When I arrived in Brighton in 1995, a flat cost £20,000. A few years later, out of the blue, the property market started to change—and fast. This was around 2001, when I was 31, and just as I happened to be making inroads into buying my own place. At this point a flat in Brighton cost £30,000, which I felt was unreasonably expensive.
In 2001, as estate agents were showing me potential properties, prices for flats in Brighton were rising from £30,000 to £40,000 to £50,000, in a matter of months. Enquiring about a mortgage at a local bank, I asked the manager whether property prices were going to fall again or keep rising. Because she worked in finance, I naively believed that she knew the answer. She informed me that she wasn’t allowed to respond to such questions. However, she went against the rules of the bank and advised me to sit back and see what happened. I gratefully took her advice as gold; and I followed it.
Year after year rolled by. My frustration and regret soared with the property market. I continued to wait for the housing market to crash—right back down to £30,000 for a flat.
The turning point came when I was in my mid-forties (by which point a flat in Brighton cost around £200,000). A neighbour casually mentioned that the age limit for getting a mortgage is your late forties as you need twenty-one years to pay it off. At this point I realised I needed to wake up, to drop the hope that there might be some kind of extraordinary housing crash round the corner.
My nocturnal dreams, as well as my daydreams, were obsessed with accommodation. Finding creative ways to live rent-free became a recurring theme. I was already living rent-free, house-sitting for a friend. But that involved doing work for him in return, which ate into my time. I needed to earn a good salary AND live rent-free! My drum kit teacher owned a motorhome that he had once lived in and was planning to live in again. So, I trained myself up and gained employment as a junior web developer, bought myself a van on Independence Day 2015, and moved in.
Watching your salary accumulate into a hefty deposit instead of flushing it down the rent hole is a joyous experience. I was finally able to buy my own beloved property on International Womens’ Day 2019, at the age of 49.
If you want something enough, there is always a way!
Time to share my experience
On a country walk one day, one of our group was lamenting that she would never be able to afford her own property because she had to pay rent. She was desperately trying to think of ways around it. At the time, I wasn’t comfortable sharing details of my ‘mobile’ living situation, but her frustrated words “I’m obsessed with accommodation” lived with me. I have always wished I could have helped her; and helped everyone else in her position who is prepared to do what it takes to reach their goal.
You earn precious money each month. How you choose to spend it shows how you choose to live. Stop wasting it: harness it, and redirect it towards what you really want.
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Moving in to my own place
On International Women’s Day 2019, I went to Barber Blacksheep in Brighton to get my hair cut short. So enamoured and protective of my new property was I, that I feared blocking the drains with hair and thus somehow destroying the whole place.
I then piled all my possessions from my van into my car, fetched the keys from the estate agent, and turned on my phone camera ...