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How we fixed our bad credit scores and paid off £1,500 debt to buy our first home



FIRST-TIME buyers Ross Hughes and Anna Solovjova turned their poor credit scores around by paying off a £1,500 debt to buy their dream home for £220,000.

By axing old credit accounts with a number of retailers, getting listed on the electoral register and building up their credit history helped the couple get a £165,000 mortgage to buy a three-bed house near Edinburgh.

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Ross and Anna turned their credit scores around to bag their first home[/caption]

They also shared a flat with a stay-in landlady for around a year and a half to save a whopping £13,500 on rent.

This living situation proved even more challenging when Ross wanted to see his kids, Oliver, 11, and Scarlett, eight years-old, from a previous relationship.

As there was no room for his children to stay in the room he and Anna were renting, he had to commute to his parent’s house in Montrose, Scotland, twice a month and stay there with them instead.

After saving for two years, Ross, 29, and Anna, 28, had enough money to put down a £55,000 deposit for their dream home.

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The couple saved for two years to raise enough money for a £55,000 deposit[/caption]

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Their home is a spacious new build, with enough room for Ross’ kids to stay in[/caption]

They had help from family though, who gave them £18,000 in total towards the cost of the deposit.

We caught up with Ross for The Sun’s My First Home series.

Are you a first-time buyer who want to share tips on how you did it? Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 78 24516. Don’t forget to join the Sun Money’s first-time buyer Facebook group for the latest tips on buying your first home.

Tell me about your new home

It’s a three-bed terraced house in Pilton, just 15 minutes away from Edinburgh’s city centre.

It was a decent size compared to the other houses we looked at within our budget, which were much smaller. It’s not open plan.

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Their home has two bathrooms[/caption]

We also have a kitchen and dining area, two bathrooms, a study, and a living room with big bay windows.

We have a driveway and a back garden as well.

How much did you pay for it?

We paid £220,000 for the property and we put down a 25% deposit of £55,000.

We wanted to put down as big a deposit as we could, because our goal was to lower the interest rate we were paying on our mortgage repayments. 

The bigger the deposit you put down, the less you’ll pay back in interest.

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Ross can now see his kids without having to commute hours to his parents’ home[/caption]

We borrowed £165,000 over 25 years at a fixed rate of three years. 

Our mortgage repayments are just over £1,000 per month. 

How did you save up?

We first started to seriously think about buying our own place around 2018.

I didn’t have a lot of savings but Anna had around £8,000 in the bank already – so we had something to work with.

To save on living costs, we lived in a flat share from 2018 until January this year, which was when we moved into our new home.

Our bedroom was our own private space, but we shared the living area and kitchen space with the live-in landlady.

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The house has three bedrooms, one of which is used as a study by Ross[/caption]

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They started saving for their home in 2018[/caption]

The rent was £750, which me and Anna split between us.

The landlady was lovely, but the situation wasn’t ideal, as there wasn’t enough space for my kids to stay over and visit.

I had to go and take the children to my parent’s house and sleep over there every time I wanted to see them.

But it was worth it, as half of our savings was made up from money we saved from renting a smaller space.

We would have been paying £1,500 to live somewhere just us two in the city centre, which means we saved £750 a month on rent – which was £9,000 a year.

To boost our savings more, we both took out a Help to Buy ISA, which means the government gives you 25% interest added on top of what you’ve already saved. 

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The house has a spacious garden which the kids can play on[/caption]

I saved £6,000 and got an extra £1,500, while Anna saved £4,500 and received £1,100 under the scheme.

We then put £17,000 into a fixed savings account, £4,000 of which we put aside for furnishing our home but £4,000 is going towards our wedding at the end of June last year.

To put more cash away, we were really strict on not buying takeaways, and we tried not to drive unless we really had to in order to cut down on fuel costs.

Were there any challenges you faced while saving?

Improving our credit scores was a big thing for us. 

Our mortgage advisor explained that you have less chance of getting a mortgage with a lower score, and I had a credit score sitting around the 300 to 350 mark.

It was at the back of our minds all the time when we were saving.

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Ross shifted a £1,500 debt to boost his credit score[/caption]

I worked really hard to make it better as soon as we decided we wanted to buy a home.

I first decided to save money in order to shift my £1,500 debt, as this was impacting my score. 

Anna didn’t have any credit history, so her score wasn’t high either.

To build this up, she applied for a basic credit card, which she could use for payments up to £500.

She bought a phone on her card and paid it off within a month, and eventually started to build up her credit score by buying things and paying them off immediately.

She then cancelled the card after her score was boosted.

We both enrolled on the electoral register to increase our scores further.

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Anna applied for her first credit card to build up her credit history[/caption]

This helps you to prove who you are and where you live, which means it’s easier to get credit if you’re on the list.

I also closed down old credit accounts that I never used with Next and Littlewoods.

This is because the more credit applications you have in your name, the more likely this will lower your credit score. That really helped as well.

It took us a year to build up our credit scores to around 450 (which was where it was at when we bought our house).

Why did you pick the location?

When we saw the development listed on Zoopla and Rightmove, we wanted to go and visit it, because we really wanted to buy a new build home.

Our house is really near Anna’s work, and it only takes me around 15 minutes to drive to Edinburgh Airport, where I work.

We bought the house off-plan so we didn’t know exactly what our house would look like after it had been built, although we had an idea based on the floor plans.

Because of this it was really nerve-wracking reserving the property.

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They bought their house off plan – which was “nerve-wracking” for them both[/caption]

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They put aside £4,000 to furnish their home[/caption]

We didn’t have a lot of space in the flat we were renting, so we were desperate for more – and this house was a great size.

How did you afford to furnish it?

We made sure to put aside £4,000 in savings for furnishing the house.

We needed to buy a lot of stuff, because we were in a flat share before, so all the furniture was provided for us.

We got a couple of small pieces of furniture given to us from friends and family, such as our bedside cabinet.

We’re buying the furniture in phases to spread out the cost.

We got the beds and kitchen tables and chairs first, and we’re looking at putting up shelving and blinds in the spare rooms over the next coming months.

Were there any setbacks while buying your home?

Covid caused a massive setback for us in terms of completing and moving into our home.

We were originally due to complete all the way back in March 2020, but because of Covid, this ended up being pushed back by nearly a year to January 2021.

The delays were due to restrictions impacting the pace of building works.

How to improve your credit score

WE explain how to improve your credit score.

  • Don’t make too many credit applications – Making lots of requests in a short period of time can be seen as a sign of financial distress – and each application will be recorded on your file. Use a “soft-search” eligibility calculator to show how likely you are to be accepted.
  • Always pay your bills – Late payments are also recorded in your file so make sure you pay your monthly bills on time including utility and credit cards.
  • Pay down your debt – Try and cut down your existing debt before applying for new credit as lenders may be reluctant to lend to you if you already have a large amount of debt.
  • Use a credit-builder credit card – These cards tend to have high interest rates compared to normal cards but if you can show you’re a responsible spender with them, it can improve your chances in the eyes of lenders.

Construction work massively slowed down because the amount of workers on site had to be reduced due to social distancing.

Plus, the pandemic caused delays in getting materials delivered on site, adding to the backlog.

We were checking on it every couple of weeks, seeing what progress was being made on site because we were so desperate to move in.

It was really frustrating. We were mentally really fed up with it because our completion date was being delayed so often.

However, the plus side was that we had longer to save.

We moved into our home on the same day we completed.

What advice would you give to first time buyers?

It’s really important to plan how you’re going to save, and map out a timeline.

If you have a bad credit score, build it up as early as you can.  It will open up mortgage options.

Don’t be afraid of buying off-plan –  there’s tons of tools and resources online to help you out and seeing your house be built before your eyes is quite exciting!


Here’s how Joely Harris, from the Isle of Wight, set up a bakery business to help save £10,000 for her first home.

If you’re a key worker, you could get a 20% discount on your first home – here’s how bank worker Bolu Sofoluwe did just that.

Find out how an NHS worker did four jobs and ditched haircuts to buy his £299,000 four-bed first home.

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