Would you buy your first home with a sibling? Here's how to do it...
For sisters who shared a room during childhood, the idea of living together in adulthood might be anathema. Yet there’s a long tradition of this special relationship – from the novelist Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra, to the Brontë siblings and, more recently, Kate and Pippa Middleton sharing a flat in Chelsea.
Two years ago, the supermodel/actress sisters Cara and Poppy Delevingne bought a home together in Los Angeles that Cara has called a “dream sister house”; with four bedrooms, a swimming pool and a soundproofed party room, lack of personal space shouldn’t become an issue.
Yet in London – where the average house price of £483,000 is 13.1 times the average annual salary of £37,000, according to Zoopla – financial necessity is also keeping the trend going strong.
For Natasha and Francesca Davies, from south-east London, buying a home together was a natural way to pool their resources – and they certainly knew what they were getting into. “We have always lived together,” says Natasha, 26. “We pretty much do everything together. We go on holiday together; in fact, we are basically a couple!”
They saved up £23,000 for a deposit over five years while living at home with their parents, and have bought a two-bedroom apartment in Woolwich’s Trinity Walk development for £465,999, using the government’s Help to Buy scheme.
The pair are even in the same line of business – dentistry – but admit they are polar opposites. “Francesca is tidy, I am messy. I have a bright pink bedroom, hers is very calm and neutral. The living room we are yet to agree on…” says Natasha.
Two-bedroom, two-bathroom properties are perfect for sharing siblings. The pair don’t have to share a bathroom and are not fighting over who gets the best bedroom either. “Natasha spent years being squashed in the box room at home, so she got the en suite bedroom with a balcony in the new flat,” says Francesca, 28.
But life gets in the way, and plans change. For example, what about if one of them gets a boyfriend? “We have agreed that this is a five-year plan, then we will look where we are at and maybe sell,” she says. “A new partner cannot move in until we have known them for a year.”
Sharing a first home is not just an experience for those on a typical first-time buyer budget. “I have a sale going through with three sisters aged between 17 and 24, and they had a budget of £1.4 million for three double bedrooms and two bathrooms,” says Rob Dawson of agent Jackson-Stops.
“We found them a very large two-bedroom flat where one of the bedrooms could be split down the middle.”
He flags up another property for sale that was way above their budget, at £2.385 million, but perfect for three sharers. “It is a five-storey house with three bedroom suites that the owner designed for his children. With stamp duty so prohibitive on second homes, parents are buying one property for all their children – not one each.”
Another set of three sisters in Kensal Rise, north-west London, have paid their way but also “kept it in the family” with the purchase of a two-bedroom flat that they plan to extend into the loft for a third bedroom (with their builder parents’ help).
Last year, the Stott sisters paid £570,000 for the property found by one of the sisters, Rebecca, an estate agent who set up Foundit London, an agency catering for first-time buyers.
“My younger sister, Susannah, works on oil rigs in Aberdeen so only Elizabeth and I are sharing,” says Rebecca. “We each put equal money into the property, and whoever is living in it will pay the mortgage, but property maintenance costs will be split three ways. It’s complicated but I would only ever do this with my sisters, not friends. We always look after each other.”
What’s the best way to make it work? While there may be a lot of inbuilt trust between sisters, legalising things can make life easier if plans change further down the line, suggests Laurie Horwood of solicitor Farrer & Co. “The simplest way is for siblings to be joint owners as tenants in common (there can be up to four on the legal title).
“But they should also draw up a declaration of trust through a lawyer to set out various details, such as how big a share each person put in, what happens if they want to sell the property, and any other possible scenarios they want to anticipate. Alongside that, they should each write a will that sets out what will happen to their share.”
Flat-sharing in Clapham, south-west London, has also given birth to a new business for sisters Emma and Lucy Warby. The pair share a three-bedroom new-build flat that they bought five years ago – with room for their brother, Jonathan, who’s a PhD student at Oxford, when needed.
“We are close in age and can be bluntly honest with each other,” says Emma, 30, a lawyer. “We came up with the idea for a new business while sitting at our kitchen table one night.”
Fed up with queuing up for the office microwave at lunchtimes, the siblings came up with the concept of an on-the-go food flask, which they launched 18 months ago, as Swivlit.
Its popularity has meant that they have now moved their fulfilment centre from their spare room to a professional facility. “It was only ever going to be a sideline,” adds Emma. “I don’t think we could work and live together…”