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Speed dating event to come to aid of first-time buyers

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Aug 24 (Reuters) A speed-dating firm with a difference is gearing up to stage its first event -- designed to come to the aid of struggling first-time buyers.

HouseDates will launch within the next month for those looking not for romance but for a property partner.

The firm aims to bring together those who want to buy their first home, but have been priced out of the market by the property price boom.

''It's very difficult for first-time buyers to get on to the property ladder,'' says Robert Gepp, founder of HouseDates.

''I've spoken to a few [mortgage] brokers, who've said people are resorting to buying with friends and family, and I have quite a few friends -- young professionals -- who can't get on to the ladder and are paying exorbitant amounts of rent.

''There are a lot of people who'd like to buy, but can't afford to by themselves.'' The 24-year-old property developer from London has linked up with Share to Buy, a mortgage broker that specialises in joint mortgages, to host the speed-dating style events.

They will be attended by up to 50 potential property co-owners. Each will go on several ''mini dates'' lasting four minutes with those deemed a suitable match.

Participants are urged to discuss what they are looking for in a potential co-buyer and what they are like to live with, as well as being open about deposits and salaries.

Representatives from Share to Buy and a solicitor will be on hand to give information and answer questions on the process of buying together.

The first event, which will cost 12 pounds to attend, will be staged in central London in late September or early October, depending on demand.

Gepp hopes to expand throughout the country, and launch an online profile service for would-be buyers to search for the perfect ''house date''.

''I'm in negotiations with a national estate agent, and hopefully we'll be able to expand nationwide,'' he says.

''There's no reason why it shouldn't take off in other major cities -- Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester -- as there are young professionals there too who can't afford to buy by themselves.'' However, buying property is one of the biggest financial commitments most people make -- and there are some safeguards that potential co-owners should take.

HouseDates recommends they exchange reports on their credit history and criminal record. They should also enter into a deed of trust, a legal document that stipulates each party's stake in the property and what happens if the relationship turns sour.

''We're not encouraging people to jump in and buy a house with a stranger after four minutes,'' adds Gepp. ''You have to get to get to know them and trust them.'' And -- unlike those looking for love -- HouseDates does not aim to bring together people for long-lasting partnerships.

''Hopefully, after a few years co-owners will be able to afford to branch out on their own.

''It's really just about getting a foot on the ladder -- not a long-term commitment.'' REUTERS MIR PC2319

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