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Carers worked double shifts during Covid and ditched £15,000 wedding plans to buy £200,000 three-bed home


FRONTLINE workers Jovita Fernandez and Priston Dias bought their first home for £200,000 in January by doubling their shifts during the pandemic and ditching plans for an expensive wedding. 

The healthcare assistants from Suffolk continued to care for vulnerable adults throughout the Covid crisis, even doubling their shifts to help them save. 

Jovita and Priston bought their first home in January this year


Jovita and Priston bought their first home in January this yearCredit: © Terry Harris

The now-married couple began saving for a home in 2018, but taking on the extra work meant they could each tuck aside £1,000 a month for over a year and buy a home quicker.  

But working gruelling hours wasn’t the only sacrifice they made.

Jovita, 32, and Priston, 33, ditched plans for an extravagant £15,000 wedding in India for a smaller affair in the UK instead.

Their big day cost them just £5,000 meaning they could put the cash saved towards buying a bigger home.

Their period house isn't open plan, and there's a separate lounge


Their period house isn’t open plan, and there’s a separate loungeCredit: © Terry Harris
They're buying their furniture in stages to spread out the cost


They’re buying their furniture in stages to spread out the costCredit: © Terry Harris

Renting a studio apartment in Suffolk for just £350 a month also helped them save the £25,000 deposit needed to secure their new house.  

We chatted to Jovita about how she and her husband managed to buy their dream home without any help from friends or family.

Are you a first-time buyer who want to share tips on how you did it? Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 78 24516. Don’t forget to join the Sun Money’s first-time buyer Facebook group for the latest tips on buying your first home.

Tell me about your house

We have a three bed, semi-detached house in Suffolk.

It has a generous garden at the back and we have a driveway at the front.

We didn’t want a new build as we found them too compact, so it’s a period house, and it’s not open plan.

It has a bathroom, a lounge, a kitchen, and a separate dining room.

How much did you pay for it?

We paid just under £200,000 for the house, and put down roughly £25,000 for a deposit.

We had to put a 15% deposit down because we found lenders weren’t prepared to lend as much – we couldn’t get a mortgage with just a 10% deposit. It was quite a lot for us.

They had to pay a larger deposit than they were expecting to at £25,000


They had to pay a larger deposit than they were expecting to at £25,000Credit: © Terry Harris

Lenders wanted us to pay more for a deposit because of Covid. We found there were only a handful of banks offering mortgages on smaller deposits, so we quickly found we needed to save more.

We made an offer which was accepted in October, and then completed and moved in over January this year.

Our mortgage repayments are £750 per month.

We took out the mortgage over 30 years and at a three year fixed rate. Our interest rate is 3.5%. 

How did you save for it?

When we knew we wanted to start seriously saving for a house back in 2018, I went to my bank to discuss what help was available to enable us to save.

The house has one bathroom


The house has one bathroomCredit: © Terry Harris
There are three bedrooms in Jovita and Priston's house


There are three bedrooms in Jovita and Priston’s houseCredit: © Terry Harris

I learned that we could set up a Help to Buy ISA, so both me and Priston opened an account, transferring £200 a month each into our separate accounts.

The government adds 25% extra on top of what you’ve saved up to £12,000, so we put in £2,600 each in total. 

That gave each of us an extra £650 bonus – giving us a combined £1,300 of essentially free cash.

Then we put over £10,000 into our savings account between us.

What help is out there for first-time buyers?

GETTING on the property ladder can feel like a daunting task but there are schemes out there to help first-time buyers have their own home.

Help to Buy Isa – It’s a tax-free savings account where for every £200 you save, the Government will add an extra £50. But there’s a maximum limit of £3,000 which is paid to your solicitor when you move. These accounts have now closed to new applicants but those who already hold one have until November 2029 to use it.

Help to Buy equity loan – The Government will lend you up to 20% of the home’s value – or 40% in London – after you’ve put down a 5% deposit. The loan is on top of a normal mortgage but it can only be used to buy a new build property.

Lifetime Isa – This is another Government scheme that gives anyone aged 18 to 39 the chance to save tax-free and get a bonus of up to £32,000 towards their first home. You can save up to £4,000 a year and the Government will add 25% on top.

Shared ownership – Co-owning with a housing association means you can buy a part of the property and pay rent on the remaining amount. You can buy anything from 25% to 75% of the property but you’re restricted to specific ones.

Mortgage guarantee scheme – The scheme opens to new 95% mortgages from April 19 2021. Applicants can buy their first home with a 5% deposit, it’s eligible for homes up to £600,000.

We also worked double shifts when the pandemic hit to raise an extra £12,000 towards the house.

Me and my husband are both healthcare assistants, working for a charity funded by the NHS that provides vulnerable adults with 24/7 care in supported accomodation.

We work with people with learning disabilities like autism, bipolar and challenging behaviours.

There's a spacious garden at the back of the house


There’s a spacious garden at the back of the houseCredit: © Terry Harris

When Covid hit, we took on a lot of extra shifts because it was extremely busy. We increased our hours from 37.5 a week to 60.

It was so busy during the peak of the pandemic – there were colleagues going off sick and we all had to make sure people were getting the care they needed around the clock.

The biggest sacrifice we made was cancelling our big wedding plans and holding a much smaller ceremony to help us save more.

We wanted to hold a big wedding in Goa and invite lots of friends and family.

We were budgeting for £15,000 for it, and had saved around £5,000 since we got engaged in 2019.

But when the pandemic hit in 2020, we had to rethink our plans.

The couple ditched big plans for a £15,000 wedding for a smaller affair in Suffolk for £5,000


The couple ditched big plans for a £15,000 wedding for a smaller affair in Suffolk for £5,000Credit: © Terry Harris
They're decorating the house step-by-step


They’re decorating the house step-by-stepCredit: © Terry Harris

We had a small wedding here in Suffolk instead, which cost us £5,000, saving us £10,000. 

We just invited 15 people – as a result, we could buy a much bigger house with a garden too.

I was definitely disappointed as my family couldn’t be there, but in the end, it’s worth it.

Each month, we were saving at least £1,000.

How did you decide on the area?

We decided to buy in Suffolk, because I’ve lived here ever since I moved to the UK from India back in 2017.

We’ve also got friends here, and our jobs are here too. 

I like where we live – it’s a town near the coast and the beach, and as I come from Goa, it reminds me of home.

How did you afford to furnish it?

After putting down our £25,000 deposit, we still had £4,000 left to pay for solicitor and mortgage advisor fees, and enough money left to pay for essential furniture.

The couple are planning on having a family in their new home


The couple are planning on having a family in their new homeCredit: © Terry Harris

We’re now buying our furniture in parts to spread out the cost. We’re taking our time – we’re not rushing it.

Everything we’ve bought is new – we didn’t want to buy second hand furniture only to replace it later. We’re looking to start a family, so we won’t have time for that.

What is your advice for other first time buyers?

Despite a few challenges along the way, they managed to save enough money for a deposit in a year and a half


Despite a few challenges along the way, they managed to save enough money for a deposit in a year and a halfCredit: © Terry Harris

When we first started househunting back in 2019, we put an offer down on a house which was accepted. 

But as we were unfamiliar with the process, we didn’t know that we needed to have the money ready to put down a deposit. 

We were so new that we thought we would have some time to save money when we put in an offer.

When we found out we needed to have a proof of deposit in our bank account, we had to let the house go. It was really upsetting, I really wanted the house.

That’s why you should do your research really well, and talk to a mortgage advisor to get advice on how much you need to save and how much you can afford for your house.

You shouldn’t give up on your dream – it’s achievable as long as you stay focused on saving.

If you’re a key worker, you could get a discount off your home – bank worker Bolutife Sofoluwe explains how she saved nearly £50,000.

While fellow frontline workers Amanda and Anson Joseph told The Sun how they took up four jobs to save £299,000 for their first home.

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