When Covid derailed their travel plans, this couple bought their first home

After Covid put paid to their travel plans, Charlotte Lee, 25, and Joe Sibbald, 27, have bought their first home instead.

At the end of 2019, the pair had taken a sabbatical from their financial jobs in Canary Wharf, and jetted off to Australia with the intention of spending the next 12 months travelling.

When their trip was cut short by the pandemic, they ended up buying their first home at Lovell Homes’ Trinity Walk development in Woolwich and moved in last August.

‘We had an amazing first three months in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, enjoying parachuting and hiking over volcanoes,’ recalls Charlotte. ‘When Covid first came to our attention we were exploring the Philippines but were told it would blow over and we wouldn’t be affected on the remote island where were staying.’

Then, of course, everything changed.

‘Suddenly we were in lockdown, and with no boats or planes in or out of the islands. We were stranded. But we looked on the bright side — there are worse places in the world to sit it out!’ adds Joe.

They finally returned to the UK in June and spent the first fortnight quarantined at Charlotte’s parents’ home in Manchester, where they hatched their plan to buy a place of their own.

‘We still had money left from our trip which we hadn’t spent, which could go towards a deposit for our own place,’ says Charlotte.

‘We wanted to buy a new-build as it’s more straightforward and a less stressful experience. As first-time buyers it was the right option.’

Opting for a new-build also meant that they could benefit from London Help to Buy, which lends up to 40 per cent of the cost to buyers putting down a five per cent deposit, so they only need to find a 55 per cent mortgage.

Help to Buy is offered on selected new homes up to £600,000, and the loan is interest-free for five years. Across the rest of England, the maximum loan is 20 per cent. An updated scheme with lower regional price caps comes into force on April 1.

The pair researched developments in south-east London and booked five viewings over a weekend. One was at Trinity Walk in Woolwich, which stood out for a number of reasons.

‘It was the best value for money and the location is ideal,’ says Joe. ‘It’s near shops and amenities and five-minute walk to the tube. The immediate thing that struck us was how spacious and well laid out the apartments are.

‘We visited a number of new developments that were just high rise buildings with no soul, but this one has a modern, safe community feel. When Crossrail opens, we’ll be able to get to work at Canary Wharf in seven minutes. That was a big plus for us.

‘We took advantage of Help to Buy and the stamp duty holiday (no tax on homes up to £500,000 that complete by March 31) to buy our stunning ground-floor, two-bed apartment with a huge terrace.’

Adds Charlotte: ‘We had a wonderful travelling experience for six months and also managed to buy a property. It’s been the best of both worlds.’

Do the maths

Price (for a similar two-bed): £495,000

5 per cent deposit: £24,750

40 per cent Help to Buy loan: £198,000

Mortgage: approx £1,070 pcm Service charge: approx £190 pcm Monthly spend approx £1,260


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