Homebuyers’ guide to the Help to Buy: Equity Loan (2013 to 2021), accessible version

Key information

Buyers using this scheme must provide security in the form of a second legal charge over the home purchased with the Help to Buy equity loan.

Amount of loan

The maximum you can borrow from Help to Buy in England is £120,000 and up to £240,000 for London. There is no minimum amount.

Buyer deposit required

Buyers must provide a deposit of a minimum of 5% of the full purchase price of the home bought under this scheme

Frequency, number and amount of repayments

After five years you will be required to pay an interest fee of 1.75% of the amount of your Help to Buy shared equity loan at the time you purchased your property, rising each year after that by the increase (if any) in the Retail Prices Index (RPI) plus 1%. More details are on page 18. The loan itself is repayable after 25 years or on the sale of the property if earlier

Other payments and charges

You must pay a monthly management fee of £1 per month from the start of the loan until it is repaid.

Total amount repayable

The total amount repayable by you will be the proportion of the market value of your home that was funded by this loan, plus interest and charges. The amount you will have to repay under the loan agreement will depend on the market value of your home when you repay the Help to Buy equity loan and the rate of inflation in the meantime. An example is shown on page 21 including the equivalent APR.

What is Help to Buy?

Help to Buy is equity loan assistance to home buyers from Homes England[footnote 1].

Help to Buy makes new build homes available to all home buyers (not just first time buyers) who wish to buy a new home, but may be constrained in doing so – for example as a result of deposit requirements – but who could otherwise be expected to sustain a mortgage.

Up to a maximum of 20% in England and up to 40% in London[footnote 2] , of the purchase price is available to the buyer through an equity loan funded by the Government through Homes England.

Help to Buy is available in England from house builders registered to offer the scheme. Help to Buy has been available since 2013. In November 2015, Government announced an extension of the initiative up to 2021 (it may close earlier if all of the funding is taken up before 2021).

This guide provides an overview of the product. If you’d like to know more, or if you want to apply, please contact your Help to Buy agent www.helptobuy.gov.uk.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or any other debt secured on it.

Check that these mortgages will meet your needs if you want to move or sell your home or you want your family to inherit it. If you are in any doubt, seek independent advice.

APR 5.2% typical see annual percentage rates (APR) for more information.

Help to Buy overview

With Help to Buy, the buyer (‘you’) buys a new home on a new build development with assistance from Homes England in the form of an equity loan.

For Help to Buy in England, not London, you must take out a first mortgage (with a qualifying lending institution e.g. a bank or building society) for at least 25% of the value of the property you wish to purchase. This mortgage, together with any cash contribution from you, must be a minimum of 80% of the full purchase price. The maximum full purchase price is £600,000.

For London Help to Buy 40% equity loan assistance, your first mortgage must be at least 25% of the value of the property you wish to purchase. The mortgage, together with the cash contribution from you, must be a minimum of 60% of the purchase price. The maximum full purchase price is £600,000.

Your cash deposit contribution must always be a minimum of 5% of the full purchase price.

Homes England will provide an equity loan to fund the balance needed to make up the full purchase price of your home, up to a maximum of 20% (40% maximum for London Help to Buy) of the full purchase price.

The equity loan must be repaid after 25 years, or earlier if you sell your home. You must repay the same percentage of the proceeds of the sale to Homes England as the initial equity loan (i.e. if you received an equity loan for 20% of the purchase price of your home, you must repay 20% of the proceeds of the future sale).

An initial monthly management fee of £1 is payable by direct debit from the start of Homes England loan until it is repaid. After the first five years you will pay an additional fee as interest of 1.75%, rising annually by the increase (if any) in the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 1%.

Local Help to Buy Agents will assess and approve your purchase for Help to Buy, and you need their approval before you proceed with the buying process.

Further details on all these points and the buying process are set out within this guide.

How does it work?

Help to Buy enables buyers to purchase a new property, funded by a mortgage and with help from Homes England.

This enables you to take out a mortgage on which you make repayments in the normal way. Your mortgage lender will require that you contribute a deposit (minimum 5% of the full purchase price). Your mortgage and deposit must cover a combined minimum of 80% of the total purchase price (or 60% of total purchase price in London). The rest of the purchase price will be paid for with an equity loan from Homes England.

As a result of providing this assistance, Homes England has an entitlement to a share of the future sale proceeds equal to the percentage contribution required to assist your purchase. Examples of this are shown below.

For the first five years of Help to Buy home ownership you will pay an initial monthly management fee of £1. This continues until the loan is repaid. After five years, the equity loan will be subject to an additional interest fee (collected from you on behalf of Homes England by Homes England’s Mortgage Administrator) of 1.75% per annum on the outstanding amount of the equity loan. From the fifth anniversary of the loan this fee will increase each year by the increase (if any) in RPI plus 1%.

The management fee and interest fees are not capital repayments to your Homes England equity loan – they do not reduce the amount owing.

When you sell your Help to Buy home (unless you have chosen to repay your equity loan earlier), you must repay the Help to Buy assistance from a share of the sale proceeds. So, if Homes England assisted your purchase with a 20% contribution, your repayment will be 20% of the total market value when it is sold. Turn to page 17 to see what happens if values have fallen.

Following the purchase you can choose at any time to make voluntary part repayments (‘staircasing’ or a full repayment) of the Help to Buy assistance at the prevailing market value. The minimum voluntary repayment is 10% of the market value at the time of repayment.

Homes England’s entitlement to a share of the future sale proceeds is secured through a second charge on your home. This is done in the same way that your main mortgage lender will secure its lending through a first charge on your home. Although, if you buy through Help to Buy, you will have a mortgage for less than the full purchase price of the property, you will be the legal owner with 100% title to your home. The tables below show how it works.

In this example below, the Help to Buy buyer has purchased a £200,000 home with a deposit of £10,000 and a mortgage of £150,000. Homes England has contributed an equity loan totalling £40,000 or 20% of the total purchase price.

In this example, when the home is sold, Homes England will be entitled to 20% of the total sale price.

Example of Help to Buy home ownership in England, not London£%Open market price of new home£200,000100Help to Buy buyer mortgage @ 75%£150,00075Help to Buy buyer pays minimum 5% deposit£10,0005Help to Buy buyer total contribution£160,00080Homes England Help to Buy assistance 20% equity loan£40,00020

Help to Buy always requires that the buyer has a main mortgage of at least 25% of the full purchase price.

In this example below, the London Help to Buy buyer has purchased a £400,000 home with a deposit of £20,000 and a mortgage of £220,000. Homes England has contributed an equity loan totalling £160,000 or 40% of the total purchase price. In this example, when the home is sold, Homes England will be entitled to 40% of the total sale price.

Example of London Help to Buy home ownership£%Open market price of new home£400,000100Help to Buy buyer mortgage @ 55%£220,00055Help to Buy buyer pays minimum 5% deposit£20,0005Help to Buy buyer total contribution£240,00060Homes England London Help to Buy assistance 40% equity loan£160,00040

Help to Buy always requires that the buyer has a main mortgage of at least 25% of the full purchase price.

Because Help to Buy assistance is through an equity loan, the amount required to increase your equity share will be dependent on the total value of the property at the time you want to redeem part of your equity loan (sometimes known as ‘staircasing’) or repay in full.

The amount you need to do this will increase if your home increases in value and decrease if its value falls (see examples later in this guide).

Who can take part in the scheme?

It is open to all buyers seeking a new build home.

Help to Buy buyers outside London must be able to fund up to 80% of their selected property through a conventional mortgage and deposit. London Help to Buy buyers must be able to fund 60% of the property through a conventional mortgage and deposit.

Buyers must always provide a 5% cash deposit contribution (5% of the full purchase price).

Buyers must take out a first charge mortgage with a qualifying lender.

The maximum purchase price is £600,000.

The Local Help to Buy Agent (see below) will carry out an assessment of an application by a potential Help to Buy buyer to ensure that they are in a position to afford a conventional mortgage for their proposed purchase. This protects tax payers’ investment in the Help to Buy home. Buyers cannot use the scheme if they require a main mortgage more than 4.5 times their household income.

You must have access to a minimum 5% deposit of the full purchase price.

The property purchased must be your only residence. Help to Buy is not available to assist buy-to-let investors or those who will own any property other than their Help to Buy property after completing their purchase.

You cannot rent out your existing home and buy a second home through Help to Buy.

Applicants who make fraudulent claims for Help to Buy assistance may be liable to criminal prosecution.

Fraudulent claims will always require immediate repayment of the Help to Buy equity loan assistance.

What does the Help to Buy Agent do?

The Local Help to Buy Agents work on behalf of Homes England to signpost potential buyers towards Help to Buy schemes in their area and will carry out a sustainability check on applicants. Details of the policy the agents follow is published here and is updated from time to time.

They will also guide you through the process of buying your Help to Buy home and issue the approvals to your solicitor and the house builder to purchase the home through the Help to Buy scheme.

The role of the Local Help to Buy Agent is to:

hold information about Help to Buy schemes for prospective buyersassess long term sustainability and eligibilitygive approval to a Help to Buy buyer’s solicitor/conveyancer to proceed with a purchase

Following the Help to Buy sale, your details will be transferred to Homes England’s Mortgage Administrator.

The role of Homes England’s Mortgage Administrator is to provide a single point of contact to:

administer payment of fees and interest by buyers on their Help to Buy equity loansrecover the equity loans repayments as owners sell and move on or staircaseprovide advice and approval for exceptional cases relating to subletting, remortgaging and requests for additional borrowing.

Where are Help to Buy homes available?

Help to Buy homes are available from house builders registered to offer Help to Buy homes in England. Registered builders will make it clear in their advertising if Help to Buy homes are available on their development sites.

How to buy a Help to Buy home?

The four-stage Help to Buy buying process

Stage 1: Application

Contact house builders, visit schemes of registered house builders and identify your potential Help to Buy property.

Its recommended that you see an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) to gain confirmation of your financial status. The Local Help to Buy Agent and house builders will be able to suggest some IFAs for you to try.

You must ensure you have funds to pay:

  • a reservation fee if required (maximum £500)
  • a deposit on exchange of contracts of at least 5% of the full purchase price (some main mortgage lenders may require higher deposits)
  • other fees on completion (e.g. stamp duty, legal fees, main mortgage fees).

You complete a Help to Buy “Property Information Form” (available from the house builder). You must complete this with details of your proposed purchase, your proposed main mortgage, deposit and including your household income. The Property Information Form also confirms your agreement to the funds due under the Help to Buy mortgage being paid directly to the house builder.

You must also reserve the home. You will usually be expected to pay a reservation fee to the house builder.

The signed Property Information Form and a copy of the builder’s reservation form must be sent to the Local Help to Buy Agent.

Stage 2: Authority to Proceed

Your Local Help to Buy Agent checks you can afford your main mortgage and ensures you have signed the declaration that the Help to Buy home will be your only residence. This is to protect tax payers’ investment in the Help to Buy equity loan.

If affordable, you will receive an “Authority to Proceed” from your Local Help to Buy Agent within four working days of the house builder submitting your fully completed Property Information Form and reservation form to the Local Help to Buy Agent. This process may be delayed if you do not fully complete your Property Information Form.

You instruct a solicitor to act for you and tell your IFA so that a full mortgage application can be submitted.

The ‘Authority to Proceed’ will be accompanied by instructions to you and your solicitor/conveyancer. This pack will include legal documents that will be explained to you by your solicitor/conveyancer.

You should only submit your main mortgage application once you have the “Authority to Proceed” from the Local Help to Buy Agent.

Stage 3: Mortgage offer and exchange of contracts

Your solicitor/conveyancer will advise you and ensure you sign the sale contract and the Help to Buy equity loan.

Your solicitor/ conveyance will explain the legal implications of the equity loan, that the Help to Buy home must be your only residence and the consequences of a fraudulent application (see below).

Your solicitor/conveyancer checks that your mortgage offer, property price and available funds are consistent with the Authority to Proceed, and requests permission to exchange contracts from the Local Help to Buy Agent.

Your Local Help to Buy Agent issues approval to your solicitor/conveyancer and contracts are exchanged.

You will have paid a deposit if required and are now legally contracted to complete the purchase by an agreed date.

Stage 4: Completing the purchase

At completion, your lender provides its funds and Homes England will make its funds available to you via the house builder. Once completion has taken place you own the property and can move in.

Your solicitor returns confirmation of the sale to your Local Help to Buy Agent who then registers your details with Homes England’s Mortgage Administrator.

A second charge is registered on your home by your solicitor in favour of Homes England, entitling it to a share of the future sale proceeds. The charge will be equivalent to the percentage contribution made towards the purchase price. You must repay the percentage contribution when you sell your home or after 25 years (whichever is earlier).

The property purchased must be your only residence. Help to Buy is not available to assist buy-to-let investors or those who will own any property in the UK or abroad other than their Help to Buy property after completing their purchase.

You cannot rent out your existing home and buy a second home through Help to Buy.

You cannot purchase a Help to Buy property if you own land with resisidential planning use.

You cannot purchase a Help to Buy home whilst your name is attached to the deeds or if you will benefit financially from the future sale of a property even if you do not live there.

Married couples own joint assets and therefore both parties are treated as joint owners regardless of the mortgage/paperwork being in one or both names.

Applicants who make fraudulent claims for Help to Buy assistance will be liable to criminal prosecution.

All Fraudulent claims will always require immediate repayment of the equity loan assistance.

How long does the process take?

Once you find a property you want to buy, you need to reserve it and submit a duly completed ‘Property Information Form’ to your Local Help to Buy Agent.

Your Local Help to Buy Agent will seek to assess your affordability (from a fully completed Property Information Form) within four working days and will issue an Authority to Proceed.

Your Local Help to Buy Agent’s ‘Authority to Proceed’ is valid for three months – the time limit for exchange of contracts. Typically, most house builders will be seeking buyers to exchange contracts within one month of making a reservation. You must legally complete on your purchase within six months of exchanging contracts.

You are responsible for securing your mortgage and appointing your solicitor/conveyancer, although your Local Help to Buy Agent and house builders will be able to suggest some options.

Further information

Help to Buy homes are only available from Help to Buy registered house builders who are in contract with Homes England to offer homes for sale through the Help to Buy programme.

Registered builders will make it clear in their advertising whether Help to Buy homes are available on their development sites.

Your Local Help to Buy Agent can also help you find out more about availability of Help to Buy homes in your area.

Leasehold reform and Help to Buy Equity Loan. What does this mean for Help to Buy homebuyers?

In December 2017, Government published the response to its consultation: “Tackling unfair practices in the leasehold market”. The response can be found in full here: www.gov.uk/government/consultations/tacklingunfair-practices-in-the-leasehold-market

The Government believes that, other than in exceptional circumstances, there are no good reasons for new build houses to be sold on a leasehold basis.

The Government has announced a package of measures to tackle abuses and unfair practices in the leasehold market. These changes include bringing forward legislation to stop the future development of new build leasehold houses, other than in exceptional circumstances and to restrict ground rents in newly established leases of houses and flats to a “peppercorn”. This will apply to the whole new-build market, including the Help to Buy equity loan programme.

All Help to Buy house builders are aware of this requirement but the longer pipeline of development in place before the announcement means some houses may still be offered for sale leasehold for a period of time before the practice ceases.

The majority of Help to Buy new build house sales are already freehold and Government intends that they should all be freehold in all but exceptional circumstances. Leasehold can make sense for buildings with shared spaces and infrastructure, such as blocks of flats. Almost all sales of Help to Buy flats will continue as leasehold sales unchanged as is the usual practice for this type of home.

If you intend to purchase a leasehold Help to Buy equity loan house you can still proceed but, as with the purchase of any property, you are strongly advised to take independent legal advice from your solicitor/conveyancer, and pay particular attention to the terms of the lease before you contractually commit to the purchase whether it is a house or flat/apartment. It is your responsibility to do this. You can refer your solicitor/conveyancer to the link to the Government’s response. You may also wish to get in touch with LEASE via their website at https://www.lease-advice.org/

There is also further guidance in the QA section of this guide.

Your mortgage

What is the minimum contribution I must make to my Help to Buy home purchase?

Outside of London your minimum contribution must be 80% of the full purchase price which can be made up from your mortgage and your cash deposit contribution and any other savings.

Buyers must have a first charge mortgage for a minimum of 25% of the full market value and always provide a minimum 5% cash deposit contribution (5% of the full purchase price).

London Help to Buy requires a minimum contribution of 60% of the full purchase price. This can be made up from your mortgage and cash deposit contribution.

Buyers accessing the London Help to Buy equity loan must have a first charge mortgage for a minimum of 25% of the full market value and always provide a minimum 5% cash deposit contribution (5% of the full purchase price).

The long term sustainability of your mortgage contribution will be assessed by the Local Help to Buy Agent.

Your mortgage will be based on a multiple up to a maximum 4.5 times your household income. Higher multiples cannot be approved by the Local Help to Buy Agent under any circumstances.

Your Local Help to Buy Agent will also work to a guideline to ensure that your monthly costs (mortgage, service charges and fees) are no more than 45% of your net disposable income. Higher percentages cannot be approved by the Local Help to Buy Agent under any circumstances.

With limited resources available, Government is seeking to assist as many buyers as possible to buy with a Help to Buy equity loan. Therefore, if it looks like you can already secure a c90% main mortgage you should think carefully whether a Help to Buy equity loan is right for you. There may be better options for you to consider and you should seek independent financial advice about this.

Homes England’s equity loan will be secured through a second charge registered on your property title at Land Registry; this process will be undertaken by your solicitor. This means your property cannot be sold in the future unless Homes England’s equity loan percentage is repaid.

You must agree to the legal charge being secured on your home before your purchase can be completed. Your Help to Buy equity loan also includes other obligations such as the requirement for you to insure your property. Your solicitor/conveyancer will advise you on the legal implications of your obligations and these documents before they are signed.

What happens when I sell my Help to Buy home?

When you sell your Help to Buy home, (unless you have already chosen to repay your Help to Buy equity loan) you will repay Homes England’s equity loan simultaneously. So if you initially purchased with a 75% mortgage and a 5% cash deposit and have made no other staircasing repayments (see Illustration 1 below), you will repay Homes England 20% of the value at the time you sell.

The Mortgage Administrator will collect Homes England’s repayment.

You can sell your home at any time and an independent valuer must decide what it is worth. Your property should be sold on the open market at the prevailing market valuation. If you do sell your property for more than the prevailing market value then the amount due to Homes England under the equity loan will be their percentage value of the actual sale price. Homes England will not agree to release its charge over the property for sales at less than market value.

If there are any fees or interest outstanding, for example, interest arrears at the time of selling, these must be paid before the sale is completed.

The Help to Buy equity loan must be repaid when you sell your home. You will pay the costs of selling.

The illustrations below give examples of how the equity loan repayment is calculated assuming a Help to Buy home starting value of £200,000 and a buyer taking on a mortgage for 75% and paying a 5% deposit. Your solicitor/conveyancer will be able to provide more illustrations when they advise you on your purchase.

Illustration 1a

Start of year Estimated annual change in property price % Total property Value Help to Buy home owner your entitlement to 80% of property value Homes England entitlement to 20% of property value
1 +2 £200,000 £160,000 £40,000
2 +2 £204,000 £163,200 £40,800
3 +2 £208,080 £166,464 £41,616
4 +2 £212,242 £169,794 £42,448
5 +2 £216,846 £173,477 £43,369
6 +2 £220,816 £176,653 £44,163

In the example in 1a, if the buyer chose to sell their Help to Buy home at the start of year six (after owning the property for five years) and assuming property values increased by 2% every year, the buyer would receive an estimated £220,816 from the sale. The buyer would then use this to settle any outstanding balance on their main mortgage and to repay the £44,163 Help to Buy equity loan.

London Help to Buy example

The illustrations below give examples of how the equity loan repayment is calculated assuming a London Help to Buy home starting value of £400,000 and a buyer taking on a mortgage for 55% and paying a 5% deposit. Your solicitor/conveyancer will be able to provide more illustrations when they advise you on your purchase.

llustration 1b

Start of year Estimated annual change in property price % Total property Value London Help to Buy home owner your entitlement to 60% of property value Homes England entitlement to 40% of property value
1 +2 £400,000 £240,000 £160,000
2 +2 £408,000 £244,800 £163,200
3 +2 £416,160 £249,696 £166.464
4 +2 £424,483 £254,690 £169,793
5 +2 £432,973 £259,784 £173,189
6 +2 £441,632 £264,979 £176,653

In the example above, if the buyer chose to sell their London Help to Buy home at the start of year six (after owning the property for five years) and assuming property values increased by 2% every year, the buyer would receive an estimated £441,632 from the sale. The buyer would then use this to settle any outstanding balance on their main mortgage and to repay the £176,653 Help to Buy equity loan.

What happens if property values fall?

Will I have to repay the full amount of Help to Buy assistance or just a percentage of the total sale proceeds?

When you sell your home, (unless you have repaid the Help to Buy equity loan document previously) the Help to Buy equity loan document commits you to repay a percentage of the market value equal to the percentage contribution of assistance received.

This means if the market value of your property falls below the level at which it was first purchased, you will repay less than the original amount Homes England contributed to the original purchase.

You must always show that the proposed sale value is at the prevailing market value before going ahead. Homes England’s Mortgage Administrator must approve the sale before allowing the second charge to be released.

As long as you have complied with all your obligations in the Help to Buy mortgage deed, you will not be required to provide for any shortfall in the equity loan repayment if you sell when values have fallen.

If you do not comply with the terms of the Help to Buy mortgage deed, Homes England will seek to recover all the money they are owed. Your solicitor will explain the Help to Buy mortgage deed to you before the property is purchased.

Illustration 2a

Start of year Estimated annual change in property price % Total property Value Help to Buy home owner your entitlement to 80% of property value Homes England entitlement to 20% of property value
1 -5 £200,000 £160,000 £40,000
2 -5 £190,000 £152,000 £38,000
3 -5 £180,500 £144,400 £36,100
4 +5 £171,475 £137,180 £34,295
5 +5 £180,049 £144,039 £36,010
6 +5 £189,051 £151,241 £37,810

In the above example, if no capital repayment has been made on the main mortgage, repayment of the £150,000 mortgage from sales proceeds would leave £39,051 to contribute to the repayment of the £37,810 equity loan.

London Help to Buy example

Start of year Estimated annual change in property price % Total property Value London Help to Buy home owner your entitlement to 60% of property value Homes England entitlement to 40% of property value
1 -5 £400,000 £240,000 £160,000
2 -5 £380,000 £228,000 £152,000
3 -5 £361,000 £216,600 £144,400
4 +5 £342,950 £205,770 £137,180
5 +5 £360,098 £216,059 £144,039
6 +5 £378,102 £226,861 £151,241

In the above London Help to Buy example, if no capital repayment has been made on the main mortgage, repayment of the £220,000 mortgage from sales proceeds would leave £158,102 to contribute to the repayment of the £151,241 equity loan.

Can I redeem my equity loan in part, sometimes known as “staircasing”?

The Help to Buy scheme allows you to repay all or part of your equity loan. A partial repayment is often called “staircasing’.

Staircasing payments can be made at any time and must be a minimum of 10% of your home’s prevailing market value – whether that value is more or less than when originally purchased. You may wish to check any additional criteria with your current lender.

An independent valuer must provide a valuation of your property and you will also be responsible for the associated administrative cost. Enquiries about administrative costs should be made to Homes England’s Mortgage Administrator.

If you decide to staircase after five years of ownership, the fees (see below) you pay on your Help to Buy equity loan will reduce to reflect your smaller outstanding loan percentage.

If you extend your mortgage to fund your partial repayment of Homes England equity loan, your mortgage repayments will probably increase to reflect the fact that you have repaid some of the equity loan. Homes England’s Mortgage Administrator will need to approve any increase in your first charge mortgage.

In the example below, the buyer chooses to staircase by 10% to reduce the Homes England equity loan to 10% at the start of year six (after owning the property for five years). Assuming property values increased by 5% every year, the buyer would have to repay £25,526 to reduce the Homes England equity loan to 10% based on the future property value.

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