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Article by Janice Morley 

Jade Hannon and Jake Newell-Black are both just 25 but they’re empty nesters in the truest sense… because their new nest is a virtually empty, one-bedroom, second-floor apartment in Brentwood, Essex.

    They moved in just three months ago and so far a borrowed sofa, along with a big new storage bed – a bargain buy for £500 – are the only two pieces of furniture they’ve installed. But this young couple are as happy as larks. And so is Franco, their lively black kitten with needle-sharp little claws.
   Franco was Jade’s idea, as her dad has nine cats. However, Jake’s the one with the war wounds. When Franco arrived he had a face-off with Jake to establish who was in charge. Of course, Franco had all the weapons and Jake sensibly retreated, laughing now as he admits: “I was scared!”
  The couple met on a friends’ night out near their family homes in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. Jake says: “That’s when the thunderbolt struck.” After two years together, they both agreed it was time to leave home but neither of them thought they’d be able to afford to buy a place of their own. They planned instead to save up and go travelling. Jake looks bemused: “Now we have a cat and a flat.”
   They heard about 1023 West, a small, low-rise new homes development by Weston Homes in the well-heeled commuter town of Brentwood. On the Elizabeth line and just 20 miles from Liverpool Street, the town centre is partly cobbled and there are good schools and a family-friendly community. Jade and Jake like the location for work and leisure – Jake is near eight golf courses, while Jade is just 30 minutes from her married sister, who recently had a baby. Jade can use her free Transport for London travel pass on the days she goes into the office at London Bridge, where she works as a paralegal. She explains: “My mum works for TfL so I take the train to Stratford and use my pass.”

It all adds up for Jade and Jake
The couple were blown away by the value to be had at 1023 West. “We could not believe the price,” says Jake, a graphic designer. “The apartments were advertised at £320,000 but we got on to the Discount Market Scheme and with our travelling savings as our deposit, we bought for £265,000 with a 5.6 per cent mortgage rate fixed for two years.”
   Jade read law at Manchester and is training to be a lawyer while working for a banking and property company, so she handled all the contracts. “But we used the Weston Homes mortgage broker and it all went very smoothly.”
This handsome couple – tall, fair-haired Jake and olive-skinned Jade with her long, dark hair – are both happy to be putting down roots instead of taking off around the globe. They sit on their borrowed sofa, soon to be replaced by a new one in sage green, and draw up lists of what they need to acquire to make their new home their own. Both grandmothers gave them some “moving-in money”, and Jade, ever-conscious of making the most of every inch of space, has discovered a table that expands from seating just two to 20.
They share interior design chats and skills with their young neighbours, one of whom is, very usefully, an electrician. “The day we moved in, four other couples moved in, too,” says Jake. “Now we have 50 people on our group chat and we are planning our Christmas party. I think we have to find out who has the biggest flat!”
The floor-to-ceiling windows of the pair’s living area open to a wide, lengthy balcony that overlooks a large, peaceful grassy bank. “The window is almost always open,” says Jake. “And the flats are so warm, we only ever seem to put the heating on for an hour.” And although he and Jade have yet to kit out their new home, he adds: “The amount of fittings Weston Homes includes makes it a home when you move in.
   “We are the first among our friends to buy our own place and now we wonder why they rent flats for £1,400 a month that have none of this luxury.” The smartly tiled and fitted bathroom, the water-saving taps, all the cupboards and mirrors, plus the quality white goods in the fully fitted kitchen with its sleek, grey gloss cupboards, all add to the glamour.
   It is a look that attracts so many young, modern buyers. Jade says that when she and Jake first decided to buy, they made sure to have a good look around at what was on the market. “We saw about ten other flats but nothing compared. Ours is just smarter in every way.” And in common with other buyers at 1023 West, they love the entrance halls and communal spaces.
   The couple’s interiors plans are shaping up nicely now, thanks to their generous grandmothers, but even with the equally generous Weston Homes cupboard space, Jade’s serious shoe-buying habit may need to bite the dust. “I brought 20 pairs with me.” As Jake starts to go into detail about what Jade still has to collect from her mum’s house, Jade disappears into the bedroom, along with Franco the kitten… both clearly in denial.
   However, there is negotiating to be done. If Jade gets another shelf for her extensive boot collection, Jake might get permission for the life-size model reindeer he wants to display out on their balcony for Christmas.

Photography by Juliet Murphy