When Bolu (24) moved home to South East London after graduating from university, she immediately started saving for a place of her own. “Owning a home has always been a goal of mine. I did not want to get stuck renting in London – it’s so expensive and, particularly as a single person, I knew it would be impossible to afford the monthly cost and save for a deposit. When I left university, I decided my best option was to move back in with my parents and save everything I could. I was determined, but even I didn’t think it would be possible by the time I was 24!”
- Bolu Sofoluwe, Harbard Close 1G11
- Deposit: £29,760 (15%)
- Purchase price: £198,400
Save, save, and save some more
Bolu had secured a place on a graduate scheme at a bank in Canary Wharf and immediately focused on how she could use her new income to make her dream happen as soon as possible. “I became a bit obsessed. I watched endless YouTube videos and learned a lot from money-saving gurus online – doing things like setting a zero-based monthly budget and using a spreadsheet to track my outgoings. I was so strict with myself!
“Last year lockdown really accelerated my saving. Without the cost of things like my monthly travel card, I was able to put away as much as 80% of my salary some months. I also made sure I did my research into the Government schemes that provide additional support – switching to the Lifetime ISA from a basic cash ISA added an additional £2,000 to my savings over two years.”
Despite all her efforts, Bolu thought a home of her own was a long way off. “Sometimes I didn’t really know what I was saving for. I would spend evenings browsing on Zoopla and Rightmove and never see anything I liked within my budget. Older properties all needed a lot of work like new kitchens or bathrooms, which I would never be able to afford on top of my deposit.
“I did consider other options like Shared Ownership and an equity loan, but there were just so many terms and conditions and it felt like loans on top of loans to me. I wanted a traditional mortgage and I started to accept that I would have to compromise on location and accept living further away from my friends, family and work to achieve it.”
Then, when Bolu attended the London Home Show with a friend, she discovered there was another option. “When I came across Pocket Living, I was honestly shocked. I just didn’t think you could find anything at that price in London. I also fell in love with the concept and how Pocket prioritises key workers and people from certain industries. I registered as soon as I got home!”
A sensible choice
Two years later, Pocket Living contacted Bolu with an opportunity to buy a flat at its new Harbard Close IG11 development in Barking. “I jumped at it,” she says, “I couldn’t miss the chance to own a new-build property in London.”
Bolu was also happy that the home was in an area she felt was up and coming. “I have friends that live in Barking and they love it. They had lots of great tips on the best coffee shops and restaurants – which I’m still looking forward to checking out when things open up again! There is also a lot of development and investment happening in the area and that ticked a big box for me. I wanted a home for me to live in, but I also see it as an investment and an asset – if the value of my property increases, that would be the cherry on top.”
Perfect for home and office working
Harbard Close is just a stone’s throw from Barking station, and the area’s excellent transport links were a big selling point for Bolu. “I will go back to working in an office at some point and the fact that my commute to Canary Wharf will be just 33 minutes is brilliant. I thought I’d have to move miles out of central London.
“I was very lucky to be able to live with my parents, but it was definitely an adjustment after the freedom and independence of university. When I was working from home, I was often sat at the dining table and there are no doors between that space, the living room and the kitchen. You’re dealing with other people’s schedules and routines – walking through and answering the door for deliveries when you’re on video call.
“I’m so excited to have my own space now. One of my favourite features of Harbard Close was the Garden Room – an additional space that you can book to work, entertain friends or do yoga – as well as the shared gardens and allotments. I actually have my own patio, but having the option of a change of scenery, without leaving the development, is a huge bonus.”
While Bolu is looking forward to some peace and quiet, she was also attracted to the potential for a new community at Harbard Close. “Everyone is in the same boat and has just gone through the process of being a first-time buyer. Also, because most people are single and live by themselves, I think they’ll be more open to making friends and getting to know their neighbours. A genuine community.”
Excited for the future
Bolu is now enjoying settling into her new home. “I’m so pleased I went to see the show flat, because I was amazed by how spacious it was. You can tell they have really thought about the layout and it feels way bigger than it is. I also came away with some great interior’s inspiration and ideas for creating my own workspace in the living room. It’s so fun being able to have it just the way I like it, but I need to try and focus on the big things like beds and a desk before I get carried away on all the fun bits!”