Our content manager Christina Neal writes about getting back on the property ladder again in her fifties after thinking it would never be possible…

I woke up in my own home this morning for the first time in years. Yesterday I completed on my house purchase (just in the nick of time for the stamp duty holiday) and now I am back on the property ladder. It’s been four years since I’ve been a homeowner. I’ve been renting since 2017 and hated it. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the house I was renting. In fact, I loved it so much that I decided to buy it at the first available opportunity. No need to pack up and move – I get to stay in the cosy three-bedroom terraced house I’ve lived in for the past four years and actually say that it now belongs to me. Pretty cool.

Why did I dislike renting so much? I hated the idea of someone else having control over my life. I didn’t like the thought that one day my landlady might decide she needed her house back. Sure, she would have to honour the agreed notice period, but it would still mean moving because of someone else’s situation. If I sound like a control freak it’s probably because I am. If I move house in future, I want it to be my decision.

Happy homeowner

I feel privileged and very fortunate to be a homeowner again. I never thought I’d be able to get back on the property ladder… mainly because of my age. I’m 53, and I thought I would be too old to get a mortgage. It was only when I started working for MB Associates that I realised I’d been wrong, and there are many borrowing options for older buyers.

So how did I end up renting in the first place? I separated from my long-term partner in 2017 and we sold our house shortly afterwards. He got straight back onto the property ladder. I decided to wait in case prices dipped. Then when I was mentally and physically ready to buy, my landlady didn’t want to sell, so I carried on renting.

As time went on, I feared that my chunk of the proceeds from our house sale – intended to be a deposit on my next property – would gradually deplete. I spent some money but tried not to go too crazy. I bought a second-hand sports car. I had a holiday in Canada in 2019. I’m glad I did, as I have no idea when I’ll be able to have another one!

The impact of lockdown

As we reached the end of 2019, I was feeling optimistic about buying a place in 2020. My partner is a talented singer, and his career was taking off. We’d moved from London to Essex, and local venues had got to know and appreciate his talents. Gig bookings were coming in thick and fast. Then came the first lockdown in March 2020. Gigs were cancelled overnight, and he had no singing work for almost a year. Fortunately, he has a passion for computers and has retrained as a web developer. He also hopes to return to the stage soon.

I know I wasn’t alone in my situation of having to start again, but that didn’t make it any easier. Separating when you’re older is more common these days. Data published in 2018 by the Office for National Statistics showed that the over 50s divorce rate rose by 5.8 per cent from 2016. In 2019, a whopping 42 per cent of marriages ended in divorce. These days, many of us aren’t afraid to call time on a long-term relationship that’s not working. While that could be a good thing, it’s important to get the financial side of things right, so that you’re not in a vulnerable position afterwards. Good advice is crucial, especially when you’re dealing with the emotional turmoil of a separation. The opportunity to speak to someone who has a clear head during such a stressful time should not be overlooked.

More flexible borrowing options

The first thing to consider is that you can borrow when you’re older. Years ago, mortgages were less flexible and were typically for 25 years. Borrowers would expect to stay on the same deal. Nowadays mortgages are more fluid. Many borrowers switch after two years to get a better deal. Lenders are more receptive to older borrowers too. ‘Lenders have made great strides in accommodating later life borrowers,’ says MB Associates’ Senior Mortgage Adviser Phil Leivesley. ‘Most lenders are happy to accept that you might retire later providing it’s feasible that you can maintain your job role.’

If you have separated recently and you have a chunk of money in the bank, it’s tempting to spend some of it. But it’s also important to take a long-term view of your financial future and exercise some caution. Each time I was tempted to spend, I tried to think of my long-term goal to be a homeowner again.

If you’re an older borrower, don’t dismiss the idea of buying a property without speaking to a reputable mortgage broker. Speak to an expert and you may be pleasantly surprised, like me, to find that you can get a mortgage in your 50s and beyond.

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