LAURA Jones spent a year saving a £17,000 deposit for her first home – but her property purchase plans were nearly scuppered poor credit score left her struggling to get a mortgage.

The 27-year-old from Cardiff, who works in marketing, has never had credit card which meant that despite always paying bills on time she was turned down by a number of different lenders.

Banks check out your credit history before deciding whether they'll give you a home loan – the stronger the score, the better the interest rate you'll be offered.

One way to boost your score is by spending on a credit card and repaying the amount each month, as it shows you're capable of paying back what you borrow – but Laura had never needed one before.

In the end, Skipton Building Society was the only lender to offer her mortgage but with a rate of 2.79 per cent over 35 years, which is at least one per cent higher than the cheapest home loan over that same term.

On top of this, as a single first-time buyer, Laura needed a bigger deposit of at least 10 per cent – twice the minimum amount needed for two people buying together.

It took her a year to get the funds together, which she managed to do by leaving her rented home she shared with friends in Manchester and moving home with her parents in the Brecon Beacons in Wales.

Of course, she could have held off buying her property for another six months while she built up her credit score but she didn't want to miss out on her dream home.

Laura finally got the keys to her £145,000 one-bed flat in Cardiff in August last year.

Aware that she's now forking out for a higher interest rate on her mortgage, she tucks away an extra £25 towards her monthly repayments which in the long run will save her £6,600 – and knock nearly three years off the 35-year-term.

We sat down with Laura for this week's My First Home instalment to find out exactly what it takes to get a foot on the property ladder.

What's your flat like and how much did you pay for it?

I bought a one-bed flat in Cardiff last year and got the keys in August.

It's in an old converted Victorian, semi-detached house that was recently turned into four flats, so I'm the first one to live in it.

It's actually a across two levels which makes it feel bigger than it actually is.

The flat is a bit upside down as my bedroom is downstairs while the kitchen, living room and bathroom is upstairs.

I don't have a garden and it's on street parking so nothing fancy, but it's what I could afford and I love it.

I paid £145,000 for the flat with a £17,000 deposit which was about 12 per cent.

What's your mortgage like and how much do you pay every month?

My mortgage is £128,000 and I've chosen to pay it off over the longest period of time that was offered to me, which was 35 years.

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This was to make the monthly payments smaller to give me a chance to recover my finances after handing over all of my savings to buy the place.

The monthly repayments are £478 but I pay off an extra £25 when I can.

I know it doesn't seem like much but it will save me about £6,600 in interest over the term and I'll pay it off a few years earlier.

It's something my mortgage adviser recommended that I do if I could afford to and I plan to pay even more when I can.

Let's talk money. How long did it take you to save and how did you manage it?

It took me a year to save the £17,000 – although my parents gave me £5,000 to help me with the final push.

I continued to live in Manchester for another four years after I graduated form the university there.

I rented a room in a flat share for £650 a month and I had no hope of saving a deposit while I was living there.

I knew that at some point I wanted to go back to Wales where my parents lived, so I took the plunge and moved back home.

I already had about £1,000 in savings and my parents let me live at home rent free, which meant I could put around £500 into savings.

My new job was in Cardiff so I spent around £150 a month in fuel driving to and from work every day.

Commuting from my parent's home 35 miles away from the city in the Brecon Beacons was the hardest part about saving.

What help is out there for first-time buyers?

Help to Buy Isa – It's a tax-free savings account where for every £200 you save, the Government will add an extra £50. But there's a maximum limit of £3,000 which is paid to your solicitor when you move.

Help to Buy equity loan – The Government will lend you up to 20 per cent of the home's value – or 40 per cent in London – after you've put down a five per cent deposit. The loan is on top of a normal mortgage but it can only be used to buy a new build property.

Lifetime Isa – This is another Government scheme that gives anyone aged 18 to 39 the chance to save tax-free and get a bonus of up to £32,000 towards their first home. You can save up to £4,000 a year and the Government will add 25 per cent on top.

Shared ownership – Co-owning with a housing association means you can buy a part of the property and pay rent on the remaining amount. You can buy anything from 25 to 75 per cent of the property but you're restricted to specific ones.

"First dibs" in London – London Mayor Sadiq Khan is working on a scheme that will restrict sales of all new-build homes in the capital up to £350,000 to UK buyers for three months before any overseas marketing can take place.

Starter Home Initiative – A Government scheme that will see 200,000 new-build homes in England sold to first-time buyers with a 20 per cent discount by 2020. To receive updates on the progress of these homes you can register your interest on the Starter Homes website.

On a normal day it would take about 50 minutes each way but driving in rush-hour traffic turned it into a three hour round-trip.

I was so exhausted and broken by the end of the year – that's why my parents helped me out in the end because I couldn't face another six months commuting.

On the plus side, I was home so late that I never went out on weekdays so I stopped spending as much on socialising.

Why didn't you use Help To Buy?

I started saving into a Help To Buy Isa but I wasn't convinced by it as it limited me to saving £200 a month.

In the end, I just kept it in my current account which probably wasn't the wisest thing to do.

My sister had taken out a Help To Buy loan when she bought her place but had trouble with it when she came to sell her house.

The house had gone up in value so the amount that the Government took off to pay back the loan was more than what she borrowed.

It really put me off using it to buy my own place.

Was it hard going through the process on your own?

There were times when it was seriously overwhelming. You don't have anyone to bounce ideas off of, or someone who you can trust to run things by.

Agents and solicitors use so much jargon and it would have given me more confidence just to have someone else by my side.

But having said that, the sense of pride and overwhelming achievement you get when you finally get the keys makes it all worth it.

I did pay £500 for a mortgage adviser and I would 100 per cent recommend it, because I just had no clue about what I was doing.

They helped me with the mortgage and the legal stuff – I have no idea what I would have done without that help.

Getting a mortgage wasn't difficult because I was on my own, although I did have to put down a bigger deposit because it was only me to pay it off made it riskier for them to lend to me.

The biggest hurdle I had was that because I'd never had a credit card, my credit score was really low.

My mortgage adviser ran quite a few soft checks and found that I wouldn't be accepted for any of them.

In the end I went with Skipton Building Society because they were the only bank that would give one to me.

How did you afford to furnish it?

Luckily the flat came with all the white goods including the dishwasher, washing machine and fridge/freezer so I didn't have to fork out for anything like that.

I bought all my furniture bit by bit when I could afford it and five months later I'm just about covered now.

I spent the first two months using two armchairs from my parents house because I didn't have a sofa and ended up spending a lot of time shopping in Ikea!

What's next?

I'm planning to stay in the flat for another year or two, but my boyfriend and I are now saving to buy a house.

In an ideal world I would like to keep the flat and rent it out but we'll have to see how realistic that is.

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