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21 Mar 2019

Is London Help to Buy becoming extinct?

The number of London Help to Buy homes for sale has dropped by 64%. Where can you still buy using an equity loan?

The number of Help to Buy properties for sale in Greater London has crashed by 64.3% since 2017, according to new research, but which areas are the worst affected?

In February 2019 only 1,619 Help to Buy properties were listed for sale across the whole of London, down from 4,535 at the end of 2017, according to research by modular homes provider Project Etopia.

Here we take a look the best and worst areas in London for Help to Buy property availability and other government schemes that could give you a leg up onto the capital's property ladder.

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Which boroughs are suffering the biggest Help to Buy drought?

The availability of properties available through London Help to Buy- a government scheme that lends buyers up to 40% of the property price - is swiftly diminishing in some boroughs.

The research, based on listings on Rightmove and Zoopla, showed that in February 2019 almost half (15) of London's 32 boroughs didn't have any Help to Buy houses for sale at all.

Even when adding flats into the equation, Hammersmith and Fulham only had one Help to Buy property up for sale in February - earning it the dubious accolade of being the worst London borough for Help to Buy availability.

Kensington and Chelsea, one of the capital's wealthiest areas, had the second-lowest number of Help to Buy properties available, with just three listed on the market.

The political hub of Westminster only went one better, with a meagre four Help to Buy homes on the market.

  • Find out more: you cansearchfor London Help to Buy properties using the Mayor of London's Homes for Londoners portal

Best areas for London Help to Buy

The south London borough of Croydon boasted the best Help to Buy availability, with 170 homes available for sale in February 2019.

Situated in the north London suburbs, Barnet had the second-highest number of Help to Buy properties on the market, at 135.

Tower Hamlets, in the East End, was in third position, with 127 London Help to Buy properties listed for sale last month.

The table below shows how many Help to Buy properties were available in each London borough in February 2019 vs December 2017. Use the search bar to find your area.

What is Help to Buy?

The governments in England, Wales and Scotland all offer Help to Buy equity loans to help people buy homes.

Under London Help to Buy, you can apply for an equity loan of up to 40%. This means that you can put down a deposit of 5%, borrow up to 40% of the property value from the government 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 monthly charges. You'll need to repay the loan in full after 25 years or when your mortgage ends, whichever comes first.

Help to Buy is open to first-time buyers and home moversbut is restricted tonew-build homeson developments that are participating in the scheme. The London scheme is more generous than elsewhere in Britain, as the table below shows:

Help to Buy schemeMaximum equity loanMaximum property price
England (excluding London)20%£600,000

Alternatives to Help to Buy

If you aren't eligible for London Help to Buy, don't want to buy (or can't find a suitable) new-build, or just don't like the sound of the equity loan scheme, there are alternatives that might be worth trying.

Shared ownership

Shared ownership enables you to buy a share of a property - usually between 25% and 75% - and pay rent to a housing association on the remaining portion of the property.

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 difficult and often costly.

Rent to Buy

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.

Getting a mortgage in London

London house prices are notoriously higher than those in the rest of the UK, so trying to secure a mortgage may seem like an impossible task, especially if you're a first-time buyer.

Before starting to look for a home in the capital, it's important to work out how much you can afford to borrow, to get an idea of the area and property type you'll realistically be able to buy.

Mortgage lenders will generally offer between three and four-and-a-half times the total annual income of you and anyone else you're buying with.

Before making a decision on whether and how much to offer, lenders will look at other factors including your credit score, debts you owe, your average spending and your personal circumstances more generally.

Check out our guide on buying a house or flat in London for more information about London house prices and tips on buying in the capital.

Get one-to-one mortgage advice

Whether you're trying to get onto the property ladder or want to take the next step, buying a new home can be challenging.

Speaking to an independent mortgage broker can help you find the best deals for your personal circumstances and make the process run as smoothly as possible.