could afford by buying a shared ownership property at Dunton Meadows. A lot of the apartments I had seen elsewhere during my search were much smaller than this one, and had far more expensive service charges. To buy 40% of my new home, pay the reduced rent on the remainder, the service charge, and a subscription to the onsite gym, still costs me less each month than it would cost to rent anything like it privately.”
If Charlotte’s financial situation changes, and she wants to increase her shareholding in her apartment as her household income increases, she can buy additional shares through a process known as ‘Staircasing’. Buying with the help of Shared Ownership doesn’t mean that the purchaser will only ever own a percentage of their home, as they can increase their share up to 100% as they can afford it, and over a timeframe that suits their individual circumstances.
Asked about her favourite part of the apartment, Charlotte is enthusiastic about the overall amount of living space she has, and how bright it is. “It’s really surprising,” she observes. “The rooms are much bigger than I expected, so there is loads of space for all the furniture I need, as well as plenty of storage to hide away things like the vacuum cleaner and other cleaning kit. I also love that it’s so light here and, because it’s west-facing, that I get early evening sun when I get home from work.”
Charlotte has found that location is definitely critical when you are choosing where to live, commenting: “I really enjoy having my friends over for meals, and the open plan kitchen and living room makes it easy to entertain. Of course, because I could finally afford to buy in my preferred area, it means I don’t actually need a spare room for my friends and family to be able to visit, and my bedroom and living areas are easily large enough for my needs.”
Naturally, Charlotte’s parents were concerned about their daughter’s safety once she started living alone, but they have been very supportive of her move and much reassured by Charlotte’s choice of new home. “There is a really comforting community feel here,” Charlotte explains, “And my neighbours are lovely and helpful; so much so that my Dad has already made some good friends here! It also helps that the building has an excellent security system, which has put my mind, and my parents’ minds, at rest.”
As well as making the most of the on-site gym facilities, Charlotte finds Dunton Meadows very convenient for two more of her favourite pastimes. “It’s just a short walk for me to get to my cross-training sessions at another nearby gym,” she explains, “And I can still afford to reward myself for all the hard work with a little retail therapy at Bluewater. In fact, it’s probably just a little TOO easy to get there on my days off!”