Aged in their 50s without a mortgage, Carol and Tommy McMillan had resigned themselves to a lifetime in rented accommodation.
But a scheme allowing them to buy a house for £1 has transformed their lives “dramatically”, they said.
The couple were successful applicants in a Stoke-on-Trent scheme to revamp run-down properties.
Mrs McMillan, 54, and her 58-year-old husband, were successful applicants in the first scheme in the Cobridge area.
While they had both had mortgages in previous relationships, in recent years the couple, who have been together for 18 years, thought they were too old to get a mortgage.
“We were renting a property at £450 a month,” said Mrs McMillan.
“The payback on the £30,000 grant on this house is £298, so straight away we were £150 better off.
“There’s money left at the end of the month.”
The scheme – known as Reviving Communities – works by asking homeowners to agree to repay revamp costs on the houses through a 10-year loan of £30,000.
“The walls, front and back and upstairs, were all insulated,” said Mrs McMillan.
“We moved into this in the November, so we had the winter months coming up.
“The first quarterly bill for our gas was £25 – we couldn’t believe it. I had to ring them to check it was right.”
The council said it wanted to help run-down parts of the city, a plan Mrs McMillan said was working.
“[This area is] up and coming,” she said. “It is slowly turning around and it’s getting better.”
Now a second phase of the project, which was first launched in 2013, has been announced by the city council.
This phase, which is taking applicants until 12 January 2018, involves empty homes in the Portland Street area.
The authority said it was spending £1.5m to buy and renovate up to 25 homes in Hanley before offering them to new owners.
It hopes to attract people with local connections and will prioritise applicants with salaries “that would ordinarily put home ownership beyond their reach”.
Gavin Pierpoint, who bought his house three-and-a-half years ago, said he felt owning his own home was quite a remote prospect until he found out about the scheme.
“It was such a bargain,” he said.
“I was renting somewhere before and I was starting to look at these schemes, but it would still have taken me a few years to save up the initial deposit.
“Even the Help to Buy scheme, on a single income, felt quite daunting.
“My family are happy I have my own place but a lot of my friends are quite jealous.
“They bought houses the more traditional way and spent a lot more money to get something of the same calibre.”