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Sam kicks private rent into touch with Shared Ownership

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Getting a foot on the property ladder is an aspiration many young professionals share – but in an overheated market, it can often seem out of reach. Northampton-based nurse Sam Higham always wanted to buy a place of her own, but found herself priced out.

Now though, with the help of Shared Ownership from Metropolitan, the 35-year-old rugby fan has left her rented flat behind for a two-bedroom house – with work, friends and family still nearby – and to top it off, she’s closer than ever to her local team the Northampton Saints’ home ground.

Casting her mind back to when she first tried to get on the ladder, Sam recalls that, as a nurse with a salary of around £22,000, she wasn’t offered much hope by the open market. “The problem was I technically didn’t earn enough to be able to buy a house outright,” she explains. “But I heard there would be Shared Ownership properties coming up at Upton Square – so I put my name down on the waiting list"

Shared Ownership is a scheme open to first-time-buyers, households that earn £60,000 a year or less and people who rent council or housing association properties. It works by allowing home-seekers to part-buy, part-rent their properties. They begin by purchasing between 25% and 75% of their home – depending on what they can afford – which they pay for with savings and a mortgage. They then pay a subsidised rent on the portion they don’t own, as well as standard service charges.

By the time she put her name down for Shared Ownership, Sam had been growing increasingly frustrated with renting and felt like she was wasting her money. “It’s quite annoying,” she says, ”especially when you’re paying rent and you look at mortgages. You know that you can afford to pay one, but banks won’t lend to you against your wages. It seems a bit backwards.”

Soon after Metropolitan’s latest phase of Shared Ownership properties in Upton Square was complete, Sam got a phone call to say she was next in line for a two-bedroom, semi-detached house with a back garden. “After waiting for a while, I thought I hadn’t got it,” she recalls, “so when they called to see if I was still interested, it felt great.”

After that high, the technicalities of getting on board with Shared Ownership seemed daunting – and Sam had a five-month wait ahead of her as the buying process unfolded. But with help from Metropolitan’s sales team, she found things progressed quite smoothly.

“At first, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Sam remembers. “But Carol in the sales team was really good, she went through it with me. She spent loads of time answering any questions I had – and they had a really helpful financial advisor as well. Going back through things again now, it was actually pretty straight-forward!”

With the help of her grandmother, Sam put a deposit together, opting to buy a 25% share of her house. She says that her monthly outgoings on mortgage, rent and service charges are £500 now, compared to £400 when she was renting her flat.

Although she’s paying a bit more, Sam is happy in the knowledge that she is getting a lot more value for money – and she doesn’t feel like her hard-earned cash is disappearing into a black hole every month. “One of the best things about owning my own place is the fact that my money is going somewhere,” she says.

“Part of the house is mine,” she adds with a sense of pride. “I always say that part is the kitchen, because it’s my favourite room – it’s really nicely finished, and the surfaces are dark and modern – and easy to keep clean!”

With Shared Ownership, Sam has the option to ‘staircase’ up, increasing her owned portion of the property over time. Her goal, she says, is to eventually increase her share with a view to one day owning the place outright.

Sam is a little bit further now from Northampton General Hospital where she works – but in good traffic, it’s still only about a ten-minute drive away. “I would have moved out of town to get on the property ladder,” she says. “So location-wise, it’s really good for me here,” she says.  

The move has also given her a lot more room to move around in than she had before in her one-bedroom flat – something her pet King Charles Spaniel, Archie, especially appreciates. “He’s about 15 months now,” she says, as Archie takes a nap on the couch beside her. “I had him for a couple of months before I moved. He has more space to run around now and I go out quite a lot with him – he loves it.”

Sam’s boyfriend Matt – a former England youth rugby player – is also very keen on the new place, especially as it’s so close to the Saints’ ground. “We go to the rugby quite a lot,” Sam explains. “Matt really likes the house. He probably thinks that he’ll be moving in at some point – but we’ll see about that!” she laughs.

Looking back on her experience with Shared Ownership from Metropolitan, Sam says she would recommend it to a friend. “If you can’t get on the property ladder the traditional way, I would definitely say this is the way to go. And I’d definitely recommend Metropolitan as well – everyone I’ve spoken to has been really friendly and really helpful – especially the sales team.”

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