I joined a peer to peer savings scheme to help buy £335k two-bed first home

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HARD-WORKING doctor Irene Asamoah, 29, struggled to get into a habit putting money away regularly despite working extra hospital shifts in a bid to boost her savings.

To resist the urge of spending on holidays, Irene joined a peer to peer savings scheme to help her save up a house deposit.

The scheme, which is run by StepLadder, asked her to pay £750 a month for 16 months.

Every month one of 16 savers was then selected to receive the full collective sum of £12,000.

It’s risky though. The schemes aren’t regulated in the way banks are, meaning your cash could be lost if the business fails, but Irene says she wasn’t worried. 

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Irene was very lucky. After four months she was drawn to receive the £12,000 payout.

She had to continue paying the £750 a month for the full 16 months.

She used the £12,000 along with other savings to put down roughly 10%, or £35,000, to buy a £335,000 two-bed house in Hillingdon, west London.

Irene shares her experiences of getting on the property ladder for The Sun’s My First Home series.

It’s a two-bedroom terraced house located in Hillingdon, in West London. It has one bathroom and two toilets, as well as a big garden.

When I first moved in, it was very old-fashioned with old carpets and popcorn ceilings.

The latter is a ceiling with a certain spray-on or paint-on treatment, which used to be common to cover up flaws.

The house is modern now because I’ve renovated it and ripped everything out, it cost me £20,000.

The property goes in cream colours with some more earthy tones.

I paid £335,000 for my home, putting down a rough 10% deposit of £35,000.

The house was actually on the market for £350,000 but I significantly under-offered initially and put down £315,000. The seller and I eventually settled on £335,000.

I put down the offer in June last year, and the transaction completed in January.

I got a mortgage over 35 years, fixed for the first two years. My interest rate is around 2%, and my repayments are now roughly £1,000-1,100 a month.

I joined a rotating savings scheme [also known as peer to peer]run by a startup called StepLadder, which launched at the beginning of last year.

I found about it through an Instagram ad and was intrigued as I’d been thinking about buying a home for a while.

I did research on it and it seemed legitimate, so I spoke to StepLadder over the phone and signed up within a few weeks.

I was in a “circle” of 16 people who each contributed £750 each month to a savings pool over 16 months.

Every month, one member of the pool was selected to receive £12,000.

After four months, having contributed just £3,000, my name was drawn and I received £12,000.

I still had to contribute the £750 monthly payment for the full 16-month period though.

I found the savings scheme really helpful, as I knew I wouldn’t have the commitment to put away the £750 each month.

I probably would have spent it on holiday otherwise, so it definitely helped me buy a property sooner.

I wasn’t really in touch with the other people in my circle, but we had a WhatsApp group and whenever someone’s name was drawn, we congratulated each other.

I started looking for homes before I had saved the deposit and used that as the incentive and motivation I needed to help plan how much I needed to save.

I was quite strict with savings in terms of how much I was spending, and saved around £2,000 each month including the £750 for StepLadder.

It’d put away as much as I could each month into a savings account, but it wasn’t a scheduled amount.

I cut back by taking lunch into work and avoided spending on several holidays abroad like I would have in previous years.

I have a slight coffee addiction so I stopped buying two coffees a day at work, and took Nescafe granules with me.

I also cut back on shopping for new clothes, purchasing new items only once or twice per year.

Plus, My Uber account took a back seat and I found ordering tap water at dinner instead of my usual wine was helpful in cutting back costs too.

Basically, I had a slightly less “fun” year in order to achieve my long-term goal of owning my own home.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to work lots which meant it was slightly easier to put money away at the end of each month.

I’d do two or three extra shifts at the hospital each week on top of my full-time job as a doctor.

I was a higher-rate taxpayer, meaning I earned more than £50,000 a year, which was really helpful in terms of getting the money.

I’d been renting before but temporarily also moved home to my parents’ place for a year to help me save.

It was really tricky, initially I was looking everywhere and in Borehamwood because it’s near my family.

Eventually I ended up in Hillingdon – it’s just three minutes away from family.

It was the best deal and for me, as a Christian, it felt like an answered prayer.

I was like “God, please help me out” and then this showed up on Rightmove. It ticked all the boxes.

I was initially looking at flats, but then considering ground rents with leaseholds, I decided to buy a house where it felt like there was a bit more freedom.

I’m planning to stay here for at least five years.

It was a bit tricky, because my first mortgage was refused from Barclays. They didn’t really give a reason, but potentially because I was going for a lower deposit.

The second mortgage went through though, thankfully.

Another issue I had was when the offer had been accepted. I was in a chain and the guy who was moving from this house had found a new place, but then it turns out it had a crack in the wall.

So he had to find another place so rather than being smooth, the chain made it a bit longer.

I had some furniture from before but it was a mixture. The furniture was quite delayed, so I’ve only just finished it actually.

I’d buy the furniture monthly when I moved in. As payday came, I’d just buy a few more bits and pieces.

Try not to be disheartened if anything goes wrong.

It also helps having a clear cut figure in terms of your budget for the house.

It’s also important to think realistically about long-term costs, so when I was looking at flats, I had to think about service charges and ground rent.

Plus, consider your future career plans so you can calculate the affordability and leeway in terms of being able to pay your mortgage long-term.

A first-time buyer tells us how moving out of London and quitting the gym helped her buy £450,000 first-home.

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

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

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