Gymnast daughter is doing cartwheels after family’s move to dream home

Upsizing into a larger property has enabled loving parents Lee and Caroline Gunning to create a dedicated training room at home for their seven-year-old gymnast daughter.

The couple have swapped their three-bedroom former council house for a four-bedroom new-build property at Persimmon Homes’ Rainton Gardens development in Chilton Moor, near Houghton-le-Spring.

Lee, a 41-year-old operations manager, and Caroline, a 39-year-old civil servant, were able to buy a larger home thanks to the Own New scheme, available through the Darlington Building Society.

The couple have set aside one of the four bedrooms as a training room for their daughter Emily, who is a keen gymnast and has already won competitions in the sport. The room is kept empty of furniture which allows them to inflate a practice mat that Emily uses to perfect her backflips and cartwheels. 

The proud parents secured a 95 per cent joint mortgage via the initiative, which has been set up to help buyers who do not have a large deposit but can afford the monthly payments.

The couple and their children Harry, nine, and Emily, were living in a three-bedroom semi-detached former council house in Gateshead but wanted to move to a bigger home.

Lee said: “We wanted at least four bedrooms because Caroline works from home three days a week, so we needed an extra room for a home office. Emily’s bedroom was just a box room and simply not big enough for her, especially as she is getting older and wants her own space at times.

“To be honest, we had outgrown the house and we wanted to move to be nearer to Caroline’s family who all live near Houghton-le-Spring anyway. Also, the estate we were on was quite busy and built up and we wanted to live in quieter place.”

The couple searched on the internet and found the Persimmon Rainton Gardens development in Chilton Moor.

Caroline said: “We went down to the development and the lovely sales advisor Sharon showed us a Belmont showhome, which was perfect. The layout was exactly as we wanted it downstairs, with a big kitchen/diner with French doors to the back garden, a separate living room, a cloakroom and a utility room. Upstairs there were four bedrooms and a study which is perfect as Lee’s home office.”

The couple had bought their old home but did not have much equity in the property.

“The problem we had with looking to buy a bigger house was that, although we have good jobs and have both had salary rises and can afford to pay a mortgage, we only had a small deposit and most deals were for a deposit of 10 per cent or more”, said Lee. 

“Persimmon recommended that we talk to the Mortgage Advice Bureau, who were great. They helped find us the Own New mortgage deal through the Darlington Building Society, where we only needed to come up with a five per cent deposit.”

The family and Luna, their eight-month-old Poochon, a cross between a Miniature Poodle and Bichon Frise, moved into their new Belmont style home in July. The couple paid £290,000 for the property, put down a £14,500 deposit and make mortgage payments of £1,600 a month.

“We all love our new home and can’t quite believe such a fabulous house is ours”, said Caroline. “I adore the spacious kitchen/diner as I can cook while we can all sit in the room and catch-up without being on top of each other. Lee’s favourite room is our bedroom because he loves the luxury of having an en suite.

“Harry is very pleased with his new larger bedroom because he now has room to display the Lego creations he has worked hard to produce. Emily is delighted that she now has a proper bedroom, with space for her to sit on the floor and play with all her dolls. She also loves her new training room where she can practice her gymnastics to her heart’s content.

“We have found our dream home and there is no doubt that we would not have been able to buy it without the help of the Own New five per cent mortgage. We are so grateful.”

Own New works with lenders behind the scenes to reduce the risks linked with high loan-to-value mortgages. This means the lender can offer mortgages with more attractive rates to a wider range of buyers.

More than 60 homebuilders across the country have signed up to offer Own New as it expands nationwide. 

Own New is funded by housebuilders, who pay a small fee on completion of the sale. There is no cost to the homebuyers, who simply apply for a standard mortgage in the usual way through Darlington Building Society and own 100 per cent of their home.

For more information on how to buy a home with Own New and a list of the housebuilders who participate, see