By Ruth Bloomfield
The cost of living crisis is making everybody overhaul their spending habits. But house hunters can dramatically cut their living costs by thinking strategically about what they buy and where, following these golden rules:
DO YOUR TRAVEL COSTS HOMEWORK
If you commute, transport costs will bite a big hole in your monthly budget, especially since train fares were hiked by 5.9 per cent in March. The average annual season ticket now costs £3,466, or almost £300 per month.
This makes buying a home within walking distance of the office a financial winner, and it will also keep you fit. Weston Homes buyer Emily LyIe bought her luxurious two-bedroom apartment at Manor Lane, Feltham in west London when she landed a cracking job with BP oil, which has a campus ten minutes away from her home.
If living by the office isn’t an option, then study the train network. Commuters can save money by remaining within the Transport for London Oyster card zone. Emily made sure she was in the zone – Manor Lane is a ten-minute walk from Feltham station in Travel Zone 6, with half-hour trains to Waterloo (www.weston-homes.com/manor-lane/; 02045 716378).
What a difference a station makes if you walk or cycle part of the way. Weston Homes’ Caxton Square development in north London is an eight-minute walk from Wood Green Tube station (www.weston-homes.com/caxton-square; 0204 531 5773). But if you get your trainers on and walk or cycle to Manor House station, less than two miles up the road, you not only get to enjoy communing with nature by cutting through Finsbury Park, but you move from Travel Zone 3 to Zone 2, cutting the monthly cost of a travelcard from £184 to £156.30.
Annie Thomas and David Mitchell, meanwhile, deliberately searched for a new home within the M25 zone as this meant they increased their salaries by gaining the London weighting allowance. They bought their two-bedroom Weston Homes apartment at The Venue, at the Old Vinyl Factory, Hayes, in the west London borough of Hillingdon – putting them less than 30 minutes by train from central London.
LIVE IN A 15-MINUTE CITY
The big buzz in urban design right now is the 15-minute city. These are brilliantly planned neighbourhoods where residents, including home workers, can save both time and money because everything they need is within a 15-minute walk of their front doors.
Weston Homes has played an integral part in the development of The Old Vinyl Factory, former headquarters of the EMI record company, which is being comprehensively regenerated. Buying a new-build home at The Venue (www.weston-homes.com/the-venue; 0203 883 6506) means being a six-minute walk from Hayes & Harlington station, and on the doorstep of on-site open space, cafes, shops and restaurants. A cinema and arts centre are also on the cards.
BUY NEW AND MAKE BIG SAVINGS ON ENERGY BILLS
Energy bills have become a huge talking point after more than a year of price rises. According to the Home Builders Federation, buyers of energy-efficient new-build homes save £2,600 per year.
The ten-year warranty on most new homes means buyers also don’t have to worry about major repair bills, or decorating when they move in. Weston Homes properties come with kitchen appliances, flooring and superfast broadband. At Gun Hill Park in Aldershot, Hampshire, (www.weston-homes.com/gun-hill-park/; 01252 751671) the package includes a choice of stone worktops in the kitchen, a full range of kitchen appliances – even down to a boiling water tap – and smart demisting mirrors in the bathroom.
RENT OUT A ROOM: MAKE MONEY AND BAG A TAX ALLOWANCE
Buying a home with an extra bedroom is more expensive but it can pay dividends. Taking in a lodger is a brilliant way to offset the cost of your mortgage, and under the Government’s Rent a Room Scheme you can earn £7,500 per year (or £625 per month) tax-free. This option could subsidise that extra bedroom.
At the Dylon Riverside development by Weston Homes in Sydenham, south-east London (www.weston-homes.com/dylon-riverside/; 0204 568 2049) the full market price of one-bedroom flats starts at £349,000. Two-bedroom apartments start at £449,995. So do your maths. Consider the size of your deposit and what the monthly mortgage repayments will be in each case. You may find that sharing bridges the gap – and you can arrange to split the bills, too.