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London first-time buyers: ‘Getting my vaccine was the surprise catalyst to buying my flat’

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W

ithout a mountain of savings behind her, Anastasia Gurnell was resigned to remaining a renter for the foreseeable future until a chance encounter propelled her onto the property ladder.

The 25-year-old was sharing a two-bedroom flat in Battersea where her rent was £865pcm. Although she was keen to buy a place of her own, using a Lifetime Isa account to maximise her savings, she was struggling to find anywhere within her budget in south-west London.

“I didn’t have a set date in mind for when I was going to buy a flat,” she said. “I had imagined it would be with a partner in a few years as I didn’t think I’d be able to buy on my own.”

Then, in May 2020, she went to Plough Lane, the home of Wimbledon FC, to get a Covid-19 vaccination.

The Switch

/ PR handout

What she didn’t know at the time was that the stadium was in the throes of a £350 million regeneration, with more than 600 new homes being built on the 14-acre site.

While waiting to be jabbed she came across information about The Switch, a development of 1,818 shared-ownership flats at the site being sold by housing association Catalyst.

“I hadn’t seen any shared-ownership apartments in the area under £450,000 until I came across The Switch,” said Gurnell. “I was so surprised at the quality and location of the apartments, I decided to enquire straight away.”

She picked a one-bedroom flat and was able to buy a 25 per cent share of the property for £105,000. She had to put down a deposit of £10,500 and her monthly costs now come in at £1,235, including mortgage (£348), service charge (£165), and rent on the portion of the flat she doesn’t own (£722).

The timing couldn’t have been better. When she found the flat Gurnell had two months left on her rental contract in Battersea, and she moved in in January.

“My favourite part about the flat is the view into the stadium,” she said. “As a football fan, being close to the stadium was a real bonus for me. But equally, when it isn’t match day, you’d have no idea you were so close to a sports venue.”

Plough Lane is less than a mile from Earlsfield, with its cafes and restaurants, and within walking distance of the shops and bars of Wimbledon. For open space, Wandle Meadow is up the road, and the keen runner often gets as far as Wimbledon Park.

“I absolutely love this area,” she said. “It’s really calm and tranquil — not what you’d expect from living in London — yet also only 45 minutes from my office. I’m really looking forward to exploring the area more, and I’m particularly keen to visit food spots like Tooting Market.”

Eventually, Gurnell plans to up her share in the flat — a process called “staircasing” — so that one day she owns it outright.

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