As other articles on this site explain getting a mortgage when you are not a UK citizen or permanent resident is extremely difficult! However, there's always a feeling of throwing money away when you're stuck renting, and who wants to wait five years to get on the property ladder?
My 'out of the box' solution was to look for lower cost properties where I could afford to pay cash and to just avoid the whole mortgage situation. It's not as impossible as you may think if you are willing to be flexible in your approach. If you are smart enough to navigate through the application process to make it to the UK, home ownership in the UK is certainly possible! It also helps if you come with some savings in hand or are on a two income budget or on a financially lucrative job in the UK, but as everyone has different circumstances, you do the best you can with the hand you've been dealt.
As a first step, I committed to living as frugal a life in the UK as possible. It can be so expensive to live here that I was watching carefully every penny that I spent. I took lunches to the office every day, only ate out once per week and was careful on entertainment expenses and transport costs. Therefore, almost my entire paycheck was only going into costs that were required like water, electricity and food for meals that I prepared at home. Now would be the time to join your local library to borrow books and DVDs for free entertainment.
Rather than renting a flat on my own when I first arrived, I rented a furnished room in a house. While I would have loved to have lived by myself, I saved a few hundred pounds in rent each month and had no startup furniture costs so those savings went immediately to my house fund. If you can save a lot by living with others over the course of a few months, it can really add up! As well, I considered other options to keep my costs down, such as house-sitting, where you stay in someone's home and watch their pets, get their post, etc. while living there rent free. It may be a challenge as you probably have limited references in the UK, however, the point is to continue to think creatively about options such as these, on how to limit your living costs as much as possible.
Next, I thought about the types of things that were the most important to me for my future home. While I would have loved to have a small house with a garden or a two bedroom flat with a balcony, I didn't want to wait the five years for permanent residency as that would just be throwing rent money
down the drain in the meantime. I wanted to be in my own place as soon as possible in the UK, even if it was only a 'starter flat' and after getting permanent residency I would go for a mortgage and something bigger or better. So my personal requirements were: a safe neighborhood for a single female and a flat that was not on the ground floor. Of course a building with a fitness club in central London would have been perfect, but realistic it was not.
Next, I researched areas that were commutable to my place of employment. As I work in Essex, it is a lower cost area than London, therefore, I could look at other even lower cost areas that would be commutable to my job. However, even if you work in London, there are still many possibilities. This is the point where you need to spend hours online getting an understanding of UK neighborhoods and asking work colleagues and friends about them. This is also the point where you need to figure out your tolerance level for commuting. If you have a permanent job in London, a season ticket loan may be offered so you can initially afford your rail ticket outward. However, the expense of commuting in both money and time needs to be balanced, and for you to be comfortable that owning a home in a certain area would be preferable to renting for a longer period while you save up more cash.
For example, there are regions that are commutable into London such as Chatham or Gillingham in Kent. They might not be the safest neighborhoods and the art and cultural options are not as plentiful as London, but it certainly is more affordable to buy a one bedroom flat there than in London, with prices for a one bedroom in this area of Kent costing around 50,000 pounds. On the logistics, Southeastern Regional rail will take you from Chatham or Gillingham to London Victoria in under an hour with no train changes required. Alternately, maybe a fixer-upper house in a better neighborhood is more to your liking? Personally I'm limited to painting and basic DIY, but if you can handle the efforts, why not?
The next avenue toward buying my own home was to find a part-time job on top of my 'normal' job. When you arrive in the UK not knowing anyone, there is no reason to stay at home by yourself on a Friday night. If you work Monday to Friday during normal office hours, that potentially leaves you some free hours during the week to work an extra job or at least the entire weekend. Many UK establishments are regularly look to bring on part-time workers and every pound that you make can be squirreled away in your house fund. Or, if you are technically skilled and can take on freelance after hours work, why not? You can earn the currency anywhere and then convert it to pounds. As long as your 'normal' job is ensuring that you make the salary to renew your Tier one, for example, then it's time to creativity apply your skills wherever you can legally work remotely (for me it is the US)--although I also took on extra part-time work in the UK on the weekends to fund my dream.
The main points would be to earn and save as much as possible while spending only the minimum. All the while there is time to review UK geography and to read the real estate listings online to familiarize yourself with your options so that when the time comes and you have the cash in hand, you'll be ready.
Finally, once you have the first flat or house purchased, it isn't time to relax yet. A saying I often thought about on those long nights of working or on the way to a 7 AM start in the office was, "If you want something that others do not have, you need to be willing to do what others will not do." While it would have been easy enough to pay rent for five plus years and then try to put together a mortgage on the
dream home, I prefer the way that I did it, even if what I own is 'cute and cheerful'. My paycheck isn't going to a mortgage or rent, it's going into the next house fund. As well, I'm continuing to add to that house fund by renting out my flat during big regional festivals and offering my sofa to occasional visitors who work in this town and look for a cheaper alternative than a hotel. As the Tesco advert says, 'Every Little Helps'.
Relevant and useful UK immigration Forum Discussions:
- Is Renting A Flat From Housing Association A Recourse To Public Fund?
- Help With Renting Flat For Fiance
- Bought A Flat Under Part Buy, Part Rent Scheme And Settlement Application
- Adequate Accommodation - Studio Flat?
- Buy A House - Buying a house can get me permanent visa?
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