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Shared Ownership helps couple realise home ownership dream following 12 years of renting

Shared Ownership helps couple realise home ownership dream following 12 years of renting

Having been housing association tenants for many years, the Parnells - a couple in their late forties - have just become homeowners for the first time, after applying for shared ownership. They recently moved into a new build two-bedroom house at Sovereign Living's Pangbourne Rise development in Pangbourne, West Berkshire.

When Inga Parnell married her husband, Keith, 12 years ago she moved into his social rented flat in a block in Reading, Berkshire. "We spent a lot of time, effort and money on making it a comfortable home, but it was never ideal," says Inga. "The block was built in the 1960s so there was concrete everywhere, we were missing out on a garden, and we had to lug our shopping up three flights of stairs. It was the right time to move.

"In May 2013 we went on a beautiful holiday to Dorset, and when we came back I said 'Right, we're moving' - and when I've got the bit between my teeth, that's it!"

Inga, who is a senior contracts manager, spent a few days on the web researching their options - including shared ownership, which she'd heard about from some friends who went down that route. Having come across the Sovereign Living website, she noticed that a new development was being built in Pangbourne.

"It was a fluke that we applied just when the development was being advertised," says Inga. "I rang the sales consultant, Ella Howell, and she was superb. She gave us every bit of information we needed, explained what the process would be, and gave us advice on getting a financial advisor to sort out the mortgage."

Inga and Keith, a postman, found the process very straightforward and easy to follow. They put their name down with Sovereign in the first week of June and at the same time had their application with Help to Buy South accepted, "and from there it was like a snowball effect!" Inga recalls. "When Ella rang to tell us we'd been allocated a house, I broke down in tears."

Their mortgage was approved quickly, and every week brought the Parnells closer to becoming homeowners. "We watched the development being built - we kept popping down to walk the dog by the river and see it take shape, it was so exciting!" Inga laughs.

"Sovereign were supportive throughout. There were some delays and waiting which was stressful at times, but that's always the case with moving home. Five months after first applying we'd moved in - lock, stock and barrel!"

After paying a 5% deposit, the couple agreed a mortgage on a 35% share of the property. They pay rent on the remaining 65%, which is owned by Sovereign. "The monthly payments are so affordable," says Inga. "At our age we don't want a 20-year mortgage, and this gives us the security of owning our home without that burden."

Having only been in their two-bedroom house for a couple of weeks, Inga already knows it's their "forever home".

"The house is perfect; it's wonderful," she explains. "On Saturday night we looked around and thought 'this is ours'. And we couldn't have nicer neighbours - they brought cake and champagne round to welcome us in!

"It's the little touches that matter so much; simple things a lot of people might take for granted. We have a garden, so I've been able to peg the washing out for the first time ever. And we have a parking space right outside our own front door. We don't want to think about it yet, of course, but the house is also geared up for old age - the bathroom turns into a wetroom, and there's wiring for a stairlift, if we ever need it."

According to Inga, everyone who's in social rented housing should look into the possibility of shared ownership. "If the outcome isn't favourable, at least you tried. Keith said 'we'll never get accepted', but we were! Make the phone call, and ask the question.

"It was a bit scary at first, the idea of committing ourselves to a mortgage, but it's been so worth it. I feel really blessed. We've got perfection!"