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Shared Ownership - What First-Time Buyers Need To Know

Posted 20 June 2022 by Helen Christie

With the end of Help to Buy: Equity Loan and the move to Shared Ownership, Stuart Hensby from Abri Homes has set out to answer what buyers need to know…

In less than a year, the government’s Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme will come to an end. Designed to help first-time buyers get a foot on the housing ladder, its conclusion will leave many wondering where to turn next.

The government’s Shared Ownership scheme is an attractive alternative and, as Help to Buy winds down and cost of living pressures ramp up, the already popular programme is set to experience a real surge in demand.

Stuart Hensby, sales and marketing director at Abri Homes, sets out what buyers need to know.

What is the Help to Buy: Equity Loan?

We all know that saving for a deposit is tricky right now. Help to Buy is a government-backed scheme that was designed to ensure first time buyers could get on the housing ladder and buy a new-build home at an affordable price. Since it launched it has helped in excess of 300,000 people purchase their first home and realise their home ownership dream.

The scheme works by allowing prospective buyers to apply for an equity loan, regardless of their income. The loan is then used to top up whatever you can borrow from a mortgage lender. As you’d expect, there are regional limits on what you can borrow and the price of the property you can purchase.

Can I still use the scheme?

The scheme is still open for applications but there are some key dates you should be aware of:

· Applications for the Help to Buy: Equity Loan close on 31 October 2022. This is also the last date you can reserve a new home using the scheme.

· Your housebuilder must have finished building your home and have a new home warranty in place by 31 December 2022. This is known as practical completion.

· You must legally complete the purchase of your new home and have the keys to move in by 31 March 2023. Critically, if this is not the case, you won’t be able to access the equity loan funds.

What other options are available to first-time buyers once the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme ends?

The good news is that there are other options out there, the most established of which is the government’s Shared Ownership scheme which offers a compelling and viable alternative to Help to Buy.

It’s a government-backed part-buy, part-rent scheme, designed to make buying a home easier and it’s ideal right now as we all feel the pressure of daily living costs.

Buyers can choose the location and property that they want, but they only have to buy a percentage of the home and pay a mortgage on it, while paying a low-cost rent on the rest. This makes it a lot more affordable.

A new programme for the Shared Ownership scheme was introduced in 2021 and is set to run until 2026 so buyers have ample opportunity to get involved.

The government has also developed other schemes such as First Homes which is being gradually rolled out and will prioritise key workers.

Can anyone use the Shared Ownership scheme?

The Shared Ownership scheme is a great option for first-time buyers, and indeed anyone who is on a lower income or struggling to save for a deposit to buy a house on the open market. In fact, with the end of the Help to Buy: Equity Loan scheme and rising cost of living pressures, it’s especially attractive right now and likely to see a real surge in interest in the months ahead.

Deposits start from just 5% of the share you’re buying. To give you a feel for what that actually means – if you wanted to buy a home worth £300,000, the deposit could be as low as £6,000 for a 40% share.

There are certain criteria you have to meet to be eligible. It’s open to people who are over 18, and – if you’re outside of London, you have to have a household income of less than £80,000.

You might also be interested to know that up to four people can buy a Shared Ownership home together, so long as each of them meets the criteria.

If I use the Shared Ownership scheme, can I increase the percentage share I own in future?

The positive thing about the new Shared Ownership scheme is that you can go on to buy more shares in your new home as your circumstances change. This process is called staircasing and the more shares you own, the less rent you pay.

For most properties, you can ultimately buy 100% and become the outright owner. That would mean that your rental payments would stop, and you’d just pay a mortgage.

Is there a minimum percentage share that I can buy at any one time?

The amount of shares you can buy depends on whether the home you are interested in was funded by the original Shared Ownership programme, which ran from 2016 to 2021 or by the new one, running from 2021 to 2026.

With the new programme, the percentage share you can buy is even lower, ranging initially from 10 to 75%. There’s an option to buy a 5% share at any time but also to buy a 1% share each year for the first 15 years.

Am I still allowed to decorate and make home improvements?

Absolutely! Painting, decorating and refurbishment work is all allowed and part of making your house a home. It’s always sensible to check before making any home improvements (things like new kitchens and bathrooms, new windows, or extensions) just in case it impacts the value of your home.

There’s also good news on repairs under the new scheme, with a ten-year repair period in which you can get support from your landlord to pay for essential work.

What happens if I want to sell my Shared Ownership home?

If you buy through the Shared Ownership scheme you can still sell your home at any time. If you own it outright, you sell it on the open market but otherwise you let your housing provider know and they then market your property for a set period, arranging all viewings and the survey for you. If your home doesn’t sell during this agreed period, you then have the option to market it via an estate agent or property portal as well.

 

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