The friends who share their mortgage

Some were struggling to afford their first home, others wanted a luxurious weekend retreat. What do they all have in common? They got together with others to boost their buying power. Here they share their experiences
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The Independent Online

'Our holiday cottages have been fun - but we're selling up'

Tracey Cleary, a 45-year-old nurse, and her husband Rob, bought a joint holiday home with Julie Wellan, a 53-year-old hospital administration and her partner Peter Wellan, in St Merryn, near Padstow, Cornwall. They live in Bristol.

Tracey: It was windy and raining and we were four adults and six children in two tents. We went into Padstow to kill time and started looking in estate agents' windows. We knew that if we were to carry on holidaying together, we needed a big house. We spotted this old farmhouse and went to see it. Julie and I worked out that if we could raise enough money to buy the seven bungalows in the grounds, they would pay for the mortgage on the farmhouse. We had to raise £750,000, and we decided to remortgage our homes and manage the holiday bungalows ourselves. That would mean going down to Cornwall every weekend. Everyone said we were mad but we went ahead. We had faith in each other - we are all very good friends and our husbands are in business together. We are now in our third season and it has been incredibly hard work, and finally we're selling - we wanted to divide the farmhouse in two, but we're not allowed.

Julie: We have all had to learn to compromise. When we went to pick the flooring we came back with four different tiles. All four of us are needed because changeover day is Friday for the farmhouse and Saturday for the bungalows and there's no let up. We can't afford to pay for someone to do the cleaning. Of course we have had arguments, but we make up. And we have a lot of laughs. After we've knocked off we make a point of going for a walk and a meal in the pub. It has been financially rewarding but we have earned it.

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'We can retreat to our own areas'

Ellie Robertson, a 29-year-old charity worker, and Kim Fahey, a 30-year-old prop buyer for TV and film productions, bought a two-bedroom flat in Battersea, south London.

Ellie: I had been due to get married but after an amicable split I was looking for somewhere to live. I had been to drama school with Kim, and when we bumped into each other again she invited me to stay with her family. She had been saving to buy with a friend but ended up buying with me. The flat is perfect because it has two equally large bedrooms, which is unusual. We intend to stay here at least three years and hope to make a profit. I had this romantic idea of getting out the dungarees and doing the decorating but it's actually dull, and the last thing I feel like when I get back from work. We are aware of not getting too carried away with the home thing, because it's slightly couple-like. The flat is split-level so we can retreat to our own areas. I always thought I would like to live by myself but I enjoy living with someone else.

Kim: I am working in Norfolk at present on an ITV drama so I'm only back every other weekend. But I haven't stopped smiling since we got the flat. It's a great feeling. After six months Ellie and I will review the situation because I might get a job abroad and I would need someone to take my room. We are very different artistically, and early on it was such a big deal agreeing on the carpets, and we agreed to keep the shared rooms neutral. All the same, we respect each other and haven't come to loggerheads - yet. It's very easy living together because we share a lot of friends and yet know each other well enough to say when we want to be on our own. On the financial side, everything has been divided 50/50 which I think is important. In the end every good relationship means a compromise somewhere.

'I asked around to find buyers'

Theo Michaels, a 29-year-old managing director of a recruitment company, and Anna Nason, a 32-year-old charity worker bought a flat in Crouch End, London, with their friend Stephen Cheliotis, 28.

Theo: I spent 10 years lining the pockets of landlords, which was cash thrown away. So two years ago, when I was earning OK money and had saved a small deposit, I started thinking about buying. I couldn't manage it on my own and so I started to ask around. Eventually I was put in touch with two people thinking along the same lines. We met in a pub, got on very well and agreed to discuss everything when we were sober. Do we want the same things? Was it just investment? It took us a month to agree everything and three months to find our flat. We drew up an unofficial co-habitation agreement as well as a formal Declaration of Trust - you have to think about what might happen if things go wrong. I set up the website Co-Buywithme.co.uk when I realised how many people would like to buy with someone but don't know how to find them.

Anna: I started to panic about getting my life in order and that meant getting on to the housing ladder. This arrangement has been brilliant and I'm paying less in mortgage than rent. I find myself reminding them about doing odd things like putting out the rubbish. It's better to say things straight out. We do have friends around without necessarily involving the other two, but mostly we entertain together.

'Property prices are beyond the reach of single people'

Jamie Ormiston, 34, and Michael Adams, 28, both IT managers, bought a two-bedroom flat in Kingswood, Bristol.

Jamie: I needed to get on the property ladder and as a first-time buyer it would have been impossible for me to have bought on my own. I have known Michael for a long time. As well as being friends we used to work together so I was confident that sharing a property would be fine. It was a gamble we both had to take but it didn't seem much of a risk. We bought a new apartment so there wasn't anything much to do. We only moved in just over a month ago and so far I have had the place pretty much to myself as Michael has been away. I was married at one point and have an eight-year-old daughter, so it makes a real difference to have my own property. When prices mean you have to borrow so many times your salary it puts property beyond the reach of most single people. Buying with a friend is a good solution.

Michael: I had a girlfriend living in London and only wanted somewhere temporary to live but buying with Jamie seemed a much better idea than renting. I've actually got a property that I bought six years ago and which I started renting out when I went travelling. I realised that while helping out Jamie it made more sense to buy half this flat as an investment. I expect I'll be the first to go and if that's the case I would let my room or sell my share to Jamie, if he can afford it. Apart from the joint mortgage our arrangement is based on trust, which is something I would never have done if I hadn't known Jamie well. I think it's risky for someone to rush into a purchase without being sure of the other person.

Need to know

* Consult a solicitor. You should make a Declaration of Trust (detailing each person's share); co-habitation agreement (behaviour, responsibilities, ownership of items etc) and a will.

* Many mortgage lenders will accept a maximum of four applicants per application, each of whom will get their name on the title deeds and be equally responsible for the loan. Lenders will use different ways of assessing income.

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