My story really starts with the ethics I learned as a child. My mum was an incredibly strong and independent woman. Perhaps more so than her peers in the 1950s. Her strength of character was no doubt shaped by a challenging childhood. Diagnosed with cancer in her neck at 12 years old, she didn’t have a lot of school time and left at an early age. Thankfully she beat it.
Having an interrupted education led to a lack of qualifications. She was however awarded a 1-1 apprenticeship as a dressmaker. Using the opportunity, it wasn’t long before she was the supervisor of a factory. Later when she had her children she became self-employed and designed and made wedding/evening dresses as well as suits. This was her life long job. Buying her own home was one of the early decisions she made in life. Her first house was around £300.00, funded by a private mortgage as no one would lend to a woman back then. Imagine that! She paid it off in just 3 years.
Dad had a son from a first marriage ( his 1st wife died of cancer) then Mum and Dad had 3 daughters together in 3 years. My father was a painter and decorator and very handy with all a wide range of building skills. He used to make us all gorgeous dolls houses and my mum used to furnish them. They were stunning. The dolls houses were a further positive reinforcement of the value of housing. We would play house for hours, dreaming of the time when we would own our own.
We were very much a family including our brother who is 20 years older than us.
Sadly, Mum and Dad split up when I was 12 but I continued to have a great relationship with both parents and my siblings.
I spent my childhood living in Harrogate moving every 2-3 years as we moved one step up the ladder each time. I took an active role and helped my dad ‘ do up ‘ houses, one after the other. You can see how property and its value was central to my understanding.
I got my first job at 13 in a shoe repair shop and started saving straight away. From an income of £7 a day I saved £5 and spent £2. The example of my parent’s hard work ethic was sinking in. I left school with a job in advertising and subsequently, sales and marketing. Even this first job was property related as I sold timber for a timber merchant. I was surrounded by clients all developing their own properties.
At 18 I followed the footsteps of my parents and bought my first house. I bought my very first house with wages from my marketing job. I had been promoted to manager and had a good salary. Finally, I had a house of my own. Marriage and a beautiful daughter followed soon after. Everything was looking rosy.
My life took an unexpected turn in the early 90s. The dream home became the scene of violent beatings. My then husband became irrationally jealous of our daughter and took it out in me in the most horrific of ways. By 1998 I had taken all I could and made plans to leave. Domestic violence was not taken quite so seriously 25 years ago and I felt my options were limited. After all of my hard work and with childhood dreams shattered I fled. When I say fled, I mean literally. I signed over my interest in our first house to by abusive husband whilst having my head banged repeatedly against a wall. I ran from the house, naked, child in arms. My first property investment ended with me battered bloodied and penniless. Hardly the dream life I had aspired too.
Digging deep and I made plans and found a solicitor. He put me in touch with a small company who would offer me a mortgage on my own. I had a good salary and had kept my husband for years. It was a Self Certificated mortgage. Renting didn’t even figure in my recovery plan. I knew that houses were the best route. It had always worked for my family and had even left my ex-husband cash-rich from my efforts. Why should I rent? I was working, there was a company that believed in me. This was my chance to put things right. I saw no problem with starting over. It was 1998. At 30 years old I became the proud owner of my new little house. A safe haven for us.
Using everything I had learned I started the process over again. I worked tirelessly and sold the house in a year at profit. On to house Number 2. I bought a wreck and did it up myself. During this time I Met my partner and was awarded a good promotion at work the future was looking bright. I started to feel like a real person again. I could look myself in the eye and feel proud. Then a dream came true. I was offered an opportunity of a lifetime. I was asked to emigrate to Australia.
My uncle had a house building company and had decided to move over to Melbourne. Australia had no real double glazing industry and he offered for me to come and build a new future. I set up a deal with the company I worked with to export a product range out to Australia. I was to set up a new company with backing from my uncle. I would sell the double glazing and he would fit it. It was perfect. My Mum decided she would like to join us. Our temporary home was to be a beach house. It was a stunning property and even had horses. Long term my Mum and I would have a house built with an annexe for her.
Of course, the issue of access for my ex rose its ugly head. Technically my husband had a right to see our daughter. In reality, she was as frightened of him as I was. Since the split, I had suffered constant harassment and threats. I had been followed and he even ran me over with a car. Despite all of this I was worried about the access rights. As it turned out the courts agreed he was mentally unstable and said no contact was to be given… I really needed us to be safe. I sold my house subject to contract and Mum went over to Australia to sort my daughters’ school, our beachfront home and so on. We were buzzing with plans, making list and so excited. She rang me to let me know everything was set and left for the airport.
December the 12th 2000 I received a phone call to say mum had had a fatal heart attack on the plane journey home. My world shattered. 3 weeks later On the 6th January, My Dad also passed away. Life is a cruel game.
I still have the property details that she had in her case. I have never been able to look at them even after 19 years. My aunt and uncle went over as planned, I couldn’t leave my sisters so soon after mum had died. As for me? I got sick. I couldn’t function and didn’t go to work. Nothing mattered anymore. Depression and anxiety kicked in. I was in mental torment for years. I became a shadow of the strong independent person I was. My partner was a rock. I recovered slowly step by step, helping him with his business. We Got married in 2003 and had our little boy in 2005. A ray of sunshine in the gloom I existed in. By 2006, with a daughter of 12 and a 6-month-old little boy – We decide to start over again! This was the drive I needed. We sold at profit. And bought my current house. Northern Rock switched us straight over as before. On top of that, I had built up a nice equity base.
Then 2008 – Northern Rock failed. Its greed and corruption nearly toppled the entire world economy. Bankers earning billions and living jet-set lifestyles. We had bought a 5-year tracker and were okay for a bit– However, in Jan 2011 they brought this term to an end a year early stating it was an old product. My Mortgage doubled overnight!!
I tried to re-borrow at a better rate but despite my exemplary record and years of hard work, we were told no. The rules had changed all of a sudden. We were t pay for the banker’s misdemeanours. Since then our life has been a series of knockbacks not of our making. Complaints and financial struggle, endless phone calls, worry. Now a new bully was banging my head against a wall.
The impact on our lives is palpable. Years of saying No to my children. Watching my sisters follow their dreams and living with unbearable feelings of failure and shame. I have had many relapses into a depressive state and don’t cope with stress well. My daughter, now 25 has left home to follow her dreams. Now it is just my little ray of sunshine and my ever supporting husband. We need to move to a smaller house in another area for work – But we cant. The computer says we don’t qualify. I didn’t put myself here the government did. I didn’t stop climbing the property ladder – the system knocked me off.
We are paying through the nose for a mortgage we are trapped in because a bank decided to end a deal early following the poor decisions it made. The reason we are stuck? The bank says we cannot afford to pay less money every month than we currently do…. Explain that to me. Explain that to my children.
Sorry, Mum. Sorry Dad