How I bought my first home: three years of saving and buying the basics in lockdown helped me buy my own home

·2-min read
Real estate sales manager Sofia Dihoiu bought a one-bedroom flat in Camberley (Richard Eaton)
Real estate sales manager Sofia Dihoiu bought a one-bedroom flat in Camberley (Richard Eaton)

Sofia Dihoiu sells new-build flats for a living, but when it came to buying her own Home she learned two important lessons: compromise is crucial and patience is a virtue.

This time last year Dihoiu, 31, was renting a room in a shared house in Chiswick which cost, including bills, £750 to £800pcm.

"I really wanted to have the freedom of being on my own and in my own place, particularly after Covid," she explained.

Dihoiu is a sales manager for a real estate company and her job can take her to development sites all around west London and the home counties. Lacking the budget to buy in Chiswick, she began her flat hunt in Hertfordshire but, after failing to find anything she really liked, she turned her attentions to Surrey.

"You do need to be willing to compromise and think outside the box," she said. "I came across the Lumina development in Camberley and I thought I may as well go and check it out. It was a very impromptu thing." That was last June, and in August she reserved a one-bedroom flat at the Berkeley Homes development.

She had been saving for a deposit for three years, and not going out for the best part of a year during the pandemic significantly upped the amount she could put aside. "The usual things I do went out of the window, like getting my nails and hair done and buying clothes, and I was just buying groceries and the basics," she said.

Dihoiu moved into her flat in March — Homes at Lumina currently start at £212,500 — and her mortgage comes in at £600pcm plus bills. There is also service charge to pay at £120pcm, but Dihoiu considers this worthwhile since the development has a gym, cinema, garden and business lounge.

Priced out of Chiswick, Sofia Dihoiu turned her attentions to Surrey — and a development in Camberley with a  “great community vibe” (Richard Eaton)
Priced out of Chiswick, Sofia Dihoiu turned her attentions to Surrey — and a development in Camberley with a “great community vibe” (Richard Eaton)

Since then she has been getting to know Camberley, and her new neighbours. "When I came here last year there was not much going on because of the pandemic, so I didn't see it at its best," she said.

"It has got everything that I had in London, lots of shops, restaurants, and it is literally a 45-minute drive to Chiswick," she said. "There are a couple of pubs, but they don't stay open very late like London, but that is the only difference really."

In terms of making friends, Dihoiu has found her new neighbours keen to get to know each other, communicating via WhatsApp and organising get-togethers. "There is a great community vibe," she said.

For a property professional the hardest thing about her journey has been the waiting — it took seven months from reserving her flat to moving in. "I had to learn a bit of patience," she said.

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