First-time buyers account for more than eight in ten purchases made using the government's Help to Buy equity loan scheme, according to new data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.
Of the 210,964 properties bought since the launch of the scheme in April 2013 and the end of last year, 171,053 went to first-time buyers.
Help to Buy equity loans were introduced by governments in England, Wales and Scotland to help people on to the property ladder.
But while Help to Buy has been hugely popular, there are a number of pitfalls that prospective buyers should be wary of, some of which made one first-time buyer we spoke to reluctant to use the scheme at all.
Here, we delve into how Help to Buy works and explain the pros and cons of using an equity loan.
Help to Buy is becoming increasing popular with first-time buyers looking to get on to the property ladder.
In 2018, 42,748 properties were bought by first-time buyers using an equity loan, up from 37,478 in 2017.
The table below shows the number of properties purchased by first-time buyers each year since the scheme was introduced.
The governments in England, Wales and Scotland all offer Help to Buy equity loans.
The biggest equity loans are available in , where buyers can borrow up to 40% of a property's value from the government. This means that you can put down a deposit of 5% and take out a mortgage on the remaining 55%.
The loan is interest-free for the first five years, after which you'll have to start paying interest. You'll need to repay the loan in full after 25 years or when your mortgage ends, whichever comes first.
There are several things to consider if you're thinking about taking out an equity loan.
The first is the interest you'll have to pay back on the loan, which kicks in after five years of ownership.
From year six of your equity loan onwards you'll have to start paying interest at a rate of 1.75%. This rises by any increase in the Retail Prices Index (RPI) plus an additional 1%.
The government uses a representative RPI of 5% in its official calculations.
The table below shows how much interest you might expect to pay on a £200,000 home with a 20% equity loan (£40,000) outstanding.
|Year||RPI+1%||Annual interest||Annual cost (interest plus £1 a month management fee)|
Another issue is that limited availability of properties offered under the Help to Buy scheme.
The borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, for example, only had one Help to Buy property for sale in February, making it the worst London Borough for Help to Buy property availability.
Help to Buy has also come under fire for inflating the price of new-build homes.
According to the Land Registry's House Price Index, the average price of a new-build home at the end of 2018 was £301,483 - well in excess of the £243,102 recorded for resale properties.
First-time buyer Danni Croucher considered using the Help to Buy scheme when she and her boyfriend Jack were looking for their first home.
After scrutinising the scheme, however, the 24-year-old from Twickenham decided against getting an equity loan.
She says: 'When Jack and I initially started looking for properties we thought about using the Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme.
'After researching the scheme a bit more, I became sceptical about whether we'd make the best return.'
The couple found the interest and fees that would be applied in year six of the equity loan to be a major concern.
'If we wanted to avoid paying the fees we'd have to sell our property before the five years were up. And at that point, there was no guarantee that we'd be able to make enough of a return to move onto a new home,' says Danni.
'Essentially we wanted a home that we could live in without the burden and stress of having to sell before we were ready and decided against using an equity loan.'
'Eventually, Jack and I managed to reach our 10% deposit target of £25,600 by pooling our savings and inheritance.'
'We've now moved into our new home and can't wait to make it our own.'
The scheme will run for two years, until 2023.
Prices will be capped at 1.5 times the current forecast average first-time buyer house price in each region - with a maximum of £600,000 set in London.
The caps will be as follows:
|Region||Help to Buy equity loan price cap (2021-23)|
|Yorkshire & the Humber||£228,100|
|East of England||£407,400|
Some shared ownership schemes allow you to increase the share of the property you own at a later date through a process called 'staircasing', but this can be costly.
Rent to Buy was introduced to help people save enough of a deposit to get onto the property ladder.
The scheme allows you to rent a home at 20% below the normal market rate for up to five years.
During this time you'll get the option to either buy the entire property or purchase a portion of it through shared ownership.
The number of Rent to Buy properties available is quite limited and you may have to pass additional eligibility criteria depending on the housing association that the property is offered under.