The deadline for first-time buyers to use the government's Help to Buy scheme has been brought forward by two months.
Buyers now face a race against time to secure a property with an equity loan before the popular scheme winds down early next year.
Here, we explain why the Help to Buy deadline has changed and offer advice on the pros and cons of buying a home through a government scheme.
The scheme will close at the end of March 2023, and it was anticipated that buyers would have until the end of December this year to secure a property.
If you're considering buying a property using Help to Buy, get these dates in your diary:
If a developer won't be able to meet these dates, you should be informed before you commit to buying the property.
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The government provides an equity loan of up to 20% of the value of the property (40% in London), which is offered interest-free for the first five years.
Between April 2013 and March 2021, buyers could purchase new homes priced up to £600,000 using the scheme.
Between April 2013 and December 2021, 356,000 homes were bought using the scheme, with 82% going to first-time buyers.
Help to Buy has certainly been successful in terms of sales, but it has repeatedly been accused of plumping up the value of new-build homes.
Our research found that between 2013 and 2019, the cost of Help to Buy homes bought by first-time buyers rose by 51%, compared to 39% on all new-build properties.
Since the price caps were introduced, the number of homes sold under the scheme has tapered off, as shown in the chart.
If you're thinking of buying a home using Help to Buy, your first port of call should be checking the website of your regional Help to Buy agent to find properties in your area. There are three agents, covering the , and of England.
High-street estate agents sometimes include new-build homes in their listings, but you may have more joy searching for local developments online.
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What other alternatives are available?
Help to Buy may be closing soon, but there are plenty of other ways first-time buyers can get on to the property ladder.
If you're buying your first home in Wales, you might be able to benefit from Help to Buy - Wales. As in England, the scheme allows borrowers to take out a 20% equity loan, and will run until the end of March 2023. New-build homes priced up to £250,000 are eligible.
Scotland's version of Help to Buy closed in 2021. Buyers can instead use the Scottish government's Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers. The scheme is split into two, depending on whether you're buying a home on the open market, or from a council or housing association. You can find out more on the .