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First Time Buyer: ‘Purchasing during lockdown was bizarre’

Buying blind: Rebecca, Martin and family moved to Herne Bay without having seen the place in person

The Trotters explain how they bought a new home 470 miles away… with a virtual viewing

ORGANISING a long-distance move isn’t easy at the best of times, let alone during lockdown. However, Rebecca and Martin Trotter, who were living in Falkirk, managed to view and buy their first home 470 miles away — at Redrow’s Sunningdale Green in Herne Bay — while stuck indoors. The couple, who have two small children, moved to Scotland seven years ago but recently decided it was time to return south to be nearer family in Essex.

‘Purchasing during lockdown was quite a bizarre but exciting process,’ says Rebecca. ‘We had begun our online search looking in Essex but started branching out further as we love the idea of living close to the coast. We found a selection of Redrow homes in Herne Bay and got in touch with the sales team at their Sunningdale Green development to see if we could view the home remotely, and our virtual tour took place in early May via a WhatsApp video call.

Remote control: Sunningdale Green

‘The home we were interested in was finished so our viewing started in the cul-de-sac to give us a feel for the street, and took us up the driveway and to the outside of the four-bed property. Once inside, we were shown round and really loved what we saw.

‘Our sales manager, Leon, was fantastic; nothing seemed to be too much trouble and we felt really reassured about the quality of the home and the service we would receive throughout the buying process. After the call, Redrow sent through a video of the property giving us the opportunity to re-watch it in our own time, pause and zoom in at certain points. We decided to reserve the home two days later.’

Rebecca, who plans to relaunch her babies and children’s equipment cleaning business, and Martin, a project IT consultant, used the Help to Buy scheme which lends up to 20 per cent of the cost (40 per cent in London) to buyers with a five per cent deposit. Currently offered on new-builds priced up to £600,000, the loan is interest-free for five years and repaid when the property is sold. At the moment, Help to Buy is available to first-time buyers and existing homeowners, but from next April it will only be open to people stepping on to the property ladder, and lower regional price caps will take effect.

Although the family had never even set foot in Herne Bay, they moved in on July 1, and are looking forward to getting to know the area before kids Matilda and Jacob start their new school. ‘It is quite crazy to think we hadn’t seen our new home or even visited the area until moving day,’ says Rebecca. ‘The virtual tour and the reputation Redrow has did enough to alleviate any concerns.’


(For a four-bed Harrogate house)

Purchase price: £499,995

Deposit: £24,999

20 per cent Help to Buy loan: £100,000

Mortgage: £1,501

Total monthly spend: £1,501

Four-bedroom houses at Sunningdale Green are available from £459,995,