I bought £485k first home four years early after starting my own business

HARD-WORKING first-time buyer Samuel Hurley, 29, got himself on the property ladder four years earlier than planned by starting his own business while working a full-time job.

The Welsh entrepreneur and his girlfriend Jessica Thorn, 28, bought their £485,000 one-bedroom flat in Crouch End in north London in 2018.

They put down a 10 per cent deposit of roughly £48,500 which they saved over five years.

The bulk of the deposit – 70 per cent – came from Samuel and his freelancing business helping websites rank higher on Google.

He would work a full day for Made.com as an SEO manager and then come home.

From 6pm he would work three more hours each night freelancing and setting up and running his new business, an SEO agency called Novos.

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Samuel told The Sun: “It was very long hours, I didn't have a weekend for at least three months.

“Looking back on it now, it was a lot. But it’s all worth it now that we have our own place.”

The entrepreneur started out by taking on freelance SEO projects to boost his full-time income, and later ended up earning between £2,500 and £3,000 extra a month, which he put straight into savings.

The business proved so successful Samuel decided to quit his job to focus on it full-time, but he had to wait 10 months to resign as he needed the full-time salary of just under £50,000 a year to get a mortgage.

Research by mortgage broker Trussle has found that a third of self-employed borrowers have delayed their mortgage application due to their employment status.

Meanwhile, 13 per cent not in permanent employment have considered giving up dreams of ever owning their own home.

Today, Samuel and his business partner Antonio Wedral, 26, employ 13 staff members.

We caught up with Samuel for the My First Home series.

What’s your new home like?

It’s a one-bedroom flat on the ground floor in Crouch End in north London. It has a nice-sized garden for London and for the area.

The property is quite a bit more long than anything. It’s an old Victorian building, so it’s spacious with high ceilings.

There’s no one at the back overlooking the garden, which is quite nice and peaceful.

Me and Jessica live there with our 11-month-old puppy, an Australian shepherd dog named Alfie.

How much did you pay for it?

Jessica and I paid £485,000 when we bought the flat in July 2018 and then moved in a few months later in October.

We put down a deposit of 10 per cent, working out as roughly £48,500.

We took out a mortgage over 30 years, fixed over five years.

Our mortgage repayments are now roughly £1,600 each month, which we divide in two.

How did you decide on the area?

We kind of stumbled upon Crouch End quite luckily when we first studied in Wales.

Jessica and I met while studying at Cardiff University and then we came to London over a weekend to look at rental properties.

Every single one we saw was absolute garbage but then we randomly came across this area, it was significantly better than anywhere we’d seen.

Once we moved to London, we lived in a one-bedroom flat on Crouch End high street for five years, paying £1,400 a month.

It was very small and cramped, and the bedroom was so small it could literally just fit the double bed but we ended up staying.

Having moved to our own one-bedroom flat now is like a mansion, we’ll probably stay in the area for a long time.

How did you save for the deposit?

The bulk of our savings for the deposit came from my freelancing work on top of my full-time job.

I always wanted the flexibility and freedom to do my own thing, but the catalyst was the lack of progression in my role.

I also wanted to get even more income, and then the freelancing business really picked up.

Towards the end, I paid myself dividends of between £2,500 to £3,000 a month on top of my full-time role. All of that went into savings.

In my full-time role at Made, I was a basic rate taxpayer but I got quarterly bonuses of 10 per cent which put me close to the £50,000 threshold.

The bonuses would also just go towards savings.

Before I left Made, I had to work really long hours to manage both roles and I didn’t have a weekend for at least three months.

On weekdays, I’d do an hour of freelance work in the morning, work throughout my lunch break and continue once I got home in the evening until 8pm or 9pm.

We lived in a small rental flat, so I’d be sitting on the sofa while my girlfriend watched all the junk on TV.

I had my resignation email drafted up for months but I couldn't send it until we got the keys in case anything fell through.

Looking back on it now it was a lot, but it’s all worth it now that we have our own place.

Jessica wasn’t as aggressive with her savings, and contributed 30 per cent towards the deposit.

Did you cut back on anything to save?

I started to save as soon as I could. Once I had my first pay rise in 2013, I quickly put the majority away to save for a deposit.

At the time, my employer increased my salary from £20,000 to £25,000 a year. But I didn’t notice my lifestyle change that much, so I just vowed to keep the lifestyle the same and put any pay rises into savings.

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 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.

Before we bought our flat, I’d receive five or six pay rises from employers.

All the money I was given as gifts for birthdays and Christmas also went towards my deposit.

As we saved all of our additional income and pay rises, we didn’t really cut back on anything else.

Did you encounter any problems with the purchase?

When we started looking, there was a mess-up with NatWest as a mortgage advisor mistakenly told us we had a big enough deposit to start looking for a home.

At that point, we had about 7.5 per cent saved up and he basically told us we only needed 5 per cent. So we were over the moon and started looking for properties.

It wasn’t until a few months in that they told us they’d made a mistake and said we needed at least 10 per cent.

But by that time, we'd already started looking so we borrowed £10,000 from my parents. And then I paid it back the year after.

I paid them back about £500 a month, and then with a few larger payments every now and again.

Luckily my parents didn’t ask for any interest, it was just a hug and a thank you. That’s all they wanted.

How did you afford to furnish it?

By the time I was leaving my job at Made, my freelancing business was more or less a full-time job too so I had a double income in the last three months.

That helped significantly, so we used that to buy furniture.

The flat was also in a pretty good state, so we just painted the walls and sorted out the flooring in the living room.

What advice would you give to other first-time buyers?

I can only give tips based on what I’ve done, and that’s to put aside extra income as soon as you get it.

For the first three months of saving for a deposit, I’d literally just put £50 aside, but it’s about getting into that mentality.

You can easily blow that £50 on a meal out or drinks but at least you’re saving towards something.

If you can get additional income, it helps massively.

If we didn’t have my additional income, we probably would have bought our home now closer to the age of 28 or 30.

The extra income helped us buy at the age of 26, it accelerated the buying process.

First-time buyer Charlotte Gorick was able to save up £11,000 to put towards her £120,000 two-bed home after a £100 Microsoft Excel course helped her bag a full-time job.

The Sun has also spoken to a couple who took part in medical trials to save £23,000 for their first home.

We also heard from a couple who say they don't regret moving in lockdown – even though they missed out on £8,000 stamp duty relief.

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