Case studies

One family's house purchase was put at risk by a laudable career change

March 1, 2023

When Terry and Amber Harman discovered their passion for foster care, Amber moved from her job at a nursery to become a full-time foster carer. But with a new baby under their care, the Harmans discovered that buying a larger home was far from straightforward as their high-street lender didn’t include the Foster Care Allowance as a source of income.

Buying bigger as their foster family grows

The goal was to trade up their two-bedroom home for a four-bedroom house in or around the same area of Colchester where they’d been living. Terry says “at the beginning of last year, we had a little baby placed with us so it made it quite tight. The baby was in our room while the teenager was in the other room and we realised we needed a bigger house.”

But when the Harmans went for mortgage approval, they were told that despite their income amounting to more than before, Amber’s foster care work could not be counted towards the increased mortgage amount they needed. The move they’d planned for their growing family looked to be derailed. Terry says:

“The mortgage application was solely dependent on my income, which in reality wasn’t the case. But in the way the bank works, fostering income was basically nothing so it’s not counted. That made it really difficult. So we had to pay an early termination fee to get out of that. We did have a look at a mortgage broker that specialized in fostering but ended up doing our own research.”

A mortgage alternative that works for foster carers

It was on social media that Terry came across StrideUp and he quickly realised that the shared ownership model had a lot in common with the Help to Buy scheme that they’d used for their first home.

Shared ownership allows higher finance-to-income than is typically offered by high-street lenders and this was the case with the Harmans. Their Decision in Principle comfortably covered the cost of their desired 4-bed Colchester house. What about the eligibility of the foster care income? After the application and an initial phone call with their StrideUp advisor, they got the answer that they were looking for. Terry says “it was quite straightforward. We just sent over the remittance slips showing how much we were being paid and that was it really.”

It took just two weeks to go from StrideUp application to having their offer accepted on the new house. The same agent who was selling their home was managing their purchase of the new one so things went smoothly at the outset. However, unexpected complications during the conveyancing process meant that the target October completion was missed. It was with great relief that in early December, they completed on the property. Terry’s father helped them pack and move the contents of their house to the new red-brick home a short distance away. “Around the corner”, jokes Amber.

Foster Child Encouragement.jpg
Foster care income - like many forms of non-traditional income - isn’t accepted by many high-street banks

Christmas nesting

While later than planned, settling in during the run up to Christmas was an ideal time to put down some roots and familiarise themselves with their new neighbourhood. Amber says “it was the perfect time to get to know the neighbours by popping around with Christmas cards. We’ve had a couple of them knock and send some Christmas cards back. So it was nice timing. I think it broke the ice a little bit.” The extra bedroom has made a massive difference and their seventeen-year-old has thoroughly enjoyed putting her own stamp on the new space.

“Because our last house was new, she didn’t really get to decorate. This time around, she’s been very pleased. She’s been able to put things up and make it just how she would like it.”

Home finance for workers outside the 9-5

The challenge faced by the Harmans is increasingly common as more people take up remote work and employment outside the traditional 9-5 routine. Terry says: “There is such a limited market of companies that lend on fostering income. And the ones that do, often do it based on the tax return where, again, the picture can be skewed.”

It’s a scenario faced by house-buyers across the country who want to use multiple income sources or non-traditional work to finance their home purchase. Too often, traditional banks view these income sources as ineligible for their mortgage application. StrideUp’s flexible criteria and personalised advise proved the ideal solution for the Harmans. What was the main difference to a traditional bank? “The people”, Terry says.

“With Elliott it felt like we had a personal advisor, rather than the feeling you get with a big bank that has a helpline with 100 different options and you speak to different people all the time…[StrideUp] felt like a very close-knit kind of company. The whole team knew the situation and often I would recognise their voices.”

Ready to take the plunge?

The location wasn’t new but the home has been a game changer. With StrideUp the Harman family doubled the size of their house and are better equipped for the next stage of their foster caring journey

If you have multiple sources of income or work in a non-traditional job, find out what StrideUp could do for you by calling one of our friendly advisers on 020 3875 3585.

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