Home ownership is a dream that a lot of people feel is out of their reach, and that’s only compounded when you or your partner live with disabilities. There’s a lot more to think about than stamp duty and what colour you want to paint the walls, but don’t rule out owning your own pad just yet.
Owning the property you live in isn’t just about flying the nest, escaping grotty flat shares or petty fights with flatmates over bills. Having your own space is about independence, security and comfort – all universal needs. As house prices soar and mortgage payments loom, it feels like getting the keys to your own place is simply a pipe dream, especially when you have to think about accessibility … but it’s not. There are several ways to get that picture of you with your house keys on Facebook.
Applying for a mortgage can be nerve-wracking – it’s like taking a test at school. Remember that it all depends on how much you can afford to repay each month and that doesn’t just include your income. You may be surprised that it includes your benefits, too. You can even buy a house if your income is entirely made of benefits – just as long as it covers your mortgage repayments. Mortgage lenders are allowed to turn people down if their income is irregular or if they think you don’t understand the terms of the mortgage – but not because you have a disability: then its discrimination. Speak to a few mortgage advisors, banks and building societies to see what your options are.
Remember to be well prepared when you turn up to discuss your mortgage application with the bank or building society. Bring all your documents with you and do your research.
You’ve spotted your dream house or flat, but it’s not in the perfect condition for you. There are accessibility issues – and that all costs money. When it comes to disability, you have to factor in so much more – you might need a ramp or a lift for your wheelchair, to widen doors, or even a stairlift. In England and Wales, you can apply to your local council for a disabled facility grant to adapt your home. In Scotland, the local council and NHS provide some equipment and adaptations on application, and can also provide recycled community equipment. Otherwise, you have to pay for any adaptations from your own pocket and that has to be factored into your overall budget.
Bills Bills Bills
While being independent can be a dream come true, it also means that you’re responsible for more and that can be daunting. When it’s down to you and only you to pay the bills, it can be off-putting.
However, there is help available for those on a low-income to pay utility bills. There are a lot of charities offering local grants or schemes to people struggling to pay for their utilities. The British Energy Trust has an online portal where people can apply for a grant to pay energy bills, Affinity Water helps north west London and the home counties pay water bills, and Independence at Home offers grants to provide everything from bedding to kitchen equipment and specialist equipment and home adaptations (www.independenceathome.org.uk).
You’d really like a house of your own, but you can’t afford a mortgage. Why not consider a Shared Ownership? Shared Ownership allows first time buyers to own a share in a property. Buyers only need a mortgage on the share they own, so the deposit required for a Shared Ownership home is often much lower than for a typical property purchase and therefore affordable.
There are some downsides: you’d have to pay your mortgage and rent on the share of the property you don’t own. Depending on the prices, this could be more affordable than renting – and you get to live in the house as if you own it, and can steadily buy more shares in the property until you own it outright.
It’s also a good choice for anyone worried about overpaying for a property. Shared Ownerships prices are strictly regulated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) so you don’t have to worry about paying through the nose for a property.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Shared Ownership, Southern Homes Ownership offers a variety of houses, from sleek city flats, to cosy country houses on a shared ownership basis in London and the south of England.