Pavla Kopecna's two cats, Trotsky and Nye, have a lot to answer for. "They were at the centre of our property search," first-time buyer Pavla explains. The 29-year-old PR consultant was looking for a flat to buy with her boyfriend, Olly Cook, who works for a political think-tank.
"Because of the cats, we had to go for a ground-floor flat with a garden, so our £330,000 budget didn't stretch very far," she says.
The pair had been renting in Islington Green for 18 months before they began house-hunting in June. "We felt like our monthly rent was just money down the drain," Pavla explains. Pooling together their savings and with help from both of their families, the couple built up a £70,000 deposit.
They began speaking to estate agents, expecting the process to take up to a year. "We realised that we weren't going to get anything nice with our money, since we wanted to stay in Islington, which is expensive, and we needed a garden," she says. "So we decided to look for an old place that hadn't been done up."
Just a few weeks later, they received the details of a one-bedroom, run-down Victorian conversion just across the road from the flat they rented. "It was only the third place we'd seen, but it was perfect," says Pavla.
Untouched since the 1960s, the basement flat needed urgent electrical work. It also had brown carpets and lime-green walls. "But there was space to build an extension on the back, and the rooms were all a decent size. Plus it was £299,000, so there was room in our budget to do it up."
The couple put in an offer at the asking price, but discovered they weren't the only ones to do so. "We were worried about a bidding war, but since we were chain-free and the seller was moving to Australia and was desperate for a quick sale, we came back a bit higher, at £300,136, which was successful. Later we learned it was only £36 pounds more than the other bidders."
Next the couple started hunting for a mortgage. "We looked at options from the high-street banks but didn't have the time or expertise to choose," says Pavla. Instead, the pair opted to use a mortgage broker, who recommended a three-year, fixed mortgage from Nationwide at 3.99 per cent, which they secured without any problems.
"Now we're deciding between two grand plans," adds Pavla. "We're either going to add an extension and keep the current layout, or gut it all. We're going to have to move into my boyfriend's mum's house while the work goes on because we can't afford to rent and pay a mortgage. "It'll be hard work, but we can't wait to get started."