Frequently asked questions

General FAQs

  • What is a Help to Buy Agent?

    Help to Buy Agents are housing associations appointed by the Homes & Communities Agency as a one stop shop and point of contact for people looking for affordable homes to buy or rent in their area. 

    bpha is the Help to Buy Agent for the East and South East of England, covering Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent.

    If you live outside of these areas, you can find details of the Help to Buy Agent for your area at www.helptobuy.gov.uk

  • What is the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme?

    The Government lends you up to 20% of the cost of your new-build home, so that you’ll only need a 5% cash deposit and a 75% mortgage to make up the rest. You will not be charged loan fees on the 20% loan for the first five years of owning your home.

  • What happens with the 20% Equity Loan after the first five years?

    The equity loan is interest free for the first five years. After that, you will pay a fee of 1.75%, rising annually by the increase (if any) of the Retail Price Index (RPI) + 1%.

  • Can I pay off the Equity Loan before the end of the first five years?

    Yes, following the purchase you can choose at any time to make voluntary part repayments or a full repayment, based on the market value at that time. The minimum voluntary repayment is 10% of the market value at that time.

  • What is Shared Ownership?

    Shared Ownership (previously been known as “Part Buy, Part Rent”), allows you to buy an initial share in a new home, that you can afford, and helps you get into home ownership in manageable stages. Your Housing Association or Registered Provider will offer initial shares of between 25% - 75% of the full purchase price. You pay a subsidised rent on the remaining share that the Housing Association or Registered Provider still own. The combined monthly cost of mortgage and rent will normally be substantially less than if you were purchasing the property outright.

    In the future you can simply sell your share for its value at the time or alternatively you can purchase further shares in your home.

    With most properties you are eventually able to own the property outright if you wish to, although there are some restrictions on rural schemes.

  • What if I want to rent rather than buy?

    The Rent to Buy scheme offers homes to rent for around 20% less than the typical open market rent values, with the option to purchase in the future on the Shared Ownership scheme. An Assured Shorthold Tenancy with an initial commitment of six months is normally offered, giving you the opportunity to save money for a future deposit.

    The Intermediate Rent scheme also offers homes to rent for around 20% less than the typical open market rent values, and an Assured Shorthold Tenancy with an initial commitment of six months. Unlike Rent to Buy, there is not currently an option to purchase these properties in the future.

  • Are there any specific Key Worker schemes?

    There are no longer any Key Worker specific Help to Buy Schemes in the areas covered by Help to Buy East and South East, but Key Workers are still encouraged to apply.

  • Do the Armed Forces receive any special assistance?

    Yes, serving members of the British Armed Forces, and those honourably discharged in the last two years are considered a priority group for Help to Buy assistance.

    Surviving partners of regular service personnel who have died in service and have applied within two years of the bereavement are also considered a priority.

    Click here for further details.

  • Who is eligible for the Help to Buy schemes?

    To be eligible for Shared Ownership, Rent to Buy and Intermediate Rent schemes, you must have an annual household income of no more than £80,000. You must be unable to purchase a home suitable for your needs without assistance, and cannot be a current home owner (or be named on the deeds of another property). You must not have any outstanding credit issues (i.e. unsatisfied defaults or county court judgments).

    The Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme is open to both first time buyers and existing home owners. There is no maximum household income. You can purchase a property with a maximum value of £600,000. Your Help to Buy Equity Loan home must be your main residence; you cannot use the scheme for a Buy-to-Let investment. You will need a minimum 5% deposit to qualify.

  • What if I am a current home owner?

    If you already own a home, you are not eligible for Shared Ownership, Rent to Buy or Intermediate Rent schemes, unless you have sold your home prior to applying.

    In exceptional cases, some home owners may be accepted if they obtain written support from their local authority demonstrating a genuine housing need. These cases are assessed on their individual merits by the Help to Buy Agent and Registered Provider. 

    Current home owners can apply for the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, but you will need to have a sale in place before you can make a reservation. Your Help to Buy Equity Loan home must be your main residence; you cannot use the scheme for a Buy-to-Let investment.

  • What if I have previously owned a home?

    It is fine to have previously owned and sold a property. Your application is based on your current housing situation.

  • If I am a shared owner, can I buy again?

    Yes, there are no restrictions which prevent existing shared owners from applying for and moving into another Shared Ownership property.

    However, you must continue to meet the general eligibility criteria of earning less per household than £80,000 and be otherwise unable to afford to purchase unassisted.

    Existing shared owners are also required to have disposed  of their existing shared ownership home at the point of purchase.

  • Does Shared Ownership mean I have to live in the property with someone else?

    No, it just means that your Housing Association has ownership of the remaining percentage that you have not purchased, and you will pay them a monthly subsidised “rent” for this.

  • What size property am I able to apply for?

    The Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme does not have any restrictions on the size of property you can purchase, but it cannot have a value of more than £600,000.

    With the Shared Ownership, Rent to Buy and Intermediate Rent schemes, there are no restrictions on the number of bedrooms allowed.

  • Can I buy additional shares in the future?

    If you purchase a Shared Ownership property, you can increase your share at a later stage if you choose to. This is known as “staircasing”.

    With most properties you are eventually able to own the property outright if you wish to, although there are some staircasing restrictions on rural schemes. Please speak to the relevant provider for more information.

    If you purchase under the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, you can redeem part, or all, of your 20% loan at a later stage. The Equity Loan must be redeemed in full by the point that your mortgage term ends.

  • What is a Re-Sale property?

    Re-Sales are pre-owned properties that have come back on the market.

  • What happens if I want to sell my property in the future?

    If you purchased a Shared Ownership property, you simply need to contact the Housing Association or Registered Provider that dealt with the original purchase.

    The Housing Association or Registered Provider will be able to provide you with details of approved surveyors relevant to their geographical location. You can find a list of approved solicitors and Independent Financial Advisors on this website. 

    The Housing Association or Registered Provider will advertise your property on the Help to Buy website for a defined nomination period. This period will vary.

    After the defined nomination period has expired, you will be able to simultaneously advertise your property on the open market with an estate agent.

    If you purchased a home using the Help to Buy Equity Loan, you can get advice about selling and redeeming your equity loan at MyFirstHome (previously known as Housing Options Plus). 

     

     

  • Can I rent out my property?

    No, Help to Buy is designed to assist you to move on to, or up, the property ladder.

    You must live in the home that you purchase or rent through Shared Ownership, Rent to Buy or Intermediate Rent schemes. You cannot use the scheme for a Buy-to-Let investment.

    Subletting of Shared Ownership homes is not permitted unless you have purchased all of the remaining shares and you own the property outright.

    If you have purchased a home using the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, you would have to repay the equity loan before you would be allowed to sublet.

    In exceptional circumstances, i.e. if you are a serving member of the Armed Forces away on a tour of duty, subletting may be considered with written permission from your Housing Association or Registered Provider.If you purchased your home using the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, you would also need approval from your mortgage lender. 

    Read our MOD Subletting Guidance Information

  • How do I apply for a Help to Buy Equity Loan?

    If you are only interested in the Help to Buy Equity Loan, you do not need to fill out the Help to Buy East and South East application form.

    Once you have found a suitable new-build property with a participating, registered builder - you will need to complete a Property Information Form and Reservation Form with the builder.

    Both forms will then need to be submitted to us by email to helptobuy@bpha.org.uk.

    We will then issue you an Authority to Proceed (ATP) document. Please do not apply for a mortgage until you have received this. The ATP will also advise you of the next steps.

  • How do I apply for Shared Ownership?

    To apply for all schemes (with the exception of Help to Buy Equity Loan) you will need to fill out the Help to Buy East and South East application form.

    Online application    or Downloadable PDF version

    You can then search for available properties on our website.

  • How do I apply for affordable rental schemes?

    To apply for all schemes (with the exception of Help to Buy Equity Loan) you will need to fill out the Help to Buy East and South East application form.

    Online application    or Downloadable PDF version

    You can then search for available properties on our website.

  • Are only new-build properties available through Help to Buy?

    If you are using the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, you can only purchase a new-build property from a participating Registered House Builder.

    The Shared Ownership scheme offers both new-build and re-sale (older) properties.

    From time to time, properties that were originally sold as new-build Shared Ownership become available for re-sale when the current owners decide to move on. You would have to be able to purchase the same percentage share that was currently held by the homeowner.

    You pay a subsidised rent on the remaining share that the Housing Association or Registered Provider still own. The combined monthly cost of mortgage and rent will normally be substantially less than if you were purchasing the property outright.

    In the future you can simply sell your share for its value at the time or alternatively you can purchase further shares in your home.

    With most properties you are eventually able to own the property outright if you wish to, although there are some restrictions on rural schemes.

  • Are there any Help to Buy schemes for elderly people?

    Yes, there are Older Persons Shared Ownership schemes (OPSO) available with Help to Buy. These are schemes offered solely to the over 55’s.

     In the same way as standard Shared Ownership, you buy an initial share that you can afford, helping you get into home ownership in manageable stages. Your Housing Association will offer initial shares of between 25% - 75% of the full purchase price. You pay a subsidised “rent” on the remaining share that the Housing Association still own.

    However, through OPSO the maximum share you can buy is 75%. As you purchase more shares in the future, the less rent you will pay. If you choose to buy the maximum 75%, you will pay no rent on the remaining 25%.

    Some OPSO developments offer sheltered schemes (sometimes known as Extra Care or Key Care) which are designed to provide residents with the ability to live independently in self-contained, modern homes, but with access to care and support services tailored to their individual needs.

  • What percentage can I purchase in a Shared Ownership property?

    Your Housing Association or Registered Provider will assess your application and offer you an initial share that is deemed affordable in relation to your income, and in line with Government set affordability guidelines. This will be between 25% - 75% of the full purchase price. You will be expected to maximise the share you purchase in line with your affordability.

    You pay a subsidised rent on the remaining share that the Housing Association or Registered Provider still own. In the future you can simply sell your share for its value at the time or alternatively you can purchase further shares in your home.

    With most Shared Ownership properties you are eventually able to own the property 100% outright if you wish to, although there are some restrictions on rural schemes.

    However, through OPSO (Older Persons Shared Ownership) the maximum share you can buy is 75%.

  • What costs are involved in buying further shares in my property?

    Always consult your mortgage lender before committing to purchasing further shares in your property.

    Solicitor and surveyor costs will vary, but on average we recommend allowing £1,500. You will need to contact your chosen solicitor and surveyor for exact costs.

    Please note, some Housing Associations or Registered Providers may charge an admin fee for staircasing.

    As processes will vary between organisations, your Housing Association or Registered Provider should be able to provide you with an information leaflet unique to them, upon request. 

  • What is the Help to Buy ISA?

    From December 2015, the new Help to Buy ISA (Individual Savings Account) will be available from selected banks and building societies for a four-year period. 

    Savers will be able to open accounts with an initial deposit of up to £1,000, after which they can save up to £200 per month towards their first home. The government will contribute a tax-free bonus representing 25% of the amount saved. 

    Simply put, for each £200 you save, the Government contributes £50. The Government contribution will be capped at £3,000.

    Click here for more information.

     

  • Which banks/building societies offer the Help to Buy ISA?

    The banks and building societies currently participating in the scheme are:

    • Aldermore
    • Bank of Scotland
    • Barclays
    • Clydesdale Bank
    • Halifax
    • HSBC
    • Lloyds
    • Nationwide
    • NatWest
    • Newcastle Building Society
    • Santander
    • Ulster Bank
    • Virgin
    • Yorkshire Bank

    Each provider of the Help to Buy ISA will offer its own interest rate for each account, and be able to apply normal ISA withdrawal rules too. 

    This information was correct as at 28 January 2016 but may be subject to change.

  • If 5% is the minimum deposit for the Help to Buy Equity Loan, what is the maximum?

    If you are looking to maximise your contribution towards your purchase, it is possible to have a 65% deposit.

    This is possible by using the minimum 10% Help to Buy Equity Loan and minimum 25% from a mortgage lender.

    For further information on the Help to Buy Equity Loan please see our Information Page or speak to a Financial Advisor.