We’re first-time buyers and got £4,000 free cash to put towards £376,000 home – how you can too

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BUYING a house is one of the priciest purchases you’ll make, but first-time buyer Nicola found ways to get freebies.

Data manager Nicola Frapwell, 32, and firefighter Luke Fisher, 37, bought their £376,000 home in Crawley in February 2021.

Nicola Frapwell used a Lifetime Isa to buy her first home

Nicola and Luke bought their £376,000 home in Crawley in February 2021

Nicola also cut back on buying clothes to afford her first home

To help lower costs, they used a savings scheme to get a whopping £4,000 in free cash.

The extra cash boost came from Nicola’s Lifetime Isa.

The government will pay you a 25% bonus on top of the money you put in.

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 40 can open a Lifetime Isa to save for buying a first home.

Savers are able to withdraw money from their ISA if they are buying a home, over 60, or terminally ill with less than 12 months to live.

But you’ll pay a 25% charge if you withdraw money or transfer the Lifetime Isa to another type of Isa before the age of 60.

Nicola put the maximum of £4,000 a year into her Isa, and saved over four years.

It meant she bagged a £4,000 bonus from the government to put towards her deposit, which was £75,000 in total.

Desperate to get on the ladder after living apart for almost ten years, the couple reviewed their finances to see how they could bring their spending down.

Shopaholic Nicola gave up buying clothes, saving her around £300 a month.

The pair were also savvy about where they went out to socialise, only eating at pubs and restaurants they had a discount code for.

And at home, they ditched their weekly takeaways in favour of “fakeaways”, saving them around £100 a month.

We sat down with Nicola to discuss how the couple went from savers to homeowners for HOAR’s My First Home series.

Tell me about your home

It’s a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Crawley.

Upstairs, we have three good-sized bedrooms and a large bathroom.

I use one of the rooms as an office, while the other is used as a dressing room.

We have a kitchen-diner, with French doors leading to the garden and a separate living room.

There is also a front garden, a driveway and a garage.

How did you decide on location?

I’m originally from Epsom, but we had to look further afield to find a property within our budget.

Crawley is a lot more affordable, but it still has really good travel links to London and the surrounding areas.

We just happened to find the house by browsing on Rightmove while we were on holiday.

We fell in love with it straight away, and were so keen to see it that we drove by, knocked on the door and asked for a viewing.

The previous owner let us in and we knew we had to have it.

The house is on a cul-de-sac so it’s lovely and quiet. It’s just a great area to live in.

How much was it?

The house was £376,000 and we put down a 20% deposit of £75,000.

We took out a mortgage of £301,000 for 30 years, which was fixed at 1.6% for two years.

This ended in August last year, so we then took out another fix of 3.24% for another two years.

Our repayments are around £1,000 a month.

How did you save for it?

It took us around ten years in total to save up for the deposit and we didn’t get any financial help from family or friends.

My partner and I were both living at home, which saved us a lot of money.

I was paying around £150 a month in rent, while Luke didn’t have to pay anything.

This meant my only outgoings were my board, phone bill, petrol and irregular payments like an MOT.

I would set aside £500 every month to cover these costs, and any money left over would go into my savings account at the end of the month.

This would vary month to month, but it would usually be between £100 and £400.

This is in addition to the £250 standing order that would go into my savings account at the start of every month.

The main cash boost we got towards our house came from my Lifetime Isa, which I opened in 2017.

I got a £4,000 bonus from the government for saving £4,000 each tax year.

The prospect of getting the free cash was a huge incentive to keep saving and was key to helping us reach our saving target.

Luke and I also completely changed our spending habits in order to get our deposit together.

We both like going out and socialising, either at a restaurant or a bar.

While we didn’t give this up altogether, we would switch to cheaper soft drinks during the night or only eat at places we had a voucher for.

I signed up to a lot of mailing lists for restaurants so I knew about available deals, and I would download apps too.

For example, the Harvester app often offers up to 50% off food.

I would always check these before we went out and chose where to eat, saving us around £50 a month.

Shopping for clothes is one of my favourite things to do, but I had to cut down on this to save cash.

I could be quite impulsive when it came to buying clothes so I would instead make a wish list of items before I bought them.

If I saw something I liked, I’d sleep on it for a couple of nights, and then if I still wanted it, I’d buy it then.

This saved me around £300 a month.

Takeaways was also a big expenditure for us before we started saving.

We would have one every weekend and our favourite was Nando’s.

But we swapped to making “fakeaways” at home – buying ingredients at the supermarket and looking for recipes online.

Overall, this saved us around £100 a month.

How did you afford to furnish it?

We knew that we needed to save beyond my deposit to afford the furniture that I wanted.

We bought everything in stages so we didn’t have to fork out large sums all at once.

I also used Facebook Marketplace to look for bargains.

For example, we bought our sofa and an armchair online for just £100.

It’s real leather and also came with a pouffe.

We probably would have saved around £800 for a similar set from the high street.

Luke also managed to find a maple wood table with a wooden bench for just £350 on eBay.

I had been looking for similar ones online, but they were very pricey at around £1,000, so we managed to save a small fortune there.

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

Definitely open a Lifetime ISA – it was the best decision I made.

Even if you’re not sure exactly when you are going to buy a home, just open it with a £1 so it’s there when you’re ready.

Finally, just don’t give up. It can seem like a bit of a struggle, but making little changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference.

Meanwhile, one first-time buyer took up a pub side hustle to add £10,000 extra to her deposit.

And one savvy saver managed to save half of her monthly income for five months to purchase her £275,000 home.

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