I'm a first-time buyer and got £2,000 FREE to put towards £183,000 home – how you can too | The Sun

THE odds are stacked against solo first-time buyers, but 21-year-old Ollie Leggett got £1,500 in free cash to help him bag his first home.

Project manager Ollie bought his £183,000 one-bedroom apartment in Witham, Essex in November 2022.

The 21-year-old used a government savings scheme to get £1,500 in free cash towards his home.

Ollie got the free cash from the government after opening a Help to Buy Isa in 2018.

The Help To Buy ISA is a savings account that allowed first-time buyers to save for a mortgage deposit and then claim a government bonus when they buy their first home.

For every £200 you save, the government pays a £50 bonus towards the purchase price of a property.


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This particular government scheme closed in November 2019, although if you already have an account, you can continue paying into it until November 2029 and claim the bonus until 2030.

There are other ways house hunters can get free cash too.

The Help to Buy Isa has been replaced by the Lifetime Isa, which can be opened by anyone aged 18 to 39.

When you open a Lifetime Isa the government will add 25% to your savings, up to a maximum of £1,000 a year.

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That means if you put in £4,000 a year you'll get a £1,000 free cash bonus to put towards your first home.

Desperate to get on the ladder quicker, Ollie stashed away £500 a month into his savings.

He split this between his Help to Buy Isa, which he put £200 into each month, and the remaining £300 went into his regular savings account.

Meanwhile, filling out online surveys and using cashback apps also saved Ollie a couple of hundred quid towards his deposit.

We sat down with Ollie to discuss how he went from being a saver to a homeowner for The Sun's My First Home series.

Tell me about your home

It's a one-bedroom apartment in Witham, Essex.

The apartment has an open-plan kitchen-living room and there's enough space for a desk, sofa and a television and stand.

There's one double bedroom and a large bathroom.

I have a storage cupboard which is really handy.

How did you decide on location?

I work in London so I knew I needed to be somewhere commutable but affordable.

Witham was the perfect middle ground because it was still affordable but within a reasonable distance of London.

It takes me around 35 minutes to get to Stratford and around an hour to Liverpool Street door to door.

The train station is also just ten minutes away from my house.

How much was it?

My apartment was £183,000 and I put down a 25% deposit of around £43,000.

I decided to put down a bigger deposit because I wanted to buy somewhere that was a bit more luxurious.

My saving habits had put me in a good position to be able to put down a bigger deposit.

I took out a mortgage of £140,000 for 30 years with a five-year fixed rate of 3.66%.

Going for a longer mortgage meant I could make my repayments a bit more manageable.

I pay around £640 a month towards my mortgage.

I opened a Help to Buy Isa in 2018 and put away £200 a month into it – the maximum you can put in.

By the time I was ready to buy, I had saved up around £6,000 in that account.

The bonus from the Help to Buy Isa was around £2,000.

How did you save for it?

I first started saving with the goal of buying a house in 2019 when I started my apprenticeship in London.

I already had a nest egg of around £5,000 which I had built up from having part-time jobs since the age 16.

In 2019, I was earning £20,000 a year, or £1,600 a month before tax, and I was saving around £500 a month.

The money was split between my Help to Buy Isa and my regular savings account.

Both of these payments went out of my account as soon as I was paid so I was never tempted to spend it.

I then paid a few hundreds pounds to my parents in rent while I was living at home, as well as £400 a month on my rail season ticket.

This left me with a few hundred pounds left to afford little luxuries, like a meal out or drinks with friends.

When we went into lockdown in 2020, I started working from home which meant I didn't have to pay for my monthly rail season ticket.

This meant I could add an extra £400 – the cost of my ticket – straight into savings.

I worked from home for roughly two years, which saved me around £9,000 – a huge saving and boost towards my deposit.

In June 2021, I got a promotion and a pay rise, meaning I was able to save an additional £100 without having to sacrifice anything else.

If I had anything left at the end of the month, this would also go into my savings.

This amount would vary, but sometimes I would have anything up to £250 more going into my savings.

I've always been pretty savvy when it comes to shopping, and would always use cashback apps to make some extra money.

My favourites included TopCashBack, Checkoutsmart and Shopmium.

They are really easy to use and I would use them to buy everything from groceries to clothes and electronics.

Over the two-year period I was saving for a house, I managed to put away an extra £200 just by using these apps.

How did you afford to furnish it?

I saved a little more than I needed to for a deposit to account for buying furniture for my apartment.

I have been buying everything in stages, and I still have some stuff to get as I only recently moved in.

Facebook Marketplace was really useful for finding some good quality, second-hand furniture.

For example, I managed to bag a second-hand coffee table, sideboard and TV unit from B&M for free.

The set was virtually brand new and I was planning on buying the exact one for £150, which was a big saving.

I regularly shop at B&M and always use the scanner app to find hidden bargains.

For example, I managed to get a set of £4 candles for 10p and a £15 rug for £4.

The previous owners also left a lot of their kitchen appliances behind, which were still in good working order.

This meant I managed to get a microwave, washer-dryer, fridge-freezer, oven and a dishwasher for free – saving me around £1,000.

I managed to buy my £300 bed by using vouchers that I had earned from downloading the Ipsos Iris app – consumer data tracking software.

I earned a £20 voucher just by signing up and installing the free app on my phone.

I also had to fill in a quick survey.

I then get £10 every month for keeping the app installed on my phone.

I cashed out for Argos vouchers, which I used to cover the cost of my bed.

What advice would you give to other first-time buyers?

Just remember to enjoy the process.

I think so many people view the house-buying process negatively, when in reality, it's pretty exciting to be working towards home ownership.

Thinking more positively helps you to get into a better mindset.

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Do you have a money problem that needs sorting? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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