In 2013, the Government introduced Help to Buy, a scheme to assist first-time buyers in purchasing their first property. The scheme’s final iteration, which stopped accepting applications on October 31st, 2022, ended on March 31st, 2023, and was exclusively open to first-time buyers. A previous version of the scheme also allowed existing homeowners struggling to climb the property ladder to participate.

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The Help to Buy scheme originally consisted of three components:

• This message concerns a mortgage guarantee available for people purchasing either new build properties or previously lived-in homes.

• The Equity Loan is only available for properties that are newly built.

• The Help to Buy ISA is a program designed to assist individuals in saving for their first property.

Help to Buy: Mortgage Guarantee

The Mortgage Guarantee scheme, which assisted buyers with a 5% deposit by allowing lenders to provide additional 95% LTV mortgages, ended in 2016 but was reintroduced in April 2021.

Lenders offering mortgages receive a guarantee from the government covering some of their losses if a borrower defaults on a mortgage within the first 7 years of buying their home.

The scheme is scheduled to end on December 31st, 2022.

Help to Buy: Equity Loan mortgages

The Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme allowed home buyers to obtain a Government loan, a mortgage and a 5% deposit to purchase a newly-built property worth up to £600,000. The scheme didn’t limit the buyer’s income, making it possible for people with high salaries to apply.

The scheme required residents of England to provide a 5% deposit for a property sold by a builder who had registered for the program. The government provided a non-interest bearing loan of 20% of the property price for the first five years. This meant buyers only had to secure a mortgage for the remaining 75% of the property value, reducing their monthly payments.

Once the five-year interest-free period ends, buyers will be charged interest on their government loans at a rate of 1.75%. This interest rate will increase annually by the inflation rate, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (RPI), plus an additional 2%. Homeowners can choose to repay their Help to Buy loans at any time, but they must complete the repayment within 25 years or when they move out.

How the last version of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme worked

The Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which took effect in April 2021, allowed first-time buyers to purchase properties worth up to the new regional price limits using a 5% deposit. The final version of the scheme was only available to first-time buyers. The regional price caps are displayed below.

New Help to Buy regional property price caps

Between April 2021 and March 2023, eligible properties will have a price cap under the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme.

Region Cap

North East £186,100

North West £224,400

Yorkshire and The Humber £228,100

East Midlands £261,900

West Midlands £255,600

East of England £407,400

London £600,000

South East £437,600

South West £349,000

Source: HM Treasury analysis

Like the previous program, the government provided interest-free loans of up to 20% of the property value for the first five years, followed by an interest rate. The recent program stopped accepting applications in October 2022, and buyers must complete their home purchases by March 2023.

In London, homebuyers could receive a government loan worth up to 40% of the property value. With a 5% deposit, they only need a mortgage for 55% of the property value.

In the same way as the Help to Buy scheme outside of London, the loan is interest-free for the first five years. However, in the sixth year, buyers are charged interest at a rate of 1.75%. After that, the fee increases by 2%, along with any increase in the Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation. Importantly, even if the CPI decreases, the equity loan part of the mortgage will still have a minimum loan fee of 1%.

Help to Buy repayment

The Help to Buy mortgages operate like standard mortgages, where buyers make monthly payments for a fixed term until their mortgage is fully paid or their home is sold. Under this scheme, buyers are only required to pay an administration fee of £1 per month for the equity loan during the initial five years. After that period, they will be charged interest fees that start at 1.75% of the loan and increase every year depending on the Consumer Prices Index (RPI) inflation rate, plus an additional 2%.

To repay your loan early, you must make a minimum payment of 10% of the current value of your property. Before paying, you need to have your property evaluated by a surveyor to determine the exact amount you need to pay. You may also have to pay an administration fee of about £200 when partially or completely repaying your Help to Buy equity loan.

 

Was Help to Buy only for new builds?

You would not be eligible to apply for the equity loan under the Help to Buy scheme if you were planning to purchase a pre-owned property, as this option is only available for new build properties valued at £600,000 or less.

 

Was Help to Buy worth it?

The Help to Buy equity loan benefited first-time buyers who struggled to save up a deposit greater than 5%. In addition, the competitive mortgage rates of the Help to Buy equity loan eased the burden of monthly payments.

Please note that the scheme had limitations, as it only allowed the use of funds to purchase newly built homes, which may not have been suitable for everyone. As the scheme is no longer accepting applications, it is essential to consider alternative options like 95% and guarantor mortgages if you are a first-time buyer. Seeking guidance from a professional can help you identify which option is suitable for your needs.

Scotland Help to Buy scheme

The Help to Buy (Scotland) Affordable New Build scheme was available for new build homes costing up to £230,000 for purchases completed on or before the end of March 2017, £200,000 for purchases completed before the end of March 2018 and £175,000 for purchases completed before the end of March 2019. The scheme ended in March 2022.

To buy a property with the Scottish Government’s equity stake program, buyers must deposit approximately 5% of the property’s purchase price. The government would then offer an equity stake of up to 15% of the property value. The total of the mortgage and deposit had to be at least 85% of the total purchase price.

To be eligible for the program, purchasers had to secure a mortgage from a participating lender that followed a repayment plan and covered at least 25% of the property’s value.

Buyers who could afford to purchase a home without the Government’s equity share and those who needed a mortgage exceeding 4.5 times their income (3.5 times for couples) did not qualify for the scheme.

If you’re purchasing a new build property in Wales, you may qualify for the Wales Help to Buy scheme. You’ll need a 5% deposit, and the property must cost up to £250,000. The deadline to reserve a new home with Help to Buy Wales is Friday, March 31st, 2023. The final Help to Buy reservations must be legally complete by December 22nd, 2023.

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The Welsh Government offers a shared equity loan covering up to 20% of the property purchase price. You must get a mortgage to cover the remainder of the balance. For the first five years, you will only have to pay an admin fee of £1 per month for the equity loan. Starting in the sixth year, you will be charged an interest rate of 1.75% per year on the original loan amount, in addition to the £1 monthly management fee. The interest rate will increase by the same amount as the Consumer Price Index measure of inflation plus 2% in subsequent years.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Help to Buy scheme is a government initiative designed to help first-time buyers climb the property ladder. The scheme provides an equity loan of up to 20% of the value of a new-build property (or 40% in London) which is interest-free for the first five years. ¹

The scheme is available to first-time buyers and existing homeowners who want to move up the property ladder. To be eligible, you must have a deposit of at least 5% of the property value and be able to secure a mortgage for at least 75% of the purchase price. ¹

The amount you can borrow depends on where you live and the property value you want to buy. In England, you can borrow up to 20% (or 40% in London) of the purchase price interest-free for five years. ¹

You can apply for the Help to Buy scheme through a participating lender or developer. You must complete an application form and provide proof of your deposit and mortgage offer. ¹

After five years, you will be charged interest on the equity loan at a rate of 1.75%. This rate will increase each year by RPI inflation plus 1%. You can repay part or all of your equity loan at any time or when you sell your home. ¹

No, you cannot use the Help to Buy scheme for a second home or buy-to-let property. The scheme is only available for first-time buyers and those who want to move up the property ladder. ¹

The main advantage of using the Help to Buy scheme is that it allows you to buy a new-build property with just a 5% deposit. This means that you can get on the property ladder sooner than if you had to save up a larger deposit. ²

The main disadvantage of using the Help to Buy scheme is that you will have less equity in your home than if you had bought it outright. This means that if house prices fall, you could end up in negative equity, which could make it difficult to sell your home or remortgage in future. ²

The current Help to Buy scheme ended on March 31st, 2023.²

You can find more information about the Help to Buy scheme on gov.uk website³.

References:

  1. Forces Help to Buy Scheme: All your questions answered. https://www.homeviews.com/buying/forces-help-to-buy-scheme-all-your-questions-answered
  2. Help to buy scheme: the clock is ticking if you want to apply. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2022/jul/23/help-to-buy-scheme-apply-deadline
  3. What Will Replace Help To Buy? – HomeOwners Alliance. https://hoa.org.uk/advice/guides-for-homeowners/i-am-buying/what-will-replace-help-to-buy
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