How does Help to Buy work?

This government scheme could make it easier to get on the property ladder.

couple receiving house keys

by Ellen Kinsey |

If you’re a first-time home buyer in England, you are eligible to apply for a Help to Buy equity loan. This is a loan from the government that you can put towards buying a newly built home. However, you may be wondering how does the help to buy scheme work and whether you are eligible. Read on to learn everything about the Help to Buy scheme.

How does Help to Buy work?

The scheme essentially allows buyers to purchase a property with a 5 per cent deposit and receive a loan for up to 20 per cent of the property value. This loan will be interest-free for 5 years. However, you must then take out a standard mortgage for the remaining 75 per cent of the cost.

The Help to Buy scheme offers an equity loan where the government lends first-time buyers in England money to buy a newly built home.

Applications for the Help to Buy equity loan opened for new applications on 16 December 2020 and will run until 31 March 2023.

What is an equity loan?

An equity loan refers to lending secured by a property.

The amount you loan is interest-free for five years, but you will need to repay the amount you borrow from the government within 25 years or when you sell the house. However, you can opt to pay it back before then.

You will need a deposit of at least 5 per cent of the purchase price. You can borrow up to 20 per cent (or 40 per cent if you are in London) and a Help to Buy mortgage will cover the rest.

See the infographic below for an example if you bought a home that cost £200,000.

Help to Buy
©Help to Buy

The maximum purchase price for a Help to Buy property depends on what region of England you live in. See the infographic below for reference.

Help to Buy regional agents
©Help to Buy

Paying back the equity loan

It is important to consider the full cost of your borrowing before opting into the scheme.

The first five years:

· The equity loan is interest-free.

· You pay a £1 monthly management fee by Direct Debit.

After six years:

· Pay the £1 monthly management fee.

· Pay monthly interest fee of 1.75 per cent of the loan.

· Interest rates will rise each year in April by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), plus 2 per cent.

· The rate will increase each year by the same amount as the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 1 per cent. The RPI is a statistic the government uses to measure inflation.

· Continue to pay interest until you repay your loan in full.

Make sure you take into consideration that when you take out your equity loan, you are agreeing to repay it in full, plus interest and management fees.

You must repay your equity loan in full at the end of the equity loan term, when you pay off your repayment mortgage, when you sell your home or if you do not follow the terms set out in the equity loan contract.

The amount of money you pay back is calculated as a percentage of the market value at the time you choose to repay.

If the market value of your home rises, so does the amount you owe on your equity loan. And if the value of your home falls, the amount you owe on your equity loan will drop too.

Are you eligible for the Help to Buy equity loan?

You must be over 18 and it can only be used:

• To buy your main residence (not eligible for a second property).

• Help to Buy limits dictate that properties must cost less than £600,000.

• On the Help to Buy scheme a repayment mortgage must be taken out.

• You must buy a new build property which is part of the scheme. You must purchase it from a house builder registered with the Homes and Communities Agency.

• You can’t use it to buy a property to rent out.

• You and anyone you’re buying a home with must not own a home or residential land now or in the past in the UK or abroad and not have had any form of mortgage finance.

There is an eligibility calculator tool that checks if you are eligible to do the scheme. This calculator checks your monthly income and expenditures, including household bills and estimated mortgage repayments.

If you are married or in a civil partnership you will have to make a joint application.

You will need to sign a legal declaration to confirm that you are a first-time buyer. Your conveyancer will explain this in detail.

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Is the scheme the same in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The Help to Buy scheme is available in England only. If you are buying elsewhere in the UK, here are the links and eligibility rules for the schemes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Help to Buy Scotland

Help to Buy Wales

Help to Buy Northern Ireland

There are separate schemes for the different nations.

In Wales, the scheme works in the same way but with a maximum purchase price of £300,000.

In Scotland the Affordable New Build Schemes lets you buy a home with a 5 per cent deposit and a 15 per cent equity stake provided by the government.

In Northern Ireland you can buy a home worth up to £150,000 through their Co-Ownership scheme.

How much does it cost?

Help to Buy mortgages cost the same as taking out any mortgage, but you also have to pay back your equity loan and pay fees on it.

You will not pay back the exact amount you lent because your equity loan is calculated as a percentage of your property's value.

For example, if your property was purchased at £200,000, then a 20 per cent equity loan would come to £40,000. If you sold your home later for £220,000, you would have to pay back 20 per cent of this to the government, which would come to £44,000.

sold house

Find your local Help to Buy agent

Depending on where you are looking to buy in the country will dictate your Help to Buy agent. This link will help you find your local Help to Buy agent who will guide you through the options available. They check if you’re eligible and that you can afford the payments if you get an equity loan.

Agent for the North : 0300 790 0570

Agent for the Midlands and London : 03333 214 044

Agent for the South : 0800 456 11 88

Overview: Is Help to Buy worth it? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

If you are set on moving and purchasing your first home but can’t afford the substantial deposit, the government's Help to Buy scheme could make a big difference.

As with any scheme, there are lots of pros and cons to consider.

Pros for the Help to Buy scheme:

· You will get on the property ladder.

· You can get a house with a smaller deposit.

· You can borrow interest-free for the first five years.

· You can access cheaper mortgage rates as you’ll be borrowing less overall, you’re more likely to qualify for a mortgage in the first place.

· You get a competitive loan rate (after five years). After the sixth year, the rate of interest increases by only 1 per cent.

· You can pay off your loan in segments.

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Cons for the Help to Buy scheme:

· The amount you owe can increase. You pay the loan off when you sell the home or when you pay off the mortgage. You pay the equity loan plus a share of the increase in value. If your house increases in market value, so will the amount you owe.

· Your loan will become more and more expensive over the years.

· Your loan isn’t fixed as it will fluctuate with the market value of your property because it is percentage-based.

· Help to Buy is only for new build properties.

· You can only borrow from certain lenders.

· There’s a danger of negative equity If you’re buying a new home as an investment, and you’re hoping to move in the short to mid-term, this could be an issue.

· The terms could change if a future government reviewed and changed the terms of the scheme, this could be a concern.

· When you buy your home could affect your interest bills some buyers get to stay on the lower interest rate for longer than a year. Others will only get to stay on the lower rate for a few months depending on when you buy.

Find out more about Help to Buy and how to apply on the Gov.UK website.

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