Diary of a first-time buyer

Diary of a first-time buyer In a new series, Lucy Tobin meets first-time buyers looking for that step on the property ladder. For Elinor Vos it's been a fruitless 18-month journey
Elinor Vos
© Matt Writtle
Still looking: Elinor Vos is currently renting in Kentish Town but her salary means she must work with a budget of £300,000 - not quite enough for a typical one-bedroom flat in the area
Elinor Vos has spent the past 18 months literally going round the houses as she scours the north London property market to find and finance her dream first home.

The 25-year-old City accountant has been renting in Kentish Town and West Hampstead for three years, but is desperate for her own pad.

"When I first started looking for a flat back in 2009, I dreamed of having a lovely, two-bedroom place in West Hampstead," she says. "But after months and months of looking after work and at weekends I've come down to earth, and realised that it costs a quarter of a million pounds to buy what often amounts to a manky cupboard."

Elinor's salary means she can stretch to a budget of £300,000, but only with her parents stumping up the whole deposit. "Depressingly, if you add it all up, I've spent a pretty good deposit on rent - about £27,000," she says. "I feel like it's a huge waste of money. It means I haven't managed to build up savings at all and so I am having to rely on my parents for a deposit."

She's trying to organise her mortgage with Barclays, her current bank. "But when I've tried to gauge what they will lend me, they speak in vague terms, only giving me multiples of my salary and asking what it might be in a year's time."

Elinor has researched some of the Government's first-time buyer initiatives, but concluded: "I don't want to go for shared ownership as it feels like more wasted money - I'd rather just plunge in. I was keen on using the stamp duty holiday, but in practice the £250,000 limit doesn't stretch far in London."

Still, she is now adroit at cutting through property euphemisms. "I've now seen enough flats to know that 'purpose built' means ex-local authority and 'investment property' is a nice way to say somewhere is a complete dive," she says.

"I went to a flat in Kentish Town only to discover it didn't have heating, and with what I would have paid for it I would not have been able to put in heating. At a viewing in Kilburn, the ceiling was falling down. The tenants told me parts had fallen into their food that week whilst cooking. Yet it was advertised for £300,000. Optimistic pricing doesn't quite cover it."

Elinor remains hopeful. "I'm one of the lucky ones - as part of the year group that got caught up in the recession, many of my friends can't get jobs, let alone homes. But right now, desperately looking for a place that I can afford - if I can even get a mortgage - it all feels quite out of my control." She now intends to speak to more banks about mortgage options as her search continues through the summer.

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