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Monday 8 February 2010

First Time Buyers Cash-in on Re-launched Scheme

Childhood sweethearts, Bethany and Simon Matthews from Congleton, had been desperate to get on to the property ladder, when they came across a scheme that changed their lives.

Cheshire East Council’s Assisted Purchase Scheme – now re-launched - helps individuals and couples on low incomes buy an affordable property on the open market, with an interest free loan worth 25 per cent of the property value.

Already more than 400 people across Cheshire East have jumped at the chance to apply and get a leg on the housing ladder in these difficult times.

Self employed jewellery designer, Bethany, 23, and her husband, Simon, 25, a web and graphic designer, took advantage of the scheme last year and were able to buy a two-bedroom Victorian cottage close to Congleton Train Station for £110,000.

“We just couldn’t believe our luck,” said Bethany. “One minute we were considering renting and the next, we were moving into our new dream home.”

The scheme works by first assessing income to make sure applicants are eligible to buy a home worth a maximum of £180,000 and then they’re placed on a waiting list.

Together the couple qualified for the scheme as they were bringing in a total annual income of just under £30,000, were unable to afford their own home on the open market, and were working in Cheshire East.

Bethany and Simon had to prove they could afford to pay 75 per cent of the mortgage between them, with the remaining 25 per cent paid as an interest free loan through the scheme.

The couple, who married last July, were able to put down £10,000 of their own money, gleaned from savings and parents, and had no outstanding arrears on any previously rented properties, which is another stipulation of the scheme.

Their dream house had been on the market for some time for £165,000, but due to the dire housing market it had dropped to £119,000. The vendor accepted the couple’s reduced offer of £110,000 - and keys were exchanged just three months later.

“We were over the moon, absolutely delighted and we really couldn’t believe we were finally home owners, “said Bethany.

“The scheme was brilliant and really helped us all the way through the process, and staff were so kind and pleasant to us.”

In Bethany and Simon’s case the interest free loan through the scheme was £27,500 - representing 25 per cent of their property value - and their mortgage was £72,500, having already invested a £10,000 deposit.

The couple, who have been together for nine years now, say the scheme was easy to understand. They have never been happier, and are slowly improving the house as they go along.

With a fixed rate mortgage of 4.18 per cent over three years, they are confident their re-payments will remain affordable.

When it comes to paying back the scheme’s 25 per cent loan, the couple will pay back 25 per cent of the sale value, which means both parties will make a profit if the housing market picks up. The loan must be repaid within 10 years time.

So if Bethany and Simon’s home increases in value to £150,000 over the next two years and they chose to sell, the amount payable to the scheme would be £37,500, and the couple will have made in the region of around £30,000, plus any mortgage paid off.

“We just felt we would have been throwing money down the drain renting, and we were being messed about with our accommodation at the time. It all felt terribly insecure.

“Now we can settle down and start making the house our dream home and hopefully start a family, which the house is ideal for.”

Cheshire East Councillor, Jamie Macrae, Cabinet member for prosperity, said: “This is a unique scheme to the area and is all about giving residents in Cheshire East the chance to own a property.

“Cheshire East has invested £600,000 in to the scheme funded by our Regional Housing Allocation, and we are hoping to secure additional funding to enable more residents to take advantage of this wonderful offer.

“In these very difficult economic times, it is vital that this authority does everything in its power to assist first time buyers or those whose housing has become unsuitable.

“Hundreds of people have already applied to the Assisted Purchase Scheme, proof alone that many local residents are keen to get onto the property ladder or make a fresh start.”

• Application forms to join the scheme are available at the Cheshire East Council Housing Department.

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