I bought £450,000 first-home by moving out of London and quitting the gym

AFTER six years of living in flatshares in London 29-year-old Jessica Leung had enough – but knew she’d never be able to afford to buy in the capital. 

To help her save up a deposit the management consultant drastically reduced her outgoings, by quitting the gym and cutting back on commuting costs. 

She requested moving from the London office to Bristol and moved home for a year to live with her parents. 

More than half (61%) of first-time buyers have relied on the bank of mum and dad to get on the property ladder in the last five years, according to research by Just Group.

That’s up from only one in five of first-time buyers who bought a property 30 years ago.

By leaving London, Jessica could save £900 on rent, £250 on gyms and working out and £140 on commuting per month. 

Are you a first-time buyer who want to share tips on how you did it? Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 78 24516. Don't forget to join the Sun Money's first-time buyer Facebook group for the latest tips on buying your first home.

The average gym membership costs around £40 a month, according to the Money Advice Service, but more exclusive places can charge hundreds of pounds each month.

Jessica put down a £90,000 deposit on a two-bedroom £450,000 converted warehouse in Bristol last year.

Jessica now shares the modern apartment with six-month-old indoor kittens Hitchcock and Scully and she’s even able to walk to work.

We caught up with Jessica for The Sun’s My First Home series.

Tell me about your home

It's in an exceptional harbour side location close to the city centre and I can walk to work.

It is a converted Grade II listed stone building by Acorn Property Group right on the riverside where there are lots of nice restaurants. I also have my own parking space.

Inside it is all brand new and very modern. It has under floor heating beneath the dark wood floors in the living areas and the bedroom has a light carpet.

The walls are light grey so it is really bright and airy and there are lots of lovely features like the curved windows which make great window seats.

You come in through the hallway into the kitchen living room diner which is all one space.

The fixtures and fittings are all modern and clean and the kitchen has white work tops and units.

There is a main double bedroom with an ensuite and then a second bedroom which currently is just for storage. There is also a separate main bathroom.

I have been working from home and spending a lot of time working on the dining table and now I want to make more of an office space.

At some point I will paint the walls but I am not sure of the colours yet so I am going to hold off.

One of the really nice things about the apartment block is the communal courtyard. This is seating and big tables and it is landscaped with plants, grass and paving.

During lockdown it was the only place I could leave my apartment to go to and it became a great place to get to know the neighbours. I had never done that in London.

People brought picnics and drinks out there and the resident meetings were held there.

It is a really lovely space and overlooks the harbour side including the SS Great Britain, a famous passenger ship from 1845, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Why did you decide to buy a property?

Since I left university I had rented four different places. At the time I was living in London in a shared flat with four strangers.

It was just a room in a flat and I was paying £900 in rent and bills. I was nearly 30 and thought it was time to buy.

I felt I would rather be paying off my own mortgage than someone else's. Buying in London is impossible but I travelled a lot for my job and commuted to Bristol a lot so I decided I would buy a property there.

I grew up in Swindon which is nearby and knew Bristol quite well. It was also easy for me to move to the Bristol office for work, as I already spent time there.

How much did the apartment cost?

It was £450,000 and I needed to put down a 20% deposit which was £90,000. My dad gifted me 30% of the deposit and I paid the remaining 70% from my savings.

This included family savings in the region of £53,000 and about £10,000 I have saved from moving home.

I also got a £36,000 Help to Buy loan as it made good sense financially. So I have a mortgage for £324,000 now.

I also spent £360 on the valuation survey for the mortgage and then another £500 on searches and solicitors fees.

Did you look at any other properties?

It was actually the only place I looked at. The location and layout offered something so great it totally won me over.

If I one day decide to move on then I know that there will be very few properties on the market at that time like mine.

How did you save for the deposit?

I had no savings when I lived in London. I moved home to Swindon and lived with my parents for a year as I realised it is much easier to save when you are not paying rent.

I was spending £250 a month on gym membership and working out in London and £140 on the tube, so I managed to save all of that.

I wasn't paying any board at home and I no longer had to pay £900 on London rent.

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. These accounts have now closed to new applicants but those who already hold one have until November 2029 to use it.

Help to Buy equity loan – The Government will lend you up to 20% of the home's value – or 40% in London – after you've put down a 5% 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% 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% 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% discount by 2020. To receive updates on the progress of these homes you can register your interest on the Starter Homes website.

I also got free lunches at work and I didn’t spend much on travelling between the Swindon home and the Bristol office.

I still paid for my phone, Netflix and leisure. My outgoings were about £200 or more a month.

The amount I saved each month varied a little, it depended on what friends were enticing me to go out and do.

I am not very good at keeping track of my money so I don’t know how much I saved each month but I aimed to never let it be less than £500 a month.

There were good and bad things about being back home. I loved spending more time with my family, but did miss my independence. There is nothing like having your own front door.

Excluding the family trust fund, it took about a year to save up for the deposit.

What kind of mortgage do you have?

I have a 35-year repayment mortgage, fixed for the first three years.

My monthly repayment is £600 which is much cheaper than renting in London.

It is a leasehold property with a 999 year lease and I pay £900 a year into a communal pot to manage the building.

In five years’ time I will have to start paying the interest on my Help to Buy loan, but I'm not worried about it.

Did you have any problems along the way?

There were no problems with the mortgage application because my mortgage advisor had made sure I would be able to get one.

But there were delays getting into the apartment. I bought it before it was built and there were delays in the construction of it, which was annoying.

It took about a year from finding it, to getting in. But it gave me more time to save.

How did you furnish the property?

The apartment came with a fitted kitchen including a fridge freezer, microwave, oven and dishwasher. My aunt got me a washing machine as a Christmas present.

I already had a lot of things from renting properties. And I used Facebook marketplace to get a few bargains.

I got an old sofa for free because they just wanted someone to come and take it away and I got a really nice bookshelf for £5.

The furniture is a mismatch at the moment but I don't mind because it is my first place.

The bed, the sofa and some kitchen equipment were the main items on my list and I spent around £700 all together.

How did it feel to finally get the keys?

I was so excited. I think the fact that I had also watched the development and my own apartment being built just added to the anticipation and excitement.

The handover day, when I collected my keys, is almost a blur of thinking I can’t quite believe it.

What advice would you give to other first time buyers?

I would recommend using a mortgage advisor if you are short of time or don't know much about mortgages.

I had a mortgage advisor which was very useful as they found me the best deal.

A first-time buyer stopped spending £100 a month on clothes and shoes to help him save up for his £315,000 one-bedroom flat.

Meanwhile, a married couple managed to buy their £282,000 two-bedroom terraced house outside Brighton by cutting back on holidays and eating out.

Plus, a savvy entrepreneur got on the property ladder four years earlier than planned by starting his own business while working full-time.

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