I never started this blog with the idea of doing reviews, but as living mortgage free is right at the top of my bucket list, as I’m sure it is for a lot of people, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the Channel 4 programme How To Live Mortgage Free with Sarah Beeny to see if I could pick up any tips.
Within a few minutes of the programme starting, it became clear that it was not going to give me the answers I was looking for.
Firstly we had Kimberley, in her late 20’s, beautiful and quirky, living in very expensive rented accommodation in London, with no mention of a regular job. I’d guessed that she was a model, but it was apparent that she didn’t actually have regular work, only occasional ‘jobs’. So I’m not actually sure how she was managing to even pay her rent, never mind save an extra £25k in a year!
She was planning to buy a run down house boat and do it up. That all seemed feasible until you saw the boat. It was a rust bucket. But in the end, she did a great job of the refurb and is now living in it mortgage & rent free. Good for her. The boat totally suited her quirky style and even if she sold it, she would make a nice profit. I would have liked a bit more info about how she was managing to save £25K in a year though, especially as her monthly rent was more than double our mortgage payment.
I actually know someone who has just bought a house boat with the intention to become mortgage free. She sold her house in Surrey to do so. She’s owned the house for a number of years, so the equity in the house is how she has managed to do it. She paid off her mortgage, bought the boat and still had a lump sum left to live on.
With this quick explanation, it’s all very simple to understand, so why can’t How To Live Mortgage Free delve into the numbers and be a bit more informative?
But house boats are not for everyone, so next we have another 20 something called Annie who bought a piece of land which was a brown site, without planning permission. She bought it outright with £20k savings and then used the rest of her ‘savings’ to build a huge, and very beautiful, 4 bed eco-house on it.
All for under £70K.
Which again, sounds amazing. Wouldn’t we all love a gorgeous 4 bed house, on our own plot of land, mortgage free at the age of 25? And don’t be put off by me describing it as an eco-house, the house was absolutely beautiful.
But again, I did feel that Annie wasn’t a realistic representation of most 20 something’s. If you already have a spare £70k knocking around in your early 20’s, I don’t think you’re ever going to be in a situation where you are struggling to keep your head above water, like a like a lot of people are finding themselves in, either not able to get on the property ladder at all or stradlled with a large mortgage.
It may have been that she’d inherited the money and it was a one off, but this was never explored in the programme at all.
So Annie didn’t feel like a normal 20 something and buying land and self building a large house, without a mortgage, feels completely unrealistic for most of us.
This coupled with the fact that depending on where you live in the UK, land is ridiculously expensive, even if it is brown site or doesn’t have planning permission. Here in Dorset, we never see any land for sale that isn’t over £50,000, and that’s agricultural land, land which can be built on would go for at least 5 or 6 times that amount.
So I’ve ruled out moving to a boat, and land is too expensive to buy, unless we move to another part of the UK.
Then we have the couple who managed to pay off their £235k mortgage in just 8 years.
Now you’re talking I thought, this is where this programme could get interesting for me.
But the only explanation given was that they earned £55k a year between them and that they ‘cut back on their living expenses’.
Well yeah, no shit Sherlock. But HOW?!
If £55k a year is their gross income, that surely doesn’t add up as it would only leave them about £10K a year (or less) to live on and they were a family of 4. I’m pretty sure that’s below the poverty line.
So what did they live on? What about their other utility bills? Did they have investments, or other additional side incomes that weren’t mentioned? Did they eat beans on toast for 8 years? What about clothes or school trips for their children? Did they have a car, two cars? or did they pay for public transport to get to work & school – that could easily eat up a few grand a year.
My maths is not the best, but even without a calculator I know that £235k is about £30k a year in mortgage payments.
Taking into account that £55k is their gross income, £30k is a HUGE chunk of their earnings, so I would really have liked some more details of their budgets and how they paid it off (did they overpay monthly or did they invest the money then pay off the mortgage in one go at the end of the 8 years).
Absolutely none of these questions were addressed or explored at all, and the audience was left to guess how they managed to do it by ‘cutting back’.
It takes more than shopping at Lidl and turning your lights off when you leave a room to pay off a £235k mortgage in just 8 years!
What a wasted opportunity.
There’s more to come in this series and I usually love Sarah Beeny, so I will definitely be watching.
But the whole show had so many unanswered questions – you need to give us some details Sarah otherwise the show is completely pointless.
I just hope that future episodes will be more informative and show realistic ways, and hopefully some practical advice, of how to live mortgage free.