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My First Home: Rory Cowlam

Cat in a flat: Rory has created a pet-friendly home

The TV vet was happy not to have to ask permission to have a pet after he bought a flat with his sister

You look like you spend a lot of time outdoors. Was outoor space vital at your first home?

Outdoor space was near the top of my list when buying my first home. I love gardening and growing fruit and vegetables, so we wanted a decent-sized plot with a south-facing garden and room for a few chickens. I also have a large collection of barbeque smokers, grills and outdoor cooking stoves, so I needed some room for my toys.

When did you buy your first home?

At the end of 2017, at 24. I bought it with my sister as neither of us could afford what we wanted alone. I had been renting for three years in south London and felt like I was throwing money down the drain. It feels so much better paying a mortgage than rent.

Where is it?

It is a flat in a small nine property development in Streatham Hill in south London. It was a brand new build and we bought it through the government’s Help to Buy scheme. It is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat with huge windows so it feels light and airy. I have always liked new-build properties as I like clean and modern interiors.

What’s it like?

It’s a new, modern development with exposed grey brick — it’s quite cool looking. It has bike locks, which is great, and a medium sized outside space with plenty of foliage and a nice grass area. There are nine flats made up of three bed, two bed and one-bed properties. Ours feels a lot bigger than it is. It has wooden floors, except for carpeted bedrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and lovely finishings which make it feel really high class. The kitchen and bathrooms are brilliantly fitted, my personal favourite being my rain shower.

Why did you decide to go in 50/50 with your sister?

This was for one reason only; the cost of property in London. We both have very settled lives in London with good jobs in set locations. Before we bought, we were throwing almost £2,000 a month at rent between us in places we weren’t that happy in. It was a no-brainer. The Help to Buy also helped as it meant that our modest deposit was boosted to allow us to afford exactly what we were looking for.

Was it a lot of paperwork?

Honestly, my sister is the organised one, so she did the majority of the work. However, it all seemed a lot easier than I expected it to be. We saw the property in ruins as it was being built and liked the layout so we started the ball rolling. As soon as we registered our interest, we had meetings with the mortgage guys and the Help to Buy application was really easy, too. You can ask me again in four years when we start paying interest on the Help to Buy loan.

It all sounds very smooth?

Like any newbuild, it has had its problems. We have cracks in some of the finishing where the building is settling and some of the doors are now misaligned with their locks, however, apart from that, it’s really everything we could have asked for. For me, the best thing about it is the massive windows at the front of the property. These look onto our sitting room and allow for huge amounts of natural light; the only downside is it turns into a bit of a greenhouse in the summer.

What about selling, as it is a joint ownership?

We have no plans to move any time soon. With the Help to Buy scheme, we will have to start paying interest in another four years so this will likely be the time we start to think about our options. The difficulty is that one of us will likely want to stay there as its a lovely flat. I suppose one of us needs to find a partner.

Do you have any pets?

In October 2018 we adopted a cat from my work. He had been hit by a car and lost a leg due to the accident. I fell in love with him and brought him home and he has never left. The ease of bringing him home and not having to think about asking a landlord was so refreshing having lived in pet-free properties for the last three years. I do understand why landlords say no pets, however as long as the tenants are responsible I don’t think it should be an issue.

How do you create a pet-friendly home?

Being pet-friendly is all about knowledge. You need to be aware of what your pets will or won’t do and how they will see a situation; it may be completely different to how you see it. The main thing for me is making sure you leave nothing toxic lying around, whether that be chewing gum, chocolate, human medications or something else, making sure you have no toxic plants in the house and being careful to have a scavenge-proof bin.

Rory Cowlam, aka Rory the Vet, can be seen on CBBC TV show The Pets Factor. After graduating from the Royal Veterinary College in 2015, Rory joined The Neighbourhood Vet practice based in East Dulwich. He is also brand ambassador for PitPat, the dog activity monitoring device.