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Article by Janice Morley 

Jessica Proudfoot, a 25-year-old surveyor, worked hard to turn the pandemic into a positive. She landed a job helping out at her local Covid vaccination centre and saved her earnings. Combining the money with her Lifetime ISA savings – on which she had collected a 25 per cent monthly bonus from the Government – she was able to raise the deposit on a new home with her partner, Reece Lawrence. 

   Jessica, whose mother is an accountant, is good at financial planning while she describes Reece, also 25 and a qualified electrician, as more impulsive. But the combination obviously works and they definitely had a common goal in wanting their first home together to be at 1023 West in Brentwood. These attractive, low-rise apartments by developer Weston Homes, set in landscaped gardens, are just a short walk from the heart of the well-heeled, pretty Essex town.
   During their property search, the couple were attracted to the generous specifications of Weston Homes apartments, the impressive entrance foyers – and so many luxury extras included in the price of their new home, they could virtually have moved in with nothing except a bed, says Jessica. But when it came to choosing their first-floor apartment, she spotted an added bonus: it came with an offer to buy it fully furnished for an extra £2,500.

   “When we walked in to see it there were beaming smiles on both our faces,” she says. With its midnight blue sofa and neatly fitting furniture, this package suited a couple who have no intention of spending their precious weekends shopping for homewares. “Why would you?” says Jessica, when she could be out enjoying lunch with the girls. Which is where she was going the minute our chat was over.
 For his part, Reece is taking his annual weekend away with friends, visiting war graves. “He has always been very respectful of the war losses,” explains Jessica. Losses are more intense for Reece this year, following the recent death of his father from cancer, aged only 56. “Living through the grieving has been difficult for everyone,” says Jessica. “We go round to both our parents’ homes every week now for dinner. It definitely brought it home to us how short life is. It has made us get on with things. Though my New Year’s promise is to stop saying yes to everything – we are going on holiday with friends to Bali on Boxing Day.”

   Reece and Jessica bought their new-build home in July. “It was such a good price. Many of our friends have big mortgages but we wanted to have money over at the end of the month for suppers out and holidays.’ They share a £1,300 payment and put away £1,000 a month for bills and other living expenses.

   After just a few short months of homeownership, they have settled well into an apartment that fits their lifestyle. “We both like music, I like to sing and Reece plays keyboard, but the walls are so well insulated that we don’t disturb anyone.” The insulation also keeps the couple’s heating bills down, while their hi-tech water-controlled taps prevent excessive use. Sustainability is at the forefront of the Weston Homes building philosophy, a fact acknowledged this year at the WhatHouse? Awards ceremony, when the company scooped the Sustainability prize, against all other housebuilders nationwide.

 Sustainability is not just a building concept for Weston Homes. The developer’s approach is holistic, taking into account the needs of first-time buyers with busy lives for nearby shops, town centres and fast transport links into London for work and leisure. Reece is a specialist electrician with Transport for London, so the couple have the advantage of a free travel pass.

   After a year of dramatic and traumatic changes, mourning the loss of Reece’s father, moving from their childhood homes and the excitement of buying a first apartment together, they have learnt so many life lessons. Loss, as Jessica and Reece have discovered, puts everything into perspective. 

   So they’ve lost no time in making their lovely new home uniquely theirs. Jessica is the cook in the place but won’t be going in for any BBC MasterChef-style awards any time soon. As a little sign in the kitchen explains: “I kiss better than I cook.”

Photography by Juliet Murphy