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    Shared ownership: a way through the affordable maze

    Anybody who has ever tried to buy a home through a shared-ownership scheme knows what a mind-boggling process it can be.  With 1.6 million results for a simple internet search on those words alone, you can spend hours just wondering where to start – let alone pondering the difference between a New Build HomeBuy, HomeBuy Direct and Rent to HomeBuy. 

    James Cartlidge, right, wants you to wonder no more and log on to instead. The 36-year-old entrepreneur has recently launched a website that aims to do nothing less than “make affordable housing truly accessible online”.

    With fewer first-time buyers getting on to the housing ladder unassisted and affordable housing becoming increasingly mainstream, since households earning up to £60,000 qualify for help, Cartlidge could be on to something.

    At the moment, anybody looking for a shared-ownership home must trawl through countless websites and contact individual housing associations to find out what is available and whether they can afford it. puts everything in one place.  It is early days and the number of homes listed is still growing, but users can search for a shared-ownership property anywhere in the country (new build and resale), calculate the size of the share that they can afford to buy, and get a mortgage – all in one place.

    The site’s main selling point is the nifty budget calculator that lets buyers see at a glance what their monthly costs would be, depending on the size of their deposit and the share of the property that they want to buy.  It’s such a simple concept, it’s a wonder that nobody has done it in quite the same way before.  Yet this is not something that happens overnight: has been six years in the making.  The business started in 2004 as a mortgage brokerage specialising in finding deals for borrowers wanting to buy with friends.  But as the number of inquiries about shared ownership started to mount, Cartlidge had to think again.

    “We were being contacted daily by people seeking affordable housing deals and not knowing where to start,” he says.  “We were performing a social function: explaining shared ownership even when we were unlikely to see a mortgage.”

    Although the company started offering shared-ownership mortgages in 2006, it was the recession that cemented the transition.  “As the general property market was going into meltdown, there was still demand for shared ownership and affordable housing,” Cartlidge says.  “We spotted an opportunity, so we changed the business model.”

    The result is a site that could do for affordable housing what myriad property portals have done for the mainstream market.  As Cartlidge explains: “The big players are very hard to touch in a boom.  But in a recession everybody starts thinking differently.  The chance of having an impact is greater in this sort of environment, where there is everything to play for.”

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    Family Mosaic has shared-ownership homes in Camberwell, South London, in a former 19th-century girls’ school.  Buyers must live or work nearby and have a household income of £60,000 or less.  Prices start at £57,500 for a 25 per cent share of a one-bedroom flat.  Call 020-7089 1325 or visit 

    Prices for a one-bedroom flat at the Fairfield Quarter in Bow, East London, start at £52,813 for a 25 per cent share.  Call 0800 9542356 or visit 

    A2Dominion New Homes has one and two-bedroom flats in leafy Eastcote, West London, from £95,000 for a 50 per cent share.  Call 0800 7832159 or visit

    “The Times”: 26.11.10