What I Own: Simon, who paid £337,500 for his three-bed house in 2006October 23, 2021
Welcome back to What I Own.
If you’re new to the series, here’s a quick explainer: every week we chat to a different homeowner about what it’s like getting on the property ladder.
Last time we chatted with Irene, who paid a £400,000 deposit for her £1million house in Clapham.
This week it’s the turn of Simon, who lives in Woking with his partner and two dogs. He bought his three-bed house back in 2006 and it’s now more than doubled in value.
This is what he had to say about his buying experience.
Hi, Simon! Tell us about yourself.
I am 44 years old and I live with my partner of 19 years and our two puggles, Sumo and Bailey, who have now reached the grand old age of 13 years old.
Like most of the UK population, I have been working from home for the best part of 18 months. Last summer I started a new company with friend and fellow entrepreneur, Charlie Brake, who is part of the Brake Bros family and a former Love Island contestant from the 2018 series. It’s called Naughty Water and is a delicious sparkling water drink infused with vodka.
Where is your property? What do you think of the area?
We live in a small village on the outskirts of Woking, Surrey. It is about approximately two miles from Woking train station and ideal if we need to hop on a train to London where we can get to Waterloo within 23 minutes.
Our village is quaint and full of amenities including a great pub (a major plus), and lots of woodland to walk our dogs. Friends who live in London often say they can’t believe how the countryside is so close.
When did you move in?
We moved into this property on Halloween in 2006.
How much does your property cost?
We paid £337,500. It was valued last year at £725,000.
How much was your deposit?
10% of the asking price.
What is the monthly cost of living here now; both mortgage and bills?
Earlier this year we moved our mortgage from capital repayment to interest only, as both myself and my partner launched new businesses and the saving each month helps financially whilst the businesses grow successfully.
As a result, our monthly costs for the mortgage and utility bills reduced by £1,700 to just over £1,000.
How did you save up for your deposit?
We were both lucky in the fact that we had a property each before we moved in here. They had gone up in value since the purchase, so we combined the profits made to use as the deposit for our current house.
What was the process of getting a mortgage like for you? Did you find any parts challenging?
We converted our mortgage from capital repayment to interest only earlier this year. Because we were doing this with the same lender we thought it would be quite easy. After all, we are reducing the monthly payment.
But this was not to be the case and we had to run through the application process again. This created some hurdles, due to my partner not having a full time salary, although we managed to overcome it – thankfully.
Where did you live before this?
We both owned our own properties before moving in together. I had a one-bedroom maisonette near Guildford and my partner had a one-bedroom maisonette locally. I was lucky that I had a rear garden with mine which was fairly large, so although it was an upstairs maisonette I still had the outdoor space.
Both properties were our first purchases, so going from a one-bedroom maisonette into a three-bedroom home was a nice change.
What made you want to buy rather than renting?
Looking back all those years, especially seeing now how hard it is for people to actually get onto the property ladder, I am very grateful that my parents insisted I try everything I could in order to buy my own place, rather than rent – which they classed as ‘dead money’. This has always stuck with me and they said when it comes to property, you should stretch yourself as far as you can possibly manage.
‘A property is the biggest asset you’ll ever have’ is what my father used to say. At 23 years old, going out and holidaying was more on my mind, but I did listen to them and am glad I did.
How did you find this property? What made you choose it?
When we were looking to buy somewhere together, we set our budget at £250,000 in order to avoid the stamp duty. I think being slightly naïve we were just wanting to pull our resources together and get something larger, maybe with an extra bedroom and a garden.
I remember we found a house that was just under this threshold and the owner had converted the loft to make it a three-bedroom. All the rooms were tiny, but there wasn’t much on the market and almost through desperation we made an offer.
Then the voices of reason came (our parents) which we needed – they didn’t like it – and I am thankful we listened to them, and the same advice… stretch yourselves.
The house we are in now came up a couple of weeks later and as soon as we walked into the hallway, we knew it was the one. The couple that lived here had been here for 25 years, and we fell in love with the large rooms, high ceilings, long private garden and also the fact that they had been here so long. We could understand it just from walking in.
It’s a strange feeling, but I think when you know it’s the one, you know pretty quickly, if not immediately. We made an offer that day for full asking price and literally made the estate agent take it off the market as we were so paranoid it may go to someone else.
How have you made the property feel like home?
The house was in good order when we purchased it. The previous owners had looked after it, and while they hadn’t made any structural changes to the inside, it was a novelty to have a separate dining room, separate living room, a galley kitchen and upstairs, two double bedrooms and one single bedroom. The bathroom was also the size of a large bedroom which appealed coming from a tiny bathroom with just a toilet, sink and bath all squeezed in.
Over the years, we put a small extension onto the side of the house and knocked the wall from the kitchen into the lounge to make one large kitchen/living room.
At the time, we decided for some reason to leave the dining room separate, which of course looking back we shouldn’t have done as we didn’t use it, so we have since knocked the wall through so now the whole of the downstairs is open-plan, with the exception of the hallway to the stairs, downstairs toilet and the front door. It’s so much better and is an excellent space now for entertaining. To increase light and bring the outdoors inside, we added bi-fold doors which make all the difference.
Upstairs we haven’t made any major changes, apart from the bathroom. We gutted this, removed the airing cupboard which allowed us to put in a huge bath and walk in shower, both of which have always been on my ‘want’ list for years.
What’s the inspiration for your interior decor style?
Growing up, I went to a school called Christ’s Hospital in Horsham – which was steeped with history and tradition. My mother was always dragging me round antique shops, furnishing our house and my bedroom with antique pine which was all the fashion at the time. I think those times have rubbed off on me, as I love anything old.
I don’t like to use the term ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’, it doesn’t have to be this, so you’ll see we have old mixed with new. In fact, I still use my music stand (antique pine, obviously) in the kitchen which is now used as a recipe stand.
Ibiza is also a factor in our styling, as the island is our favourite place, so the wicker lights along with the Oleander plants bring a touch of Ibiza into our home. I would describe it as slightly rustic shabby-chic. It works for us anyway, and I am grateful that we’re both on the same page and not, say, ultra modern furniture.
What’s your favourite room and why?
The kitchen is my favourite part of the house. I love cooking but can watch the TV at the other end of the room, while my other half is round the corner out the way watching a separate TV.
It’s like having my own space, even though it’s in the same room. The dogs will be sitting with me while I am cooking, knowing that I’ll inevitably drop something on the floor being such a messy cook.
Do you feel like you have enough space?
We definitely have enough room. There’s only two of us, so any more would be a waste and make the house feel less cosy. There’s room for our own space should we want it, and we have actually joked that we’d be quite happy to downsize if we ever had to as all we need is a garden for the dogs, and two bedrooms.
Do you have plans to change the property?
We don’t have any plans to change the property at the moment. We’ve got it to a state that it’s finished in our minds. If we were to do something, we could convert the loft space as this is massive, but at the moment I don’t think it would add much value to the house, not that we are in a position to do it, but it’s nice to know we could if we wanted to.
Are there any problems with the property that you have to deal with?
When we moved in we had the survey done and nothing major came up. However, when we started renovations we pulled up the flooring in the dining room and the material underneath, which I would say is a clay type material, was quite damp. We soon discovered that a pipe had burst at some point by the then back door, so that was a bit of a pain trying to locate it and remedy the leak. Luckily, it was outside so we didn’t have to start digging through the house.
What do you want people to know about buying a home?
I would say to people when looking to buy a property, don’t rush. Take your time and look around at all the options for your budget. It’s the most important investment you’re going to make so it has to be right for you. And hopefully you’ll get that feeling when you know it’s the right one when you walk in.
I love our house now, but being here for 15 years, didn’t expect the road to get busier over time – that’s living in the commuter belt I guess. It’s not a major issue for us, but just demonstrates how you need to take everything into account when choosing your home.
What are your plans for the future, in terms of housing? Do you plan to stay here long term?
Looking to the future, we haven’t got any immediate plans to move, which is funny as we thought we would be here for two years when we purchased it, and look at us now, 15 years later.
Obviously at some stage we would like to move, when the time is right and our businesses have become successful. In an ideal world, we plan to have a smaller/cheaper two-bedroom cottage somewhere down a country road in the local area, and a villa to escape to in Ibiza.
Shall we take a look around?
Do you want to feature in What I Own?
What I Own is a Metro.co.uk series that takes you inside people’s properties, to take an honest look at what it’s like to buy a home in the UK. If you own your home and would be up for sharing your story, please email [email protected]
You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’ve paid to live there and how you afforded the deposit, as that’s pretty important.
If you’re renting, you can take part too! What I Own runs alongside What I Rent, which is the same series but all about renting. Again, if you’d like to get involved just email whati[email protected]
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