Achieving home ownership dream in time for Christmas

Mother-of-three Nicola Henderson is over the moon to finally realise her family’s dream of home ownership thanks to a leading housing provider’s innovative employee benefit scheme. Nicola, Lettings Team Leader at Stonewater for the last four years, describes how myOwnHome has been the step-up onto the property ladder they needed.

Nicola Henderson

My husband Nigel and I moved to Portugal in 2002, when his work took us out there. We lived there for over eight years and ended up renting a house, as our focus was on the children – our income went on bringing up a family, rather than investing in property.

It was great while the kids were young, but I wanted to come back to educate them here and be near my family. So we came back to England in 2011 with nothing, in terms of money or a home.

We’ve since rented a house privately for nine-and-a-half years in Stoke Gifford, Bristol. I wanted to be round here as my parents and sister live in the area but property prices are very expensive and, with three teenage children, there was no scope for saving to buy a house.

In recent years, as the children have grown up, we managed to save a bit. But I’m 50 now so, being the age we are, we are limited on the kind of mortgage we can have and how much we can borrow. Those things went against us as far as buying was concerned.

As soon as I heard about the myOwnHome scheme at Stonewater, I realised it was the perfect opportunity for us. We worked out that we had spent over £100,000 on rent over the last decade, so we were keen to be out of that situation and have our own place at last.
The shared ownership scheme was launched to help colleagues like myself overcome barriers preventing us from owning our own home.
It works by giving eligible employees the opportunity to choose a property available on the open market, which Stonewater buys on their behalf. They can then buy a share (between 25% and 75%) of their home, depending on what they can afford, and pay discounted rent on the rest.

Through the scheme, we have bought a fairly small share of a house but, even if we don’t manage to increase that, I will still be happy. It really feels like it is our own home, and we have a stake in the property, so we feel much more secure.

Our rented house had three bedrooms, so we had to use the dining room as a fourth bedroom, which of course limited the living space. It also had a very small kitchen and lounge/diner.

The house we have now bought is a three-bedroom detached, bigger than the one we were renting, so family life is so much easier. It’s lovely and roomy, done out really nicely, with a conservatory and a small garden lodge which is now our eldest son’s bedroom. That’s worked well because now he has his own space, his ‘man cave’, until he is ready to move out himself.

We all love it here. It’s the kind of house the kids can bring their friends back to, once lockdown restrictions allow. My daughter calls it ‘a party house’ because there’s so much more room to entertain.

I think myOwnHome is amazing, particularly for young people and older people like myself who would struggle to get onto the property ladder otherwise. We would never have been able to buy this house without the scheme. The beauty is that you can buy off the open market, rather than just new-build. It is brilliant – a huge, life-changing company perk which means so much to so many people.

When we were house-hunting, we were looking online constantly to find somewhere suitable. It was in the middle of lockdown, so we ended up only viewing this place in the end. They had lots of viewings lined up but someone cancelled, so we got the chance to see it. We knew it would be snapped up, so we just went for it as it’s ideal for us.

I found the whole process of buying this house through the scheme very easy. We viewed the house in July and moved here in November. It’s so lovely to be settled in and looking forward to our first family Christmas here.