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Last Updated: Monday, 4 April, 2005, 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK
Moving tales
Couple looking in estate agents' window
Out of reach: High prices can deter first-time buyers
With the government courting first time buyers, BBC One's Real Story followed two young men and one couple struggling to get a foot on the property ladder.

Search agent Barbara Goldsmith suggested some ways they could get into the market.

Here, they tell us how their house-hunting has progressed since the programme was filmed.


Gary Birchall and Nadine Hepworth, both 21, are currently living with Gary's parents in the West Yorkshire beauty spot of Ilkley, where the average house price is 250,000.

It's about three weeks since we were filmed for Real Story and we've just had an offer on a property accepted and a mortgage approved! We offered the asking price of 92,500 on a two-bed terraced property in Eccleshill, near Bradford. It's about three miles away from Ilkley so we're still close to family.

Gary Birchall and Nadine Hepworth
A couple of days previously we'd offered 91,000 for a house on the same street. But we weren't prepared to pay the full asking price of 92,500 as it did need some work and we lost out to another buyer.

The house we've ended up with is immaculate so it's all turned out for the best. Another stroke of luck is that we will get free legal services from the firm of solicitors who Nadine works for. They stopped offering this perk to staff just the day after we found our house!

The recent rise in the stamp duty threshold from 60,000 to 120,000 is good news. But in any case we would've escaped it, as Eccleshill is a stamp duty exemption area for any properties up to 150,000.

I'm confident it's an example of the 'regeneration hotspots' that Barbara was talking about. We bought our house off a young couple who paid 47,000 for it three years ago.

As long as nothing goes wrong with the valuation or survey, we hope to move in within six weeks. The vendors are living with relatives so there isn't a chain to worry about. Our parents are over the moon for us.

Now all I have to do is sell my car to add to the deposit!


Richard Arundel
Richard Arundel, 24, is saving for a deposit on a mortgage while living with his parents near the affluent town of Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire. Home to the rich and famous, and topping a Halifax survey of the most expensive places to live in Britain, this area has little to offer first-time buyers.

On the Real Story programme, Barbara found me some mortgage lenders who would let me borrow up to 180,000 by using my parents as guarantors. She also suggested that I rent out a room.

I'm going to do both. In the meantime, I'm still living at home and have managed to save a small deposit. I may also be able to use some inheritance money. What the Real Story experience really brought home to me was how much trouble I'd be in if I didn't have any parental help. The average house price where I live is 627,660, more than 20 times my annual salary.

I'm waiting to get an appraisal at work, after which I'll argue my case for a pay rise. Then I'll go ahead and sort out a mortgage. I'm also waiting for the full "spring bloom" in the property market.

I was worried about looking like a snob on the programme for turning my nose up at a 90,000 studio flat in Hemel Hempstead, 20 miles away. But it was filthy and so cramped - and the whole point of moving was to give myself some space.

I think there's a whole generation of 20 somethings like me who are frustrated to have returned to the parental home after university. I get on well with my family but it's hard to go back to co-habiting with them.

So, I'm still living in Beckinsfield, about 10 minutes from Gerrards Cross. I'm keeping an eye out for properties in High Wycombe, an average sized town about 12 miles away. As for house prices, my limit is 185,000, in which case I would probably need two lodgers.

If I can push myself, I will. I work in an estate agents so I consider myself to have some insider's knowledge and I don't believe the doomsters who talk of a crash. We're still selling houses for their asking prices. It's the 1m property market that will take the biggest hit.


Peter Fletcher
Peter Fletcher, 26, went in search of a bargain property in Spain after finding prices in fashionable south Manchester beyond his reach.

On paper, buying abroad may sound like a good idea as the property is cheap and the potential holiday rental is good. As I found out, for an investment of 120,000 I could buy and rent out a property for over 500 euros a week for up to 80% of the year.

That's a great return compared with renting out a property in the UK. If I bought a property for the same amount in Manchester, it would be in an area where the rent may not even cover the monthly mortgage.

During filming for Real Story I met Beverley Carr, who bought in Rute, an hour from Malaga. She is a great success story. But she was fluent in Spanish and as a teacher was able to spend more time there. Being able to keep an eye on the property is essential and I would only be able to visit once or twice a year.

And the desperate story of Richard and Teresa in Allocate seems to be an increasingly common one - a British couple who bought their dream property abroad, only to see it all go wrong. That would be my worst nightmare as it would financially ruin me at a young age.

Buying a house is complicated enough and buying abroad is even more risky. I think it's a great idea but not one for a first-time buyer. Maybe one day! For now I will keep looking in Manchester. I'll perhaps take Barbara's advice and look north of the city, instead of in the more fashionable southern suburbs, to get the best value for my money.

A leg up the property ladder
25 Mar 05 |  Real Story
Head to head: To buy or not to buy?
04 Apr 05 |  Real Story



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