The other newlyweds: Wills and Kate don't need to worry but how are the commoners coping with finding a marital home?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Once they have returned from their honeymoon, Prince William and Princess Catherine will face a testing dilemma – just where should a future king and queen lay their heads?

In the short-term, they have their £750-a-month rented farmhouse in Anglesey, which is convenient for the future king's posting as a search-and-rescue pilot.

But longer-term, their choices are predictably dizzying.

They could take over Princess Margaret's old apartments at Kensington Palace in London. They could also be given Harewood Park, which is a six-bedroom eco-house near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.

They may even be offered the Prince of Wales's own country house, Highgrove, in Gloucestershire.

However, back in the real world, how are other newly, or soon-to-be, married couples coping with the property crash, subsequent mortgage famine and the most sluggish market in living memory?

The make-do-and-mend couple

Claire McLauchlin-Whitehead, 28, who is a consultant, and her husband, Anthony, 27, who owns a timber merchants, got married in February 2010.

Moving into their first marital home together has been a deferred pleasure for the McLauchlin-Whiteheads, who spent the two years before their wedding living apart and most of the year after it in rented accommodation or staying with the in-laws.

Before their 2010 wedding Claire was living with her parents in Scotland, while her husband-to-be was in Manchester, living with his father.

Four months before the wedding, Claire got a new job and moved back to England and into a rented house with Anthony. As they planned the wedding they were simultaneously house hunting and a month before the ceremony completed on a three-bedroomed semi in the suburb of Chadderton.

The house was a repossession and they managed to secure it for £74,000, putting down a deposit of £7,400.

This sounds like a bargain, but they also had to pay for an all-singing, all-dancing wedding, which cost upwards of £25,000 – and the house they chose needed stripping back to basics, so after the wedding they returned to the rented house. Anthony spent weeks working on the property, bringing in the refurbishment at an impressive £10,000. They estimate it is now worth £110,000-plus.

"It was by no stretch of the imagination finished when we moved in, but I thought it was the best place on earth," says Claire.

"We could have bought a more expensive house and not done all the work, but I was very focused on having low outgoings.

"We didn't want a big mortgage, because you don't know what is round the corner."

The equity-rich older couple

Sandy Davenport and her fiancé Peter Bruce are getting married in May on the Isle of Wight. They are in the process of selling their houses and are hunting for their first shared home in Exeter.

For the last two years, Sandy and Peter have had a long-distance relationship, travelling between her four-bedroom farmhouse in the Tor Valley, Devon, and his two-bedroom cottage in the New Forest.

Both properties are now on the market for £775,000 and £525,000 respectively. Sandy, who is divorced with a grown-up son, has owned her property for 14 years while Peter, an author, has been in his house for 28 years and so, when they sell, they will be in the fortunate position of being cash buyers.

They are now hunting for a main home close to Exeter, convenient for Sandy's job as head of waterfront homes at estate agents Knight Frank. They also want a bolthole near Lymington, Hampshire, where they can indulge their shared passion for sailing.

Giving up your home, after many happy years in situ, might sound tough, but Sandy believes age and experience – the couple are in their 50s and 60s respectively – will see them through.

"I think that we have learned in life that one has to compromise and we are both important to each other, so we are willing to give way," she explains. The couple want to live near Exeter because of Sandy's job – and fortunately Peter's career is entirely portable.

"Do I see any challenges coming? Well, I have a very busy job and Monday to Friday I am sort of married to work," says Sandy. "But because Peter is an author and likes to lock himself away to write, he probably won't notice I'm not there."For information on Sandy's Devon farmhouse and Peter's New Forest cottage visit www.knightfrank.co.uk

The cash-strapped first-time buyers

Stacey Johnson, 21, who works for a building society, and her fiancé Kevin Waller, 23, a mechanic, are getting married in September.

They moved into their first home, a one-bedroomed flat in the Barratt Homes Xchange development in Watford, Hertfordshire last summer.

Stacey and Kevin had been living with their respective families until they took possession of their first flat and, on moving day and surrounded by boxes, Kevin proposed.

Like thousands of other first-time buyers, the couple – with a joint income of £37,000 – were struggling to get on to the property ladder.

Then they heard about a shared equity scheme which would allow them to buy their £175,000 flat with a fairly affordable deposit of £13,000.

To keep costs down for the first five years, the Lee Valley Housing Association has paid almost a quarter of the cost of the property, meaning the couple do not have to pay mortgage costs on that portion of the flat. When they come to sell, the housing association can recoup its investment.

But the pair have still had to budget carefully. "At first we were really worried about how we would manage, but we went through it all and we have had to allocate money for food or petrol," says Stacey. "We had a strict plan and we have stuck to it to survive."

With a wedding to save for, the couple have relied on support from family and friends to help them equip their flat. And moving from the family home and straight in together, without the benefit of a few years of flat-sharing to knock off the rough edges, has been a huge learning curve.

"There was a running joke in my family about how Kevin was going to survive my cooking," says Stacey.

"But it has been fantastic. At first we didn't know what we were doing, but now we are into a routine."

The exiles

Ian Fulcher, 39, and his wife Samantha Marsh, 36, married in December. They swapped two ex-local authority homes in London for a new life in the country and now live in a traditional Lake District cottage, complete with a large garden and an orchard.

Ian's life has changed dramatically over the last 18 months: he has a new career, has left London for Cumbria and is married.

And he could not be more delighted.

"I used to live under the Heathrow flight path and get woken up by the planes," he says. "Now all you can hear is the birds singing." Before the wedding, Ian owned a 1970s ex-local authority house in East Sheen, south-west London, while Samantha owned a flat in Morden, south London.

It was Samantha who inspired the move, because she was keen to live closer to her family and the couple decided that Cumbria was their ideal location.

She sold her flat for £165,000 in 2009 and they bought the cottage in September of that year. It is in a hamlet about 12 miles from Kendal and cost £335,000. Samantha, who has her own PR business, works from home.

Meanwhile Ian stayed on in London, working in IT, until last August, when he sold his house for £320,000 and joined his wife-to-be.

He is now working for her business and rural life is proving a joy.

"People are so much more friendly. You can chat to people without them looking at you weirdly, like they do in London. We are meeting lots of people and we love the outdoors," says Ian.

Their mortgage is also smaller because the equity they built up in London means they put down a deposit of about a third of the price of their cottage.

Comments