Mortgage free by 30: How a couple bought their dream home outright

Mortgage-free at THIRTY: Young couple buy £128k property, build eco-house next door and sell both for £300,000 to purchase their dream home (and now they’ve turned that into luxury holiday cottages)

  • EXCLUSIVE: Tom and Emily Hunt took advantage of five per cent deposits and moved up the property ladder
  • Mr Hunt aimed to be mortgage free before reaching his 30s after learning just how much repayments were 
  • Used 5% deposit to buy first home, renovated and sold up with wife Emily and bought a bigger home together
  • Spotting potential to build on land attached to bigger house, the Hunts built an eco-home and then moved in
  • They sold up making a £150,000 profit and bought a 200-year-old converted coach house to start their family

By being driven about wanting a debt-free future and cleverly spotting an opportunity to buy land with planning potential, one couple took a risk and landed their dream home totally mortgage free by the age of 30.

Tom and Emily Hunt took advantage of five per cent deposits, were disciplined with their savings and then made smart steps to move up the property ladder – eventually buying a beautiful 200-year-old converted former coach house – perfect for starting their own family.

A music artwork designer, Mr Hunt set himself the goal of being mortgage free before his 30s after a conversation with a friend about just how high mortgage repayments could be.

Tom and Emily Hunt took advantage of five per cent deposits, were disciplined with their savings and then made smart steps to move up the property ladder – eventually buying a beautiful 200-year-old converted former coach house, perfect for starting their own family. By being driven about securing a debt-free future, the pair have gone mortgage-free in their 30s

‘I was in my early 20s and a friend told me they had got their first mortgage and they would be paying back about £3 for every £1 borrowed. And when they told me that I thought it sounded like a mistake – I couldn’t believe it.

‘Eventually when I started looking into getting my own mortgage aged 26, I realised it was indeed correct and I thought that seemed like such a millstone to have for so long a period in your life.

‘So I really started to think and leave myself open to all the options so that I didn’t have to put up with that burden. 


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‘Then in 2006, I secured a mortgage for my first property. I paid £128,000 for that at a time when there were five per cent deposits – so I put very little down cash. Quite decent terms but still a lot to repay.’

A year later, just after he and future wife Emily got together, the couple spotted a house in Sheffield that they wanted for themselves, which as an extra had a large plot of land to the side where another house had once stood.

‘Ours was a new end-terrace property and houses that had been on this plot previously had fallen into disrepair around the 1970s, so the council tore them down and built the one we purchased. 


Outside their newly built eco-home in 2010: The couple spotted a house in Sheffield that they wanted for themselves, which as an added benefit had a large plot to the side where two former houses had once been. After careful planning, the pair decided to club together to buy the property. They took a calculated risk that they would get planning permission to build on the plot included in the sale, allowing them to create a home from the ground up

A peak inside the kitchen of the ‘Hunt House’ eco-home in 2010: After careful planning, the pair decided to buy the Sheffield home for £138,000 with a £95,000 mortgage. They took a calculated risk that they would get planning permission to build on the plot included in the sale. After the sale of his first home, Mr Hunt cleared £30,000 while Mrs Hunt, a government economist, had £65,000 equity from her house. They then then took out a £40,000 loan, plus savings which enabled them to fund the build

From the balcony of their eco-home in 2010: While out on a bike ride together, the pair spotted a home that would inspire them to use their extra space in an innovative and bold way. The plan became about building an eco-home, moving in there and then switching the mortgage on the current property to buy-to-let instead – meaning it would start paying for itself

‘The former owners had acquired this land and brought it into the curtilage of the existing property, making it a perfect opportunity to build something on,’ said Mr Hunt.

After careful planning, the pair decided to buy the Sheffield home for £138,000 with a £95,000 mortgage. Crucially, they took a calculated risk that they would get planning permission to build on the plot included.

‘Instantly we saw the opportunity there to build something on it. Our initial idea was to build and then sell that something outright, which would then have paid off the mortgage on the house we’d just purchased.’ 

However, they spotted an eco-home while out on a bike ride which inspired them to be more bold and ambitious with their extra land. 

‘After buying the house our idea quite quickly evolved into building something more daring and to create our dream home from the ground up.’ 

Next step: ‘We put in planning permission proposal in 2009. We were confident we would get it as there had been houses on the site before and Sheffield Planning – a very forward thinking group gave us approval and we were able to begin’ said Mr Hunt. Construction started in January 2010, the pair were moved in by July and the project finished by October. The build cost was £138,000, with £7,000 architect fees and a further £5,000 engineers fees, amounting to about £150,000

Moving again: After five years of living in the eco-home, the pair decided they were ready for a family and decided to move back to Shropshire to be nearer to their parents. ‘For a year or two we had been keeping an eye out for properties and then we saw the Coach House. The idea was to move back, renovate the barns and open a holiday cottage business from the property’

Mr Hunt said: ‘Our requirements were quite particular really because we wanted somewhere where we could live onsite so we could oversee everything and manage it, while also having some separation from the business for our own lives’. The Coach House appeared set-up beautifully for the next stage of their journey and so the Hunts, who had been careful with their savings over the past five years, decided they were ready to take the plunge

Moving up the property ladder: The pair were ready for a family and decided to move back to Shropshire to be nearer to their parents. Having started with five percent mortgages, spotting planning potential on a larger home and clubbing together to make the project a reality, the Hunts were in a very strong position once they eventually sold up

The plan became about building an eco-home on the space, moving in there and then switching the mortgage on the current property to buy-to-let instead – meaning it would start paying for itself. 

‘We popped a note through the letterbox and asked “who did your house?”‘ Mr Hunt said.

‘They put us in touch with Halliday Clark, a Yorkshire Architect firm who then designed what would become affectionately known as “Hunt House”.

To fund the build, Mr Hunt sold his bachelors pad, clearing £30,000. While Mrs Hunt, a government economist, had £65,000 equity from her house that she could contribute. The pair were also careful with savings and took out a £40,000 loan as a top up.

‘In 2009, we put in a planning permission proposal and were confident we’d get it as there had been houses on the site before. Sheffield Planning – a very forward thinking group – gave us approval and we were able to begin.’

Inside the Coach House cottages: The Coach House cost the pair £135,000 which was just the buildings cost and the bit of land that came with it. The sale of the eco-friendly ‘Hunt House’ realised a £150,000 profit which was used to buy their dream family home the ‘Coach House’ – they paid £35,000 below the market price because they were able to offer cash up front

Inside the Coach House kitchen: ‘We offered £125,000 cheekily but we eventually increased it to £135,000 which was still a fantastic deal because we were able to pay in cash after doing so well on the ‘Hunt House’. The renovation cost of Coach House we footed with the savings we’d made in the interim along from our works along with cash from the sale’ said Mr Hunt

Construction started in January 2010, the pair were moved in by July and the project finished by October. The build cost was £138,000, with £7,000 architect fees and a further £5,000 engineers fees, amounting to about £150,000. 

‘By each of us selling our properties, which we had secured through five percent mortgages, we were able to collectively fund this project and move in!’ 

What followed was a blissful time spent in the stunning eco-home, where they remained diligent in the savings made from life without a mortgage and almost zero utility bill costs. After five years of living in ‘Hunt House’ the pair decided they were ready to start a family and decided to move to Shropshire to be nearer to their parents.

‘For a year or two we had been keeping an eye out for properties and then we saw the Coach House. The idea was to move back, renovate the barns and then open a holiday cottage business from the property,’ said Mr Hunt. 

‘Our requirements were quite particular really because we wanted somewhere where we could live onsite so we could oversee everything and manage it, while also having some separation from the business for our own lives.’

Once in the Coach House, Mr and Mrs Hunt through grit and determination were able to make the renovations required and opened holiday cottages on their land, targeting outdoors types visiting the area of outstanding natural beauty

Now, using their savings and takings from the holiday cottages, the pair continue to make improvements on the land, allowing their young family to enjoy the beautiful Shropshire countryside and all without the burden of a mortgage around their necks

Mr and Mrs Hunt advised other would-be homeowners on how to take calculated risks: ‘We had a target, we saved, we weren’t profligate with our money and were willing to take risky decisions – we had an eye for opportunities and were willing to go out on a limb. People see these properties and, especially with first time buyers, they’re scared to take the leap. Often if you can just steel yourself, do the homework you need to and take the right risk, you can really reap the rewards’

The Coach House appeared to be set-up beautifully for the next stage of their journey and so the Hunts decided to take the plunge.

‘We wanted somewhere ideally near a train station, hopefully in striking distance of a nearby town – and a good pub on the doorstep – thankfully the Coach House was able to achieve all of those,’ Mr Hunt said.

Risks, renovations and smart savings: How the Hunts went mortgage-free before turning 31

  • Mr Hunt secures starter home for £128,000 with a 5% deposit
  • Meets Emily and the pair spot a property in Sheffield with an extra plot of land included in the sale
  • The pair purchase the Sheffield home together for £135,000 with a £95,000 mortgage
  • They hire an architect to design an eco-home on the extra plot of land 
  • Mr Hunt sells his bachelors pad after renovating and clears £30,000. Emily sells hers and has £65,000 equity to contribute to the build
  • The pair take a £40,000 loan, along with their £95,000, to fund the build 
  • They move into the eco-home and switch the end of terrace house to  a buy-to-let mortgage, bringing in tenants and letting it pay for itself
  • After five years they move out and sell the eco-home for £300,000 realising a £150,000 profit
  • They offer £135,000 cash for their dream family home, a 200-year-old converted coach house with land
  • Using the extra savings they had made over five years they renovated and built holiday cottages on the land, creating another revenue stream

The Coach House cost the pair £135,000 for the buildings and the added land that came with it. 

The sale of the eco-friendly ‘Hunt House’ realised a profit of £150,000 which was used to buy their dream family home, and because they were able to offer cash up front, they paid £35,000 below the advertised market price.

‘We offered £125,000 cheekily but we eventually increased it to £135,000 which was still a fantastic deal because we were able to pay in cash having done so well on Hunt House.

‘The renovation cost we footed with the savings we’d made in the interim along from our works,’ Mr Hunt explained.

By combining disciplined savings, calculated risks and smart money saving investments, the Hunts went from starter homes purchased with five percent deposits, to a dreamy family home and lifestyle business.

While it wasn’t easy, and certainly required serious hard work and belief, the pair were able to pay off their mortgage and buy a house outright – and all before they both turned 31. 

Advising other would-be homeowners on the potential rewards of informed, calculated risks, Mr and Mrs Hunt said: ‘We had a target, we saved, we weren’t profligate with our money and were willing to take risky decisions – we had an eye for opportunities and were willing to go out on a limb.

‘People see these properties and especially with first time buyers, they’re scared to take the leap. Often if you can just steel yourself and take the risk having done you homework, you can really reap the rewards.’ 

Once in the Coach House, the pair through grit and determination were able to make the renovations required and open Nest Holiday Cottages targeting outdoors types and those visiting the area of outstanding natural beauty. 

Now, using savings and takings from the holiday cottages, the pair continue to make improvements on the land, allowing their young family to enjoy the beautiful Shropshire countryside and all without the burden of a mortgage.

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