What I Own: Katie, who owns a £785,000 three-bed house in North London

Katie lives in Ally Pally (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

Just how do you go about getting on the property ladder?

Thankfully, What I Own is on-hand every week, chatting to a different homeowner about their buying experience.

So there’s lots to learn.

This time it’s the turn of Katie, who lives in a three-bed house in Alexandra Palace, North London, with her husband, two kids and chickens.

Katie has spent the past few years buying, refurbishing and selling various London properties, to come up with the deposit for this house.

This is what she has to say about mortgages, deposits, London life and more…

Tell us about yourself Katie.

I’m 39 and work from home as the head of sales for a technology company. I live with my husband who is a psychotherapist and splits his time between being in the clinic and home. We have two daughters who are four and seven.

We also have two little hens that live in the garden and they are called Clementine and Primrose.

Katie Sainsbury in her Alexandra Palace house

Katie owned and sold various properties in North London before buying this (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

Where is your property? What do you think of the area?

The house is in leafy Alexandra Palace in North London. This is in Zone 3 and is serviced by Alexandra Palace station which is a main line into Moorgate. The Piccadilly line is also close by. Both Muswell Hill and Crouch End are within walking distance.

We love the area and picked it because of its proximity to green space. It has a village feel but is 20 minutes into town, safe and friendly. We both lived in North London when we first moved in together and it feels like home.

Katie Sainsbury in her Alexandra Palace house

She put down a deposit of £510,000 (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

When did you move in?

Summer 2019.

How much does your property cost?

We paid £785,000 for a three-bedroom terrace house. It’s a five-minute walk to the palace grounds and the station. We knew we wanted to be on a certain few roads and had been in a bidding war for a handsome Edwardian House, that we sadly missed out on. A tired 1930s house came on the market a few doors down and we knew it had lots of potential.

Katie Sainsbury in her Alexandra Palace house

She pays £1,600 per month for mortgage and bills (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

How much was your deposit?


What is the monthly cost of living here now – both mortgage and bills?

The monthly cost for our mortgage and utilities is £1,600 approximately per month: £1,200 for mortgage, £200 for council tax and £200 on utility bills.

Katie Sainsbury in her Alexandra Palace house

Katie moved in two years ago (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

How did you save up for your deposit?

We bought our first flat in Tufnell Park 12 years ago, which was a one bedroom Victorian conversion. We had a budget of 250,000 with a 10% deposit which was through savings and the sale of a two-bedroom house in Newbury where I am from, that I had bought with a friend after leaving university (saving hard to do so by living back with my parents after graduating).

We were actually trying to buy in our dream location in Highgate, but we were pretty much laughed out of a Highgate estate agents with this budget, which spurred us on to look at other parts of North London.

We have lived in two flats that we have owned in North London. The first we bought with a 10% deposit and the second (after selling the first) a 15% deposit, making profit on each by purchasing ex-buy-to-let period conversions. Both only required cosmetic work and, being ex-rental properties, had modern boilers, bathrooms and appliances already. We did a cosmetic refurb/painted ourselves, spending little but increasing desirability and value. We also only had each flat for 18 and 24 months respectively and made healthy profits.

In 2013, when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter Betsy, we were living in a two-bed flat in Crouch End and were priced out of buying a house in the area. We looked at several London locations and during the Christmas of 2013 (and with a four-month old baby) we bought a neglected three-bedroom house in Walthamstow, East London. At the time Walthamstow was getting lots of press and was being touted as the next up-and-coming place. We did a full refurbishment of this house and added a one-bedroom loft dormer with an en-suite bathroom. We made a healthy £328,000 profit on this, which set us up to buy in Alexandra Palace, where we live now. We had a 60% deposit to buy this home.

the lounge

So visually-pleasing (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

What was the process of getting a mortgage like for you?

We have always tried to have the lowest loan to value rate possible, to allow access to the best mortgage rate options, saving hard to tip us into the next category where possible. It has been pretty straightforward, although achieving this high deposit amount has been hard work and we have made sacrifices along the way.

In addition, we had always had in mind that we did not want our monthly repayment amount to be higher than what the rental value of the house would be, in case we ever had a change in circumstances and we needed to rent it out.

In the past, when we borrowed for refurbishments, we flexed (extended) our mortgage term to appease the lender but have always then overpaid to bring the term back down, in line with what it was before.


Perfectly styled (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

Where did you live before this – were you renting or living with family?

Before our current house in Alexandra Palace, we lived for 4.5 years in Walthamstow, East London. We bought this house in 2013 when I had just had my first daughter. The house was bought on a road in the catchment of the most sought-after primary school in the borough and was a very short walk from Lloyd Park. We had every intention of staying there long term but craved a greener, quieter place without feeling the need to leave London altogether.

kitchen island

Time for toast? (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

What made you want to buy rather than renting?

My parents owned their own home and I had always hoped that I would get on the property ladder. After finishing university, I moved back to live with my parents, sold my car and saved to buy a two bedroom new-build terrace with my best friend in West Berkshire. I was 24 when I bought this and at the time 0-5% mortgages were still on offer. I think we had 10-15% as the developer also matched the deposit (by overinflating the asking price of the house, nonetheless we still made a good profit on it as the house price did increase).

Also, with a family and house prices increasing in London, we were determined to buy a family home and put down roots in a house, in an area we could imagine living long term – before it became unaffordable.

dining table

The dining set-up (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

 How did you find this property? What made you choose it?

Having lived in Crouch End previously, we knew the area very well and would often walk into Alexandra Palace and had been to a few concerts there. As we explored the area, we discovered a pocket that we were not that familiar with and loved it instantly. With both my partner and I working in different parts of London, we wanted to be very close to the station. We are a five-minute walk to the station. With Betsy at primary school, it also needed to be in the catchment of good schools. We registered with both Crouch End and Muswell Hill estate agents, as well as having our Rightmove alerts on.

We live on a road where there are more flats than houses and so we were very limited with options. After losing out on one house, we were very lucky that another one in our price range came up quite quickly.


Homemade artwork (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

How have you made the property feel like home?

We bought a bit of a wreck as it was pretty much all we could afford in the area.

The house has good bones and we knew we could turn it into something we would love. One of the things we both love about buying a period property are the original features and luckily these were all intact.

Unfortunately, all of the walls needed re-plastering and so we were not able to salvage lots of the period details. Instead, we worked with a local crafts person who handmade replica ceiling roses and coving. A carpenter then handmade picture rails and skirting for us. With fireplaces in nearly every room, the period features restored, our personal and sentimental pieces – along with art work – the house quite quickly began to feel like home.


A peak of the upstairs (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

What’s the inspiration for your interior decor style?

It’s definitely a combination of things.

Living in London, I am surrounded by so much history, beautiful architecture, restaurants, museums, hotels, cafes and parks. This surrounding definitely had had an impact. I have spent the past 10 years working in the corporate sales side of hotels and seen how we have put interior schemes together. This has also had a massive impact. My mum is very arty and was always painting and using her jigsaw to cut out wooden pieces, as well as re-purposing furniture. I certainly shy away from the fast fashion movement when it comes to my interior choices and would rather repair and re-purpose than throw something away. My husband is the same.

Finally, I have always been an avid reader of interior magazines. These definitely influence my style, as well as Pinterest and following accounts on Instagram.

bedroom sideboard

The house oozes character (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

What’s your favourite room and why?

It’s the kitchen diner, which is an open-plan lounge and kitchen diner.

The space has light streaming in from front to back, which was a key building requirement for us. It’s so bright now and has these amazing crittal-style alitherm heritage doors, which span the full width of our home. I also love the handmade kitchen, which was made by an East London joiner. It’s hand painted in my favourite colour, which is Pigeon by Farrow and Ball.

Do you feel like you have enough space?

Not at the moment but this will change in the next year. It’s had to work very hard for us over the past 18 months – it’s been two offices, a home school, a place to play, eat and sleep.

The girls have had to share a bedroom to make room for an office. We have all had to adapt to changes that the pandemic has brought.


One of three bedrooms (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

Do you have plans to change the property?

In March 2022, we will be adding a loft dormer extension with a bathroom to create a third floor. We have 18 months left on the planning permission. This will give our youngest daughter a bigger bedroom on the second floor, the single room will become an office and we will move into the loft and add an additional desk up there.

We have neglected the front of the house and this is the refurbishment that we will do last. We need a new front wall and path. We also need to have the brick work under the bay re-pointed.

The previous owner was elderly and installed a large walk-in shower. We will be refurbishing the first floor bathroom completely, adding a bath. When so much in your home needs improving, we had to make a list of priorities and have started with this. We are slowly getting through the list.


Pretty in pink (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

Are there any problems with the property that you have to deal with?

We had a full structural survey before we brought the property but it didn’t highlight the severity of the porch. Fast forward to Christmas 2019 and Eon were here. They slapped a danger sticker on the boiler and informed me that the porch that was added by the previous owners had blocked the flu and we had carbon monoxide coming into our home. The next day the porch was ripped off and we were left with gaping holes at the front of the house but we were all safe. This part of our home had certainly not passed any building regulations.

We worked with an amazing joiner who built us a traditional 1930s open porch. There are quite a few problems created by the previous builders and we are slowly working our way through them.

What do you want people to know about buying a home?

I would say if the location and the street is good but the house is not attractive or needs work then don’t shy away. The property can always be improved.

Secondly, it would be wonderful to buy a house straight away or a larger property but you have to start somewhere. Most people don’t have the budget to buy their dream property straight away and it’s OK to work your way up and start with a one-bedroom flat. Finally, if applying for a mortgage, if you can, try to clear any credit card or debt. This will help with your borrowing chances.

kids' room

Katie’s kids had to share a room for a while to use one as an office (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

More: Property

What are your plans for the future, in terms of housing? Do you plan to stay here long term?

We love where we live and we feel very fortunate to be in this area of London. My husband and I both work in London and the girls attend the local primary school and so we feel very settled.

The plan is to stay here long term but we may have to look at moving locally for secondary schools. Two of the best London state secondary schools are very close to us and we would like our girls to go to one of them. Unfortunately, catchments are 0.4 of a mile and we are 0.5 of a mile. It’s very annoying but we are a few years off, so we may not have to move.

Shall we take a look around?

living room

Such a lovely space (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

living room

Lots of plants too (Picture: Matthew Chattle)


The sofa looks very comfy (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

open plan downstairs

An open-plan layout (Picture: Matthew Chattle)


A mix of old and new (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

dining room

It’s basically one big L-shaped room (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

dining room

Plenty of room for the family at the table (Picture: Matthew Chattle)


The kitchen was made by an East London joiner (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

dining room

Nice view from the table (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

kitchen island

Light and bright (Picture: Matthew Chattle)


Painted in Farrow & Ball (Picture: Matthew Chattle)


The hallway (Picture: Matthew Chattle)


Heading upstairs now (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

master bedroom

Into the master bedroom (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

master bedroom

Very inviting (Picture: Matthew Chattle)


A mid-century dresser in the corner (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

second Bedroom

The second bedroom (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

second bedroom

Pink motifs throughout (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

third bedroom

The final bedroom (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

toys on bed

Well, hello there (Picture: Matthew Chattle)

You can see more of Katie’s home over on her Instagram account @katie_at_the_crescent_.

Do you want to feature in What I Own?

What I Own is a Metro.co.uk series that takes you inside people’s properties, to take an honest look at what it’s like to buy a home in the UK. If you own your home and would be up for sharing your story, please email [email protected]

You’ll also need to be okay with sharing how much you’ve paid to live there and how you afforded the deposit, as that’s pretty important. 

If you’re renting, you can take part too! What I Own runs alongside What I Rent, which is the same series but all about renting. Again, if you’d like to get involved just email [email protected].

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing [email protected].

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