Zero to house-buying hero: how to save a mortgage deposit

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This time 10 years ago, we were buying a house: our first home, in North Yorkshire. The floors were bare boards, the walls were covered in yellow vinyl wallpaper, and the gas and electricity were on pre-pay meters (on a frozen January night when all the newsagents were closed, I discovered this the hard way). The garden, used by the previous occupants as a landfill site, was devoid of lawn and covered in knee-high brambles.

We had saved a 10% mortgage deposit and bought our red-brick terrace at the top of the market, just before the credit crunch came whomping on house prices and equity. When we sold up two years ago to move to Greater Manchester, the house prices in the local area had just drifted their way back up to pre-crunch levels so despite all the home improvements, we made little on the sale.

Were these trials and tribulations? Pah! Not at all. They meant nothing: instead, I was (and am) grateful, relieved and rather amazed that we’d managed to claw our way onto the housing ladder in the first place.

As it turns out, our house-buying timing was beaut: a week after we moved in, banks began tightening lending requirements and pulling fixed-rate repayment deals left, right and centre. While we made little when we sold up, we had built up a good chunk of equity via mortgage payments and when possible, overpayments.

It was difficult enough to be buying a house back then; it’s even tougher now. The economy is looking dodge, mortgage lenders want would-be customers to walk through fire – and on top of it all, increases in the cost of living make the prospect of saving a mortgage deposit seem more daunting than ever.

Something I have learned, however, is that while the prospect of saving for a mortgage deposit can be daunting, the truth is that unless you are set on buying in London or somewhere else with crazy prices, it can be done. Drastic lifestyle changes, budget makeovers and the sourcing of extra streams of income may be required, but it can be done. In my case, we moved up north, where you could – and still do – get a lot more bang for your buck. I lived extremely frugally, to pack away as much of my salary as possible. I did a lot of eBay selling, reselling and more besides. We got there.

Gleeson Homes, a housebuilder with a strong base here in the North of England, approached me to make some short videos about my tips and ideas for saving for a deposit. It was an interesting company with which to collaborate: Gleeson specialises in low-cost homes for first-time buyers on modest incomes. In a Guardian profile, which you can read here, the chief executive describes the typical customers as “a Sheffield bus driver and his shopworker wife on a combined income of £34,000 a year.” (See what I mean about bang for your buck? Move north. Come join us!)

If you are currently saving for a mortgage deposit, or know somebody who is, you can find all six videos playlisted on my YouTube channel. I have copied partial transcriptions below. There are a number of tips here and, although they won’t all be suitable for everyone, there are plenty of tips to go around.

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