Many people remember the experience of buying their first home, which is usually filled with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. But for Duygu Baydur, an investment banker, originally from Turkey, the experience was simply unprecedented due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Duygu and her partner have recently moved into a two-bedroom property at White + Green, a Higgins Homes development of 144 properties featuring one, two and three bedroom apartments, as well as a range of citipads. Situated between Whitechapel and Bethnal Green Underground stations, the move was completed during the lockdown, creating a unique first-time buyer experience.
“We had to find ways to be inventive and use the technology that was available to make this happen,” says Duygu. “Once social distancing was implemented, we couldn’t go to see the solicitor, for example, so we used phone apps and electronic signatures to sign off on all the paperwork.”
After becoming engaged, Duygu and her partner stepped up the search for a property. They were originally renting in Wapping in East London, and, while on a regular bike ride, the couple spotted the Higgins Homes development.
“We only really looked at new builds because we wanted a property that was easy to move straight into and wouldn’t require lots of work,” says Duygu. “We know this area well and really like the location; it’s got a good community feel and has lots of really good coffee shops, restaurants and independent stores but it doesn’t feel too gentrified. It’s also perfect for my work; I can walk to Liverpool Street in just 20 minutes. Our social life is also important to us and we wanted to be close to the gym and the places where we like to spend our free time, which is Brick Lane, Shoreditch and Columbia Road.”
After viewing the property in February, just a week later they put in an offer. “We had a few things on our wish list, including being really keen to have a balcony, two bathrooms, a spacious kitchen and a separate living area, which very few flats can offer,” adds Duygu. “We found all of these things at White + Green, together with it being in the area that we love. So it didn’t take long to decide that we wanted to go ahead and buy.”
Originating from outside the UK, Duygu initially found the buying process quite confusing and a little intimidating, as she explains: “Not really understanding the process was quite concerning, but the solicitor and broker that Higgins Homes introduced us to were so knowledgeable and patient it put me at ease. I feel I got lucky because they were so helpful and walked me through the process step by step.”
It took just five weeks to exchange and completion happened shortly after that, even during the global pandemic. “I had no fear that we wouldn’t be able to move. I knew there would be difficulties but Higgins Homes were very good at keeping me informed every step of the way,” says Duygu. “Of course, there have been some challenges. Social distancing meant that we didn’t have a face to face walk through and all communications had to be done on the phone or through technology, but Higgins Homes remained responsive throughout which meant that there were very few hiccups.”
The lockdown has caused some difficulties in getting furniture delivered but the actual move was pretty straightforward, as Duygu adds: “I’ve moved a lot in London before so I knew who to contact and what to do and it was actually pretty straightforward. We moved in several waves and just didn’t put too much pressure on to get everything done. I would say to anyone else in a similar position that even in a lockdown, with social distancing measures in place, it can still be possible to move home but just ensure that communication with everyone involved is good.”
Having moved from a rental property with no outside space, Duygu has been really enjoying relaxing on the balcony. “Of course, we are really looking forward to the time when we can go back to the places we love and enjoy all the great things that this area has to offer. But for now, we are just happy that we no longer have to pay rent and have been able to move on with the next stage of our lives. We are really enjoying the flat. Plus, during the lockdown, we are very grateful to spend time on the balcony and to enjoy the recent sunshine and the outside space too.”
Please note that this photograph was taken in accordance with current Government guidelines on social distancing.