What I Own: Stuart, with a £1,040 monthly mortgage on his Brighton home

If you’re new here, this is What I Own.

Every week we speak to homeowners about what it was like to take the plunge and get on the property ladder.

Last week we chatted to Vidhya, who put down a £7,500 deposit on her two-bed Glasgow flat with Help to Buy.

Now it’s the turn of Stuart who has been busy renovating his property in Brighton.

Stuart previously owned a two-bed shared ownership apartment – he then sold this and used the money for a bigger property.

This is what he had to say about his buying experience…

Tell us about yourself.

I’m 33, I’m an executive assistant for a music technology company in London and I’m based in Brighton. 

Where is your property?

I live a stone’s throw away from Brighton Pier. The property is in an area called Kemptown which is the bohemian heart of Brighton, with a colourful mix of bars and restaurants, a spectacular seafront setting and a vibrant nightlife. 

When did you move in?

November 2020 – the house renovations certainly kept me busy during the various lockdowns.

How much does your property cost?

I paid £455,000 after some haggling with the seller. It has just been valued following the renovations at £550,000- £575,000.

How much was your deposit?


What is the monthly cost of living here now; both mortgage and bills?

The mortgage is £1,040, gas and electric is £110, water is £24 and broadband is £30. 

How did you save up for your deposit?

My deposit came from the sale of my previous apartment, which was my first step on the property ladder.

What was the process of getting a mortgage like for you? Did you find any parts challenging?

I have become quite familiar with the mortgage process as I previously had a shared ownership property. I initially purchased a 40% share and I gradually staircased (the process where you purchase larger shares in the property) a further three times to 100% over the course of four years – each time either taking out additional borrowing or remortgaging. Then I finally sold it in July 2020, before purchasing this house.

I cannot stress enough that a mortgage broker is worth their weight in gold. Mine was fantastic with helping me plan what I needed to do in order to staircase to 100% and also assist with the process of buying my new home and finding me the best deal. We did hit a slight speed bump with one mortgage company since the new property’s roof is partially flat which some mortgage companies do not like, however she found me a different provider and then it was plain sailing. 

Where did you live before this – were you renting or living with family?

I lived in a two bedroom shared ownership apartment in Brighton.

What made you want to buy rather than renting?

I lived in Clapham for seven years paying extortionate amounts of money to rent a room. My mortgage now is the same price that I was paying to rent my room in Clapham. I thought that getting on the property ladder was always going to be out of reach because I didn’t have a deposit saved and living in London is pretty expensive. My brother actually intervened and said enough is enough and pointed me in the direction of a shared ownership development he had seen in Brighton that only required a small deposit of £6,500. I gave up my room in Clapham and slept on his sofa for six months to save up the deposit. 

How did you find this property? 

I found the townhouse on Rightmove. It was actually £25,000 over budget at the time and the estate agent told me it’s unlikely that the seller would budge on the price. I viewed it initially and actually hated it but came back for a second viewing and third viewing, reminding myself to look at it differently and decide what I could change to make myself like it. I made a cheeky lower offer and the estate agent haggled with the seller and he accepted. 

How have you made the property feel like home?

The house was very dated and dark when I first purchased it and it was in need of a full renovation so I went floor by floor, renovating each room. The bedrooms had huge built-in wardrobes which made the rooms feel significantly smaller so I removed them. I mounted the TVs on the walls to give the feeling of more space too.

The house was originally a three bed, but the third bedroom was pretty small so I decided to convert it into a full bathroom and make the second bedroom much bigger by removing the old en-suite and hallway landing. This required planning permission for the new plumbing but I am incredibly happy with the result as it feels very open plan and flows much better now. 

What’s the inspiration for your interior decor style?

I am a minimalist by nature and hate clutter. I always gravitate towards white walls, stainless steel, glass, greys and then add pops of colour with artwork or lighting. Artwork can completely change the feeling of a room. In terms of bathrooms, I always wanted them to feel like I am staying in a hotel. Getting a bath up three flights of stairs and having to remove the sash windows to get a huge piece of shower glass lifted in, was eventful to say the least.

I am also incredibly passionate about smart-home technology and introduced this throughout the house including things like a Nest thermostat and fire alarms, Louvolite electric blinds, Philips Hue lighting and a smart security alarm, all of which you can control with your voice. 

What’s your favourite room and why?

It would definitely have to be the top floor bathroom. I love my bath time and having the skylight directly above the bath, nice lighting and a ceiling speaker for music is heaven after a crazy day. I also managed to get a 1700mm bath in there by being creative and using a shallow resin sink. I got the plumber to make all of the taps come directly out of the walls which I’m very happy with the final result, even if it made it a bit more tricky for the tradesmen.

Do you feel like you have enough space?

It’s just me living here so I have plenty of space and a guest room for when people visit too. One of the main things I wanted to achieve was removing the pokey feeling it had when I first viewed the house so I opened it up as much as I could, raised the kitchen ceiling, made the top floor hallway double-height by removing unused storage.

The house feels very spacious now and I have the use of the garage and under the stairs for any storage needs too. 

Do you have plans to change the property?

After 11 months of renovations, I can happily say I’m pretty much done. I just have the utility room to finish and the garage floor gets changed later this week. The last thing is getting the side of the house painted but that can wait until the spring.

Are there any problems with the property that you have to deal with?

The property doesn’t have a garden so that was a small trade-off when I was considering the house, however the beach and sea are literally at the end of the street – so who needs a garden when you have that on your doorstep?

What do you want people to know about buying a home?

There are lots of ways to get help and support and I would encourage anyone to look into schemes such as Help to Buy or shared ownership as a great way to get your foot on the ladder. If it wasn’t for shared ownership five years ago, I would never have been able to buy this house. Just make sure you have a plan in terms of staircasing or refinancing to achieve what you want to do in the long run. 

What are your plans for the future, in terms of housing? Do you plan to stay here long term?

My friends are encouraging me to keep the house for a little while and enjoy it now the project is finished. My original plan was to flip it and move on but I think I’m going to take their advice for a few months and perhaps look to move in the spring/summer.

I just renovated another flat two streets away for my brother, using my house as a template for the same look and feel which he was really pleased with. Property development is something I definitely want to continue.

Shall we take a look around?

Do you want to feature in What I Own?

What I Own is a Metro.co.uk series that takes you inside people’s properties, to take an honest look at what it’s like to buy a home in the UK. If you own your home and would be up for sharing your story, please email [email protected] 

You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’ve paid to live there and how you afforded the deposit, as that’s pretty important. 

If you’re renting, you can take part too! What I Own runs alongside What I Rent, which is the same series but all about renting. Again, if you’d like to get involved just email [email protected]

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