Today marks three months until the government's Help to Buy Isa, a savings product for first-time buyers, closes to new savers.
Help to Buy Isas will close to new applicants from 30 November 2019, putting an end to the hefty 25% government bonus on offer to wannabe home-buyers through this type of account.
However, lifetime Isas - which also reward first-time buyers with a 25% bonus, but work quite differently - will continue to be available. And savers with existing Help to Buy Isas will still qualify for the bonus as long as they buy before December 2030.
Here, Which? reveals the top-rate Help to Buy Isas, how the accounts work and the key differences between Help to Buy Isas and lifetime Isas.
The Help to Buy Isa, which was launched in 2013, has so far paid out 196,007 bonuses to support the purchase of 146,753 property completions.
The government claims that first-time buyers using are able to buy a property at an average age of 27, whereas those who don't use the scheme have to wait until they hit 30 to get on the property ladder.
In addition to the government bonus, Help to Buy Isa accounts also pay interest on your savings. The table below shows the 10 Help to Buy Isas with the highest rates.
|Penrith Building Society Help to Buy Isa||3%||£1 minimum initial deposit. Must have a Cumbria postcode to apply.|
|Tipton & Coseley Building Society Help to Buy Isa||2.95%||£10 minimum initial deposit. Must live in a B, DY, WS or WV postcode area to qualify for this interest rate, unless you are an existing savings customer with an account opened before 23 May 2016.|
|Vernon Building Society Help to Buy Isa||2.85%||£1 minimum initial deposit. Must live within 25 miles of Stockport to apply.|
|Darlington Help to Buy Isa||2.8%||£1 minimum initial deposit. Must live in a DL, DH, SR, TS, YO or HG postcode area to apply.|
|Barclays Help to Buy Isa||2.58%||£1 minimum initial deposit.|
|Newcastle Building Society Help to Buy Isa||2.56%||£1 minimum initial deposit.|
|Nationwide Help to Buy Isa||2.5%||£1 minimum initial deposit.|
Source: Which? Money Compare. Rates correct as of 29 August 2019, but are subject to change.
As the table shows, the accounts with the four top rates all have regional restrictions and are only available to those who live locally.
When it comes to accounts that are available nationwide, Barclays comes out on top paying 2.58%. While this easily beats the (which measured 2.1% in July), it is still 0.42% short of Penrith Building Society's overall top rate.
Everyone has an Isa allowance of £20,000, meaning you can pay up to £20,000 into your Isa accounts overall throughout the tax year. You can pay the whole £20,000 into one account, or split the allowance between multiple accounts.
Anyone who has a Help to Buy Isa already doesn't need to do anything - existing accounts won't be closing until 1 December 2030, so you still have plenty of time to continue saving.
The only people who need to act now are those who have been considering opening a Help to Buy Isa but haven't got round to it yet, as after 30 November you'll have missed your chance.
The main alternative to a Help to Buy Isa is a lifetime Isa.
This savings account has some similarities to the Help to Buy Isa, in that it also aims to help first-time buyers get onto the housing ladder, and features a 25% government bonus. But there are some key differences you should be aware of:
|Help to Buy Isa||Lifetime Isa|
|Who can open it?||Anyone aged 16 or over who has never owned a property.||Anyone aged 18-39 - but if you want to put the deposit towards a property, rather than accessing it in retirement after the age of 60, you can't have owned a home before.|
|What kind of Isa is it?||Cash Isas only.||Cash Isa or stocks and shares Isa.|
|How much can I pay in each year?||A maximum of £3,400 in the first year; £2,400 each year after.||Up to £4,000 a year.|
|Can you deposit a lump sum?||No, you're capped at paying in £200 a month, except upon opening the Isa when you can deposit an extra £1,000.||Yes, but no more than £4,000.|
|What is the maximum government bonus?||£3,000, if you save £12,000.||£32,000 if you save the maximum amount of £128,000 over 32 years between the ages of 18 and 50; you cannot make any deposits over the age of 50.|
|When is the bonus paid?||The bonus is paid to your conveyancer/solicitor upon .||Monthly, into your account.|
|Does the property have to be a certain value?||Up to £250,000 in most areas of the UK; £450,000 in London.||£450,000 anywhere in the UK.|
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