The first steps to finding your home

The First Steps initiative offers help and advice on low-cost home-ownership schemes to first-time buyers
High Point Village, Hillingdon
£116,000: for a 40 per cent share of a flat at High Point Village on the Grand Union Canal in Hillingdon. Call 020 8357 4444
Thousands of government-funded affordable homes are for sale and for rent across London, yet identifying a suitable property at the right price in the location of your choice is never an easy task.

FIRST STEPS, a fresh initiative set up by London’s 40-plus housing associations and backed by Mayor Boris Johnson, makes property searching much easier.

'Buyers can get on the ladder for less than £600 a month with shared-ownership schemes'



This new service launched in mid-June with a dedicated exhibition, the London Homes Show. It gave first-time buyers an opportunity to talk face to face with housing providers, get details of new and resale properties, plus information on the low-cost home-ownership schemes for first-time buyers.

The FIRST STEPS website (www.firststepslondon.org) is already up and running. It offers a simple registration and search service, allowing people to pinpoint all available affordable homes on a borough-by-borough basis. These include shared-equity properties offered by private developers in conjunction with housing charities.

All first-time buyers, not just key workers, earning between £15,000 and £60,000, are eligible for one of these affordable homes. Typically, applicants must have at least £4,000 in savings to cover the cost of buying a home. This amount is in addition to the minimum five to 10 per cent required by a mortgage lender.

Housing associations predict a spike in buyer demand from September, when a new top-up deposit scheme providing interest-free loans worth 20 per cent of a new-build property’s value comes into force (Londoners earning up to £73,500 a year will qualify for this).

About 30,000 homes are listed on the website and new developments are added regularly. Some properties are available “off-plan”, usually several months before they are complete, allowing buyers to organise their move. Buyers can get on the ladder for less than £600 a month by purchasing the minimum 25 per cent shared-ownership stake and paying a subsidised rent on the remaining equity.

“I’d been reaching my performance targets at work and getting bonuses, but the money I saved was still not enough for me to buy outright,” says Mira Livingstone, 34, who works for Lush Cosmetics in the West End. So she pooled resources with her partner Thomas Holdroyd and together they bought a 25 per cent share of a two-bedroom flat at a development close to Canary Wharf, through MHO housing association. Their shared cost is £92,000 and the total monthly payments are £900 a month.

Homes are available at designer developments in central London and include waterside apartments, some overlooking parks and with special eco-features. Caspian Apartments is the first phase at a new 215-home “green” scheme in Limehouse, Docklands. Homes have solar panels and a landscaped communal roof terrace. Prices from £199,950 (outright sale), through A2 Dominion.

Baseline, New Cross
£82,000: for a 40 per cent share of an apartment at Baseline in New Cross. Contact L&Q on 0844 406 9800
London & Quadrant has a rent-to-buy deal called Up2U, which offers occupiers a discounted rent (80 per cent of the market rate) until they are in a strong enough financial position to buy. This option is available at Arch Street, a new development at Elephant & Castle. Rental prices are from £954 a month. Shared-ownership flats cost from £64,250 (25 per cent equity), or from £570 per month in combined rent and mortgage payments and service charge. Call 0844 406 9800.

L&Q also has apartments at Baseline in New Cross (£82,000 for a 40 per cent share) and at Embassy Court, Welling High Street. Prices from £56,000.

Affinity Sutton is promoting new shared-ownership flats at Fairmont House, part of a new-build complex next to Canada Water Tube station in Southwark. Full prices from £285,000. Only a five per cent deposit is required on the minimum 25 per cent equity that can be purchased. Call 0300 100 0300.

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