The average age for a first time buyer has now risen to 33, according to recent statistics1, with many facing the prospect of having to pay a mortgage well into retirement. That isn’t going to be a problem for new homeowners Fiona English and Thomas Frankland, however, as in November they gained the keys to their three-bedroom house aged just 24 and 25.

Fiona and Thomas were the first viewers to visit Fernham Homes’ Lockesley Chase development in Orpington, in the London Borough of Bromley, and they loved the property so much that they put in an offer the very next day. “We just happened to walk past at the right time, so on the opening day we were the first people to view there,” says Thomas.

“We have been together nearly six years and have been living together and renting for four years, saving up and budgeting carefully all the while,” adds Thomas, who is a primary school teacher in the town. His partner Fiona works in financial planning, so putting down a solid foundation for their future was second nature. “We worked at weekends and saved all the way through university,” she says.

By the time they saw their home at Lockesley Chase, which they bought using London Help to Buy, they had saved up around £40,000. This enabled them to put down their deposit and pay for the legal fees and Stamp Duty, keeping costs down by moving themselves in with the help of family and friends and using furniture from Thomas’s grandmother.

Lockesley Chase is just down the road from where the couple were renting, but a world away in terms of comfort. “We love the location as it’s really quiet,” says Fiona. “We know the area very well and it’s easy to get to work.” Fiona is not a fan of completely open-plan living, so when she visited Lockesley Chase she was delighted to find that they could afford a home with a separate kitchen/diner and living area, as well as three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The property has a small garden with a patio and a long driveway with room for three cars – plus eco-friendly solar panels to keep the bills down.

“We have come from a two-bed flat with a damp problem and mould,” says Thomas.

“Finding something this spacious within our price range was perfect. The top-up from Help to Buy enabled us to afford something that was materially better than we otherwise could have afforded – we love the size of the rooms and that it’s at the end of a quiet road. We fell in love with it when we first looked around it.”

The budget-conscious couple were even more delighted to find that the cost of their new mortgage is slightly less than they were paying in rent, even though the property is so much bigger and a house rather than a flat. The savings habit is continuing though, as they are aware that the Help to Buy Equity Loan is only interest-free for the first five years. “We are putting money aside every month towards the Help to Buy loan as well, so we can pay a good chunk of it off before we have to pay any interest on it,” explains Thomas.

“Everyone from Fernham Homes has been really helpful,” says Fiona, who was impressed by the personal service they received throughout the process, even down to a visit explaining how all the appliances work. Speaking just a fortnight after moving in, she is delighted with how everything has gone, and plans to spend many years enjoying the new home and whatever the future may bring. “It’s much bigger than we really need right now, so there’s no pressure to move again,” she says.

“It’s so much more than we could have hoped for,” adds Thomas, “and we are very lucky to have got one of these places.” While Thomas and Fiona were particularly quick off the mark in their purchase, other properties at Lockesley Chase have also been selling fast, with just three homes remaining on Phase 1 of the development which has 23 new homes, with prices from £499,500.

Set in the ancient parish of St Mary Cray, to the north of Orpington, the homes have easy pedestrian access to schools, parks and leisure facilities and excellent commuter links – St Mary Cray railway station is a 15-minute walk away and offers services to London Bridge in just over 20 minutes, while the fabulous shopping destination of Bluewater is only 25 minutes away by car. Orpington’s lively High Street, a cinema complex and Nugent Shopping Park are all five minutes’ drive away, adding to the convenience of the location.

Lynne Smith, Head of Sales & Marketing at Fernham Homes, is not surprised that the homes at Lockesley Chase are being snapped up: “These houses, which come with gardens and parking, offer great value for Orpington, and give buyers the chance to move into a proper house for the price they would often have to pay for an apartment. With so many amenities within easy reach, these are the perfect properties for first time buyers, as well as upsizers looking for more space for their money in the tough London property market. With the availability of the Government’s Help to Buy Equity Loan this means that many of the homes at Lockesley Chase can be purchased with just a 5% deposit.