First-time buyers home in on discount scheme

Published by The Riverside Group in Housing on Friday 7th March 2008 - 12:38pm

With the average first-time buyer home now over £160,000, taking that first step onto the property ladder can seem like an impossible dream.

Now a new scheme being pioneered on Merseyside is not only helping to tackle the affordable housing crisis but also revitalising streets blighted by boarded-up properties, buy-to-let landlords and short-term tenants.

Called ‘Own Place’, the scheme by The Riverside Group offers a 25% discount on properties on the condition that the buyers agree to live in the property themselves, stay at least five years and don’t rent it out.

The properties were either previously vacant or rented out by The Riverside Group and are now in different states of repair. Some have been refurbished for sale, others will need re-decoration and upgrading while others require more comprehensive work – but nothing a competent DIYer and those who have access to skilled labour via family and friends can’t tackle.

Among the buyers in the pilot scheme is Pamela Harrison who is the proud owner of a 100-year-old, two-bedroom terraced house in Birkenhead. She bought it for £48,750 - nearly £20,000 less than its full market value. Pamela, 26, who works as a receptionist and administrator for a building contractor, said the discount 'made all the difference' in allowing her to buy her own home.

She said: “I'm on a low income and was living with my parents. The most that I could borrow was £50,000, and there was nowhere, not even a flat, that I could buy for that money. It's a brilliant scheme to get people on the property ladder.”

Also among the first wave of buyers are Gemma Peers, 26 and Cameron May, 23. The couple were living with Gemma’s parents in Wrexham but now have just moved into their own home in Wirral. They saved nearly £20,000 thanks to the 25% discount.

Gemma said: “We’ve been trying to save for a house for ages and probably wouldn’t have managed it without this scheme.”

She added: “Riverside fitted new UPVC windows and a front door, put in a new damp proof course and gas central heating and upgraded the electrics before we moved in. Now we are fitting our own kitchen and bathroom with help from family and friends to save on cost.”

On the other side of the Mersey, Kevin Webster is getting ready to move into a two-bedroom terrace in Bootle. At 27 the project worker is currently living at home with his parents in Anfield and admits he found the prospect of borrowing big sums of money frightening.

He said: “I’m a single man on a decent wage but I went to see a mortgage advisor and within 10 minutes we were looking at a mortgage of £115,000. It’s no wonder people get into debt, it’s mind blowing.”

He is now looking forward to moving into a home with a market value of £62,500 but for which he paid just £46,500.

Kevin added: “I’m going to put in a new kitchen and bathroom but that’s within my budget. For what I need it’s ideal.

“I can’t wait to be a homeowner with my own front door key at last.”

James Hill, Director of Property Strategy for The Riverside Group said: “Despite the cooling of the housing market, Own Place has been a phenomenal success. There were five applicants for each of the 20 properties in the pilot and we expect a similar surge of interest when the next 40 properties are released in South Wallasey in the Wirral; Picton, Lodge Lane and Holt Road in Liverpool; and Parr and Haydock in St Helens.”

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