How I bought my flat in London

6 min | 29 April 2024

Rebecca Chuks
Rebecca Chuks

When I walked into the real estate agent’s office to pick up the keys for my new home, it was such a surreal experience. I was handed a bouquet of flowers (a lovely touch) and a set of keys to the flat I’d just purchased. It was a few years in the making, but here’s how I did it.

First off, let me say that buying a home in London can feel kind of absurd. You’re asked to cough up tens of thousands of pounds just for a deposit – when that amount could buy a whole house outright in other parts of the UK. But growing up in a household of 9 people, it’s safe to say I was keen to get my own space.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was lucky enough to be living at home while I was saving – so I wasn’t losing bundles every month to rent (though I did make a monthly payment to my dear mum).

Getting serious

When I decided it was time to get serious, I didn’t worry about the huge amount I’d need to save – I started with where I was at. That meant focusing on how much I could actually save each month.

So, it was spreadsheet time. No, spreadsheets are not sexy. Yes, you do need a system to see the cold, hard numbers. I went through my banking app and literally put every transaction from the last few months into a spreadsheet, then categorised each one (fixed costs, socialising, health and wellbeing and so on). Once I could see exactly how much I spent per category, per month, I took a moment to swoon and start sweating. Then pulled myself together and made a plan.

Step 1 – Cut the… excess

I noticed my phone bill had lapsed out of contract, so I saved some cash with a new deal. I also spotted a pattern: if an item cost £20 or less and I was mildly interested in it, I wouldn’t think twice about buying it. Those small transactions add up, so noticing this helped me be more mindful when I was shopping.

Step 2 – Set boundaries

Per category, I decided what my monthly spending caps would be. Bills were easy, as there wasn’t much wiggle room. For things like shopping and socialising, I looked at previous spending and asked myself about the future. Was I likely to have a night on the town every weekend or, more realistically, once or twice a month? (Yes, I was in my 20s, but my top hobby was also reading.)

Step 3 – How I saved smart

You may be wondering why I didn’t cut out all but essential spending. Well, I knew if I had that kind of budget, I’d use it for a week and then buy the first shiny thing I saw. To make it stick, I accounted for my real life but gave myself some limits.

My budget gave me a ‘monthly spend’ number – everything else went to my savings. And I sent my savings out of my current account as soon as I got paid.

I maxed out my (now defunct) Help to Buy ISA (Opens in new window) each month. Then, I sent everything else to my savings account, which had the highest interest rate I could find at the time.

Step 4 – How I spent smart

To keep my spending on track, I added up my budgeted ‘spending money’, sent it to a separate account (with no overdraft), and only used that card to pay for things. I turned on spend notifications to keep me mindful of every transaction. If I overspent in one category, I’d have to move cash from another. And when the money was gone, no more spending.

Step 5 – Keep at it

My first savings goal was £10,000, and when I hit it, I was so thrilled. Once I stopped jumping up and down, I went to my bank and got a mortgage in principle to see what I could potentially borrow for a mortgage. Too many mortgages in principle with hard checks will likely damage your credit score, so check if it will be with a hard or soft check when you apply.

It wasn’t very much, but this was crucial in showing me how much more I’d need to save and what properties I could potentially afford.

Quick tips

The ‘final stages’ of buying a property can last several months, so avoid withdrawing your cash from savings accounts or your Lifetime ISA (LISA (Opens in new window)) if you have one. If you're going to use your LISA, it's worth remembering that there are various rules around this, such as the property needing to cost no more than £450,000. I withdrew my cash and closed my account too early, so I missed two months’ worth of interest and bonuses.

Also, if you’re a freelancer or self-employed person like me, it could be well worth getting a mortgage broker. I did, and it was the only way I was able to secure a mortgage at that time. You might be more lucky with your bank or lender.

Looking for somewhere to keep your savings? Bank with Chase and you can open a saver account. Start saving with as little as you like, and we’ll calculate your interest daily and pay it monthly.

18+, UK residents. A Chase current account is required to open a saver account.

Disclaimer: The Hub is intended as a knowledge portal to provide information on a range of topics, including financial products. Articles may reference products and services that Chase UK does not currently offer. This article is for information only and does not constitute financial or legal advice.

If you have a LISA, eligibility and tax rules will apply, including that you must be 18–39 years old at time of opening.Government early withdrawal charges may apply. If you have a stocks and shares LISA, your capital is at risk, and the value of your portfolio can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest.

If you are unsure if a Lifetime ISA is the right choice for you, please seek financial advice.

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